Menu

With 12 studio albums released, his first show in the US and the release of "Rocket Man", the 70s saw Elton John's career become one that rivalled any other in popular culture.

1970

Elton John's self titled album released.

Elton John's self titled album released.

Elton’s second album in the UK was released on April 10, 1970 and then later, on July 22, became his first US release. The album was the first of many to be produced by Gus Dudgeon and as well as being certified gold by the RIAA, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It included one of Elton’s biggest hits, Your Song, and has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Doug Weston's nightclub the Troubadour, where Elton John held his first US show.
Menu

Doug Weston's nightclub the Troubadour, where Elton John held his first US show.

Tuesday night at the Troubadour was just the beginning. He's going to be one of Rock's biggest and most important stars.
Robert Hilburn - Los Angeles Times

Left: Robert Hilburn's review in the August 27, 1970 Los Angeles Times. Right: Elton making his American debut at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.

Elton John made his American debut at Doug Weston’s nightclub on the night of August 25, 1970 and almost immediately after he, Nigel Olsson and Dee Murray left the stage at 9081 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, the aftershocks of his seismic recital began to roll across the landscape of not only his own career but also popular music worldwide.

“Folks, I’ve never done this before, so please be kind to me. I’m like the rest of you; I’m here because of having listened to Elton John’s album. So I’m going to take my seat with you now and enjoy the show.” - Neil Diamond

I didn’t come down for two days I was so high from the excitement of that night. I think there were maybe 300 people in that room Tuesday night, but everybody I talk to [now] says, “Yeah, I was there!” So there must have been 30,000 at The Troubadour that night.
Russ Regan - President at UNI records

1972

She packed my bags last night, pre-flight...

She packed my bags last night, pre-flight...

Rocket Man, the debut single from Elton’s fifth studio album, Honky Château, was released in April 1972 on DJM records in the UK and Uni in the US. It spent 13 weeks on the British singles chart and began a 15-week run on the Billboard Hot 100 on May 6. It has since been included on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The opening lines of Rocket Man were written by Bernie whilst driving to his parents’ house in Lincolnshire. Not being able to transcribe them in the car, he kept repeating “She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour, 9 a.m., and I’m gonna be high as a kite by then” in his head until he reached his destination…at which point he rushed past his waiting parents and quickly found a pencil and paper with which to write them down.

Rocket Man was one of three songs chosen for The Cut in 2017, supported by YouTube, to have its first ever official music video made by an aspiring young filmmaker. Majid Adin’s winning video for Rocket Man is a poignant animated work which draws on his personal experiences as an Iranian refugee making his way to England – giving a new perspective to the lyrics and themes of travel and loneliness. A fine art university graduate working in animation production, Adin travelled across Europe during the 2015 refugee crisis, spending time in the infamous Calais Jungle camp before being granted asylum in the UK and now rebuilding his life as an artist in Britain. Majid partnered with animation director Stephen McNally to realise his vision for this achingly powerful and human story.

Majid Adin's winning video for Rocket Man

September 7th - Elton plays the Hollywood Bowl

Elton pulled out all the stops for his September 7, 1973, show at the Hollywood Bowl. The show began with an introduction by porn star Linda Lovelace and, as Elton descended the staircase on to the stage, doves were released from five grand pianos by impersonators of Queen Elizabeth, Elvis Presley, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Pope, The Beatles, Batman and Robin, Mae West, and Groucho Marx.

Featuring six songs from his latest chart-topper, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, and debuting five tracks from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road a month before its release, Elton and the band tore through the 16-song set list with ostrich feathers seemingly flying off his shoulders.

 

He played off the audience’s reaction which was frenetic throughout.
Rolling Stone reviewer David Rensin
Elton playing his show at the Hollywood Bowl on September 7th, 1973. (Photo: Ed Caraeff @ Iconic Images)
Menu

Elton playing his show at the Hollywood Bowl on September 7th, 1973. (Photo: Ed Caraeff @ Iconic Images)

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was released on October 5, 1973, on MCA Records in the US and Canada, and on DJM Records in the rest of the world. Within a month, it had reached #1 on the Billboard Top 200, where it stayed for 8 weeks as part of GYBR’s 2-year stay on the chart.

The record is packed with fan-favourites such as Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), Bennie And The Jets and Candle In The Wind and in 2003, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It is certified 8x Platinum by the RIAA for sales exceeding 8 million units.

1974

Above: July 1974, Elton in his L.A. garden wearing a Tommy Nutter suit. Top right: Elton on stage in feather costume by Bob Mackie. (Photo: Sam Emerson) Bottom Right: Elton at home in white bomber jacket with feathers, also by Bob Mackie. (Photo: Terry O'Neill @ Iconic Images)

John Lennon joins Elton on stage at Madison Square Garden

When Elton added his vocals to John Lennon’s Whatever Gets You Thru The Night a deal was made that if the song reached #1 on the Billboard chart, the latter would join Elton on stage at one of his upcoming Madison Square Garden shows. Lennon agreed, thinking that the track would never top the chart as none of his solo material had so far.

Two days before Elton and the band’s fall tour of North America began at the Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, Whatever Gets You Thru The Night was released as Walls And Bridges’ debut single in the US on September 23, 1974. On November 16, much to Lennon’s amazement, it reached #1, knocking off Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

Elton called and said, ‘Remember when you promised…?’ It wasn’t like I promised some agent or something, so I was suddenly stuck. I had to go on stage.
John Lennon

The appearance of John Lennon at Elton’s concert on Thanksgiving night 1974 at Madison Square Garden in New York City remains the single most memorable concert for Elton, his band and crew…and virtually everyone else who was there. It would be John’s last ever concert appearance.

“One of the greatest moments of my life, not only just my musical life but my personal life, was in this very building in 1974. Someone came on stage and sang three songs with us. And I’ve never heard a reception in the whole of my life like it. It was ten minutes of the most deafening roar. That person was very special, and of course you know I’m talking about John Lennon … Every time I play this building I think of him, and how much I miss him and how much he enriched all our lives.” – Elton at Madison Square Garden, October 2000

Watch John Lennon join Elton on stage at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974 for Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.

1975

October 1975 - Elton John posing for the crowd at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles. (Terry O'Neill @ Iconic Images)
Menu

October 1975 - Elton John posing for the crowd at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles. (Terry O'Neill @ Iconic Images)

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy was released in May 1975 and went straight in at #1 in the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart, a feat no other album had achieved before. In fact, it had already been certified gold by the RIAA based on retailer pre-orders alone of more than 500,000. It went on to sell more than 3 million copies in the US.

“This is one of Elton John's best albums. He hasn't tried to top past successes, only to continue the good work he's been doing. And he's succeeded, even taking a few chances in the process.” - Jon Landau, Rolling Stone, July 17, 1975.

Captain Fantastic was a landmark Elton album for everyone involved in its creation. As Gus Dudgeon put it, “Unquestionably, musically, the band were absolutely at their peak and they’d never played that well across a whole album. The songs were great anyway, but the performances are so ‘on the money.’”

1976

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was released in June 1976 and quickly lived up to its pop potential, reaching the top of the US Hot 100 chart on its sixth week. In the UK it leapt up to #1 on the UK singles chart in just three weeks.

Elton and Kiki Dee sing Don't Go Breaking My Heart.

“I remember hearing it on the radio for the first time and thinking, “Wow.” ‘Cos some records, especially in those days, they have to sound great on the radio…and this was one of those records that did. I remember thinking, “Oh, this could do okay…this could go.” - Kiki Dee

And “go” it went…

Elton and Kiki Dee on the set of the music video for "Don't Go Breaking My Heart".
Menu

Elton and Kiki Dee on the set of the music video for "Don't Go Breaking My Heart".

Menu
The Rocket Club

Thank you for joining the Rocket Club!

You will receive regular updates and all of the behind the scenes stories about Elton John, please confirm your email address by clicking the link in the confirmation email

Unfortunately something went wrong

Please try again later or check that you are not already subscribed to our newsletter