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February 10, 2017

Wishing Nigel Olsson a Happy Birthday

Please join us in celebrating the 68th birthday of Elton’s drummer, Nigel Olsson.

As it is the 50th anniversary of Elton’s songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin, we thought it worth noting that Nigel has performed in the studio (drumming and/or singing) on 170 of the pair’s compositions. 45 of Nigel’s live performances have also been released over the years.

The Merseyside native’s first foray into the land of John/Taupin was in 1969 but not, as you might have thought, with his appearance on Elton’s debut album Empty Sky that year – playing the drums on the song Lady, What’s Tomorrow?.

Since 1967, Nigel had been in the band Plastic Penny, who were signed to the UK independent record label Page One which had been co-founded by Dick James, Elton and Bernie’s publisher. Many of the artists on James’ various labels recorded songs by Elton and Bernie, who began their co-career primarily as staff writers. Thus, Plastic Penny, with Nigel on drums and backing vocals, recorded one of Elton and Bernie’s earliest compositions, Turn To Me. The song, which was written around 1968 and has never been released by Elton, appeared on Plastic Penny’s second album Currency in 1969.

Nigel went on to play on a number of Elton songs in the early 1970s and became a full-time studio band member with 1972’s Honky Château. At that point Nigel, guitarist Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray formed an incredibly successful unit with Elton that would be responsible for five #1 albums, multiple smash hit singles, and record-breaking world tours over the following three years.

In addition to working with other artists after that, Nigel continued to record with Elton, playing on five of his albums in the 1980s and one in the 90s. Elton’s latest release, Wonderful Crazy Night, is his fourth studio album that Nigel has appeared on since 2001.

That was the year Nigel released his fifth solo album, Move The Universe. On it, he covered a John/Taupin song that had been written during the Made In England sessions in 1994 but had never been released before: Building A Bird. We are happy to provide the lyrics to this rare title below.

Tonight’s performance of the Million Dollar Piano at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, will be Nigel’s 2,267th concert with Elton. If you are lucky enough to be in the audience, be sure to sing Happy Birthday to the one and only Mr. Nigel Olsson!

Building A Bird

I’m building a bird
From the wreck of a story
Something I once heard
Sifting through this pile of words
I’m building a bird

I’m building a bird
From a crack in the system
Sunshine it’s a dirty word
Slippin’ out this naked world
And building a bird

Take this broken bird home
Wrap it in barbed wire
Saddest song I ever heard
Was a bird in a house on fire

I’m building a bird
From the wreck of a story
Something I once heard
Sifting through this pile of words
I’m building a bird

All this scattered make-up
From covering his curse
All the scattered building blocks
That never got to build a bird

If you want it you can take it
If you need it you don’t know it
If it moves screw it in the ground
All around it’s all over
Tools and nails glue and feathers
All that’s left from building a bird

I’m building a bird
From a crack in the system
Sunshine it’s a dirty word
Slippin’ out this naked world
And building a bird

(Elton John/Bernie Taupin)

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