June 6, 2014

Elton’s First Album Released 45 Years Ago This Week

This week marks the 45th anniversary of the release of Elton’s first album, 'Empty Sky'.

This week marks the 45th anniversary of the release of Elton’s first album, 'Empty Sky'.

Recorded between December 1968 and April 1969 at Dick James Studios at 71-75 New Oxford Street in London, Empty Sky was produced by Steve Brown and issued on the Dick James Music label.

The album was not released in the United States until 1975, by which time Elton’s immense popularity had created a demand for the heretofore rare title, and it was reissued with bonus tracks on CD in 1995/96.

The LP contained nine songs written by Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin, who had been writing together for two years, originally with the intent of having other, established acts record their songs.

The title track opens the album with the sound of conga drums (played by guitarist Caleb Quaye) and piano in a sonic nod to the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil. Elton added this song to his concert set during shows in 1975-76 when his band included Quaye and Empty Sky drummer, Roger Pope.

Elton plays a number of keyboard instruments on the album: piano, electric piano, organ and harpsichord. Other musicians include Tony Murray (soon to join The Troggs) on bass, Don Fay on flute and saxophone, Graham Vickery on harmonica, and tape operator (and long-time sound engineer for Elton) Clive Franks doing the whistling on Hymn 2000.

Lady, What’s Tomorrow? is the first Elton song on which drummer Nigel Olsson played, starting a musical relationship that continues to this day.

Skyline Pigeon, the song that Elton and Bernie point to as their first worthy composition, was recorded with only Elton playing (harpsichord and organ) and singing. Elton has performed this title in concert at various times over his career, both solo and with his band, especially during his shows in Brazil, where the song’s 1972 re-recording was a hit.

Elton at DJM Studios, with Caleb Quaye and Tony Murray

Elton at DJM Studios, with Caleb Quaye and Tony Murray

And in the “what’s old is new again” department, the opening guitar notes from Gulliver, a song about the passing of Bernie’s childhood dog, anchor the title track from Elton John vs. Pnau’s #1 album Good Morning To The Night.

Congratulations to Elton and Bernie on an amazing 45 years of making albums together, and we look forward to those yet to come!

Empty Sky 1969 track listing:

Empty Sky
Western Ford Gateway
Hymn 2000
Lady, What’s Tomorrow?
The Scaffold
Skyline Pigeon
Gulliver/Hay Chewed/Reprise

Bonus tracks on the 1995 Mercury and 1996 Rocket reissues:

Lady Samantha
All Across The Havens
It’s Me That You Need
Just Like Strange Rain

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