August 25, 2017

10 Fun Facts About 'Rock Of The Westies' and 'The Big Picture'

Today we mark the new 180gm vinyl reissues of Rock Of The Westies (1975) and The Big Picture* (1997), re-mastered by Grammy Award winning mastering engineer Bob Ludwig, by offering ten fun facts about Elton’s 10th and 27th studio albums:

  1. Rock Of The Westies was the second consecutive Elton John album to enter the Billboard Top 200 chart at #1, a feat unheard of at that time. The album wound up spending 26 weeks on the chart, three of them at the top position. It peaked at #5 in the UK.
  2. The title is an Elton pun on the phrase “West of the Rockies”, owing to the fact that the album was recorded at Caribou Ranch in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado – Elton’s third and final album to be tracked there.
  3. The album was originally to be titled “Bottled And Brained”, a phrase taken from the lyric to Street Kids.
  4. The group Labelle (Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash) sang background vocals on Medley (Yell Help, Wednesday Night, Ugly). Before launching his own career, Elton (Reg Dwight at the time) played in the band Bluesology, which was Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles’ backing band on their 1966 tour of England.
  5. Sounds magazine’s Phil Sutcliffe was moved to write that Rock Of The Westies was “…exciting as in EXCITING!” in his October 1975 review.

(* Please note: The Big Picture will be released in the US on September 22.)

The new vinyl reissues of Rock Of The Westies and The Big Picture are now available as part of The Elton John Vinyl Club 2017.

  1. The Big Picture, which has never been released on vinyl before and will be a double-LP set, spent 23 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 album chart and the UK Album Chart, peaking at #9 and #3 respectively.
  2. The 1997 album included guest appearances by Anne Dudley (Art of Noise), Paul Carrack (Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics), and Chris Laurence, who had previously played acoustic bass on two Elton albums, Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across The Water.
  3. No less than four singles were released worldwide from The Big Picture: a non-album version of Live Like Horses (featuring opera star Luciano Pavarotti), Something About The Way You Look Tonight (as a double A-side single with Candle In The Wind 1997 it reached #1 in the US and the UK), Recover Your Soul and If The River Can Bend.
  4. The Big Picture was dedicated to designer Gianni Versace, a close friend of Elton’s who died two months before the album’s release. It was at the memorial service for Versace that Elton was comforted by Princess Diana, who would also unexpectedly pass one month later.
  5. Billboard magazine said, in their September 1997 review, that The Big Picture finds Elton “in fine form, delivering a characteristically strong blend of mid-tempo pop tunes and ballads.” Other American reviewers focused on some of the album’s songs: “The title track is a stunner…” (Claudia Perry: Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger) and “Live Like Horses is classic Elton John.” – Howard Cohen: The Miami (FL) Herald.