The Cut: The Making of 'Bennie And The Jets'
“That song was written in the 70s and the video looks so 2017!”
The new official video for 'Bennie And The Jets' was directed by Jack Whiteley and Laura Brownhill.
Jack is an award-winning music video and commercials director based in London and Laura followed up her Leeds School of Art and Design Visual Communication degree by founding The Kazimier art collective, which forged new waves in Liverpool’s bohemian DIY scene.
Their video views Elton and Bernie’s song from a unique perspective.”Aesthetically, we’re in the future as if imagined from the past. The set and central structure takes influence from the sci-fi/constructivist/minimalism from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The large-scale nature of the performance and the synchronised choreography is inspired by Busby Berkeley films. The camera work, lighting and black and white aesthetic is a nod to films of the classic Hollywood period.”
In April 1974, Bennie And The Jets was selected as the third US single off of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. It became Elton’s second #1 in America (spending 18 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100) and also broke into the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, peaking at #15. This all off the strength of the song doing very well on a Detroit R&B radio station before it was even a single. Elton originally was adamant that Candle In The Wind be released in the US, as it had in the UK, but changed his mind when told how well Bennie was doing at CKLW.
As producer Gus Dudgeon explained in 1993, the song was recorded in the studio, not in concert as it would seem. “For some weird reason, Elton happened to have hit the opening piano chord of the song exactly one bar before the song actually started. So I was doing the mix and this chord kept coming on which you normally wouldn’t expect to hear. I turned to engineer [David Hentschel] and I said, ‘What does that remind you of? … It’s the sort of thing that people do on stage just before they’re going to start a song.’ Just to kind of get everybody, ‘Okay, here we go, ready?’ For some reason that chord being there made me think, ‘Maybe we should fake-live this.’
On set during the making of the Bennie And The Jets video.
Jack explained their Bennie And The Jets video concept to Campaign: “Elton and Bernie had suggested…that it would be good if the video was shot in black and white. I immediately jumped at this as it was an opportunity to shoot in a way I hadn’t before. A lot of my work is defined by its rich colour and so I was drawn to the challenge of trying to make a video feel colourful and vibrant using only a monochrome palate.”
Laura added, “We wanted to include a range of diverse dance styles, from krumping to drag and ballet, in order for each character to express the personalities of the “weird and wonderful” Bernie writes about in his lyrics. We also researched androgyny in dance and gender-neutral movement. Our cast was half male and half female, all of whom explored elements of the alternative gender role. From a stylistic point of view, we tried to convey elements of Elton John’s elaborate stage wear from over the years within each costume. Without being allowed to feature him in the video itself, we brought the essence of him where we could.”
Bennie And The Jets is one of Elton’s most-played concert songs since debuting in late 1973, appearing in almost every concert set list since then.