Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Before he was Queen...

Last night I sat doodling (as is often my want) and idly loaded up Napster in order to feed some random music into my earphones. The first thing that Napster does is to load up a list of this weeks new releases and new additions to their own considerable library of tracks and albums, this is updated every monday and so I browsed last nights selection and as per usual I didn't recognise most of what was listed.

And then, just as I reached the bottom of the list, something jumped off the page and hit me in the eye - Elton John's "Tumbleweed Connection" album from 1970, the first album that brought him to the notice of the UK public at large - browsing further down the list there were several other Elton John albums, including all of the early ones except his very first release "Elton John".

It was like discovering several diamonds in a pile of human excrement.

Not that I've been a huge Elton John fan through the years, on the contrary, most of what he wrote and performed after 1976 was garbage, with a few notable exceptions, and by his own admission almost twenty years of his life until the end of the 90's were wasted on drugs and booze.

But the early period just oozes nostalgia to me, I only recognised one track from "Tumbleweed Connection" when I read the listing, "Country Comforts" and I only recognised that because Rod Stewart had snaffled it for his album "Gasoline Alley" the following year - but I selected all of the "Tumbleweed" album and played it thorugh, sat there and wallowed in 1970 again and suprised myself at just how many of the tracks I remembered after listening to them.

Its a great album and a great insight into what Elton John and Bernie Taupin were doing and writing before they were led down the path of commercialism, a great mix of blues and rock and ballads and just plain simple excellent song writing, it came after the album "Elton John" from which the single "Your Song" in the video above was a first massive hit, but unlike the norm today John and Taupin were allowed to release a follow-up album from which no songs at all were selected as singles, unbelievable today where most breakthrough artists are not even given a contract for a second album until as much revenue as possible has been squeezed from the first and if the second one doesn't match that revenue then they are out on their arses.

Lots of things were wrong about the 1970's, flares for one, kaftans for another, but the recording and popular music industry knew how to produce and nurture musical talent (they also knew how to screw them out of royalties but thats a different story).

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