July 11, 2015| « back

1975 – The Year of Elton (Part 1)



Without a doubt, Elton has been one of the most consistent musical artists over the past four and a half decades.

You could throw a dart at pretty much any point along the timeline since his first hit single and U.S. debut performances at the Troubadour in Los Angeles launched his career and not be far from some successful this or record-setting that.

But there is no calendar year that he dominated more than 1975.

Elton began that year atop both the U.S. album and singles charts and had at least two albums on the Billboard Top 200 over the next 52 weeks. And there were 14 weeks during which he had three albums on the chart at once.

In the UK, Elton also had at least one entry on the Album Chart across the entire year. There were nine weeks in which he had three albums on the chart simultaneously…and for the week of November 9 he placed an astounding four albums at once: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John’s Greatest Hits, Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock Of The Westies.

Elton had similar success with singles, having at least one song on the Billboard Hot 100 for every week of the year but one. He charted a song in the Top 10 for 25 weeks and a song in the Top 40 for all but eight weeks. In the UK, he had a song on the singles charts for 25 weeks, all but two of them in the Top 40.

And that is just the vinyl aspect of a year that included multiple iconic concerts, film and television appearances, extensive newspaper and magazine coverage, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

To try and capture the overwhelming effect Elton had on pop culture during the 12 months of 1975, we have compiled a list of his various activities and career achievements during the year. The first six months are detailed below. We will conclude with the second half of the year in Part 2 soon.


16 Magazine puts out an “All-Elton” issue.

January 4: Elton’s cover version of the Beatles’ Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds reaches #1 in its sixth week on the Billboard Hot 100. It stays on the chart for 14 weeks, six of them in the Top 10. Also, John Lennon’s Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (featuring Elton on piano and harmony vocals) is at #76 in this, its last week on the Billboard chart.

January 4: Elton John’s Greatest Hits is at the Billboard Top 200’s #1 position, where it has been since November 20, 1974. It stays on the chart all year. Also, Elton’s previous album, Caribou, is at #51 and will remain on the chart until July 12. In the UK, Greatest Hits is at #1 and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (GYBR) is at #29 (continuing an incredible run that began in 1973). GYBR remains on the 1975 UK album chart for 24 non-consecutive weeks and Greatest Hits is on that chart for all but four weeks of the year.

January 5-8: Elton is at CBS Television City in Los Angeles rehearsing and taping songs and skits for Cher’s TV Special. Elton performs Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds solo and Bennie And The Jets with Cher. Bette Midler and Flip Wilson join in for an “Old Folks Home” skit and a Bob Mackie-bedecked medley of Mockingbird, Proud Mary, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Never Can Say Goodbye. The show is broadcast on February 12.

January 12: Elton joins the Average White Band on backing vocals during I Heard It Through The Grapevine at their show at the Marquee Club in London.

January 13: Elton’s first album, Empty Sky, is released in the US, six years after it came out in the UK.

January 16: Elton and guitarist Davey Johnstone jam with the Doobie Brothers for nearly a half-hour during their show at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England.


Elton is Beetle magazine’s cover story in the UK.

Pinball Wizard


March 18: Elton appears at the New York City Premiere of the film Tommy at the Ziegfeld Theatre. During the gala event, David Frost interviews Elton at the 57th Street subway station, which has been closed down for the occasion. The interview airs on US TV on March 26.

March 19: Tommy opens in United States movie theaters. Elton performs the song Pinball Wizard, recorded earlier in the year with his band. The promotional single is never officially released in the U.S., but is heavily played on radio stations across the country and is included on Elton John’s Greatest Hits II (1977).

March 22: Elton is at KTLA Studios in Hollywood to tape his appearance on Soul Train. He plays Philadelphia Freedom and Bennie And The Jets, singing live to backing tracks at a clear glass piano, wearing a pair of Tommy Nutter suits and rhinestone-rimmed glasses. During the taping, Elton tells host Don Cornelius that he watches the show every week. “It’s the only thing [on TV] you can look forward to on a Saturday, apart from the sports programs.” The episode airs on May 17.

March 26: Tommy opens in UK cinemas. In 1988, the enormous Doc Marten boots Elton wears in his sequence are auctioned at Sotheby’s for over $20,000.


April 12: Philadelphia Freedom reaches #1 in its 6th week on the Billboard Hot 100. It stays on the chart for 20 weeks, 9 of them in the Top 10.



Elton is on the cover of Creem magazine.

May 19: Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy is released in the United States (May 23rd in the UK). It ships gold, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certification for $1M worth of sales.


June 1: Captain Fantastic enters the UK Album Chart at its peak position (#2) and stays on the chart for 24 weeks.

June 1: Elton spends three weeks rehearsing his new band in Amsterdam. Previous band members Davey Johnstone and Ray Cooper are joined by guitarist Caleb Quaye, drummer Roger Pope, bassist Kenny Passarelli and keyboardist James Newton Howard. During the rehearsals the group is visited by ex-Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who at one point requests to join the band…but never does.

June 7: Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy enters the Billboard chart at #1 (something no album has ever done in the history of the chart), where it stays for six weeks. It returns to the top position for an additional week in late August and remains on the chart for the rest of the year, spending 17 weeks in the Top 10 and a total of 24 weeks in the Top 40.

June 21: Elton and his new band (including, for this one show, Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and backing singers Donny Gerrard and Brian and Brenda Russell) headline the Midsummer Music Festival at Wembley Stadium in London, playing to an estimated 100,00 people.

June 29: Elton is a surprise performer during a Doobie Brothers and Eagles concert at the Oakland Coliseum in California. He sings on the Doobies’ Listen To The Music and plays piano and sings on the Eagles’ cover of Chuck Berry’s Carol.

Click here to read “1975 – The Year of Elton (Part 2)”.