65 minutes | Jun 7, 2021
Episode 42 - Jewel Box Companion 1: Bernie's Letter
The first of six 'Jewel Box Companion' episodes. It's taken me a while to get to grips with all of the extra new material and versions that we have been treated to. I've boiled it down into six relatively short playlists, and I'm going to be introducing them, one by one, and providing a little context and interpretation where I can. 'Chapter 1' is focused on the first set of lyrics, sent by Bernie to Liberty Records in June 1967, in response to their call for talent. It features some short snippets of an interview that I have carried out with Elton's first manager, and Elton and Bernie's matchmaker: - Ray Williams. The full interview will be coming up soon. The playlist for this first episode can be viewed here. There are links there for you to listen on the major streaming services, but here they are anyway: Spotify - - Apple Music - - YouTube Music. It's not mentioned in the episode, but I've also chorded out the songs for any musicians out there. Drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to have a look.
67 minutes | Mar 7, 2021
Episode 41 - Old Friends
It's the 50th Frenniversary! Elton's 4th album was a pick-and-mix, with three pastoral pop songs from the same mould as the Elton John Album, two spiky rock songs that kept the Tumbleweed rolling, and a 10 minute long Buckmaster-stroke, thrown in for good measure. While it is an uneven listen, it contains some of Elton's finest music. The album gets some of the respect that it's due in this episode, by way of interviews, reviews, rare audio, and covers.
130 minutes | Feb 18, 2021
Episode 40 - Tumbleweed Connection at 50 (part 2) with John Higgins and Peter Thomas
Here we are at last! This is the concluding part of the Tumbleweed Conversation I had with John Higgins, Elton's Legacy Consultant and Feature Writer at eltonjohn.com, and Peter Thomas, founder of pmc-speakers.com and Elton collector extraordinaire. Once again, I invite you to accompany us on our ramble along the timeline, all the way to the Troubadour. The image from the episode comes from this current auction, which is for a set of handwritten 'Parish Magazines', written and illustrated by Bernie and his brother Tony in 1960-61, that are packed with references to the Wild West. This is where the legend began! In the intro, I mention a possible identity for the 'Well-Known Gun', but I should have mentioned this Dylan song as well, which was an obvious source for Bernie. No wonder Bernie had a 'fake heart attack' when Dylan told him how much he enjoyed the lyric!
115 minutes | Nov 30, 2020
Episode 39 - Tumbleweed Connection at 50 with John Higgins and Peter Thomas
I am very thankful to John Higgins, Elton's Legacy Consultant and Feature Writer at eltonjohn.com, and Peter Thomas, founder of pmc-speakers.com and Elton audio expert, who both joined me for this episode of the podcast. We got together for a marathon conversation (this is just part one), where we untangled the various strands of the timeline that brought the Tumbleweed Connection album into being. You will hear some of my almost-instrumental 'mixes' (they make use of the 5.1 release) which are designed to throw the songs into relief. You will also hear some of the stories behind the songs, a great deal of love for the album, all topped off with some casual, Elton-related banter.
86 minutes | Oct 31, 2020
Episode 38 - Tumbleweed Connection Covered
It's all go in Eltonland! The label have marked the 50th anniversary of Tumbleweed with a reissue of the album on green vinyl, plus an entirely unexpected companion 10" single, featuring the unearthed almost 8 minute long original version of Come Down in Time, backed with a full band DJM demo of Ballad of a Well Known Gun. Everything is available, along with a range of Tumbleweed merch, over at the EltonJohn.com shop, and John Higgins' fascinating anniversary article about Tumbleweed can also be found there now. Since the album is often felt to be the musician's Elton John album, I thought it would be interesting to go through some of the cover versions of these songs, and to make up my own playlist of my favourite covers. You may have very different choices - please let me know on the Facebook group or by email if I haven't picked or played your favourites. I'll be back with a fuller breakdown of Tumbleweed at some point in the future. If you want to listen to the YouTube playlist without me bleating all over the songs, it can be found here.
127 minutes | Oct 13, 2020
Episode 37 - 'Elton John' at 50 (Part 2) with John Higgins and Skaila Kanga
Here's the rest of my track by track breakdown with John Higgins of the 'Elton John' album. The album lit a fuse. Four and a half months later, Elton exploded at the Troubadour. John and I got to talk about some of the strides and the mis-steps that were taken along the way. John is Feature Writer at www.eltonjohn.com as well as Elton's Legacy Consultant. Elton fans can thank him for the exceptional 50th anniversary articles he's been writing, and show him love and eternal recognition for finding a way, alongside Daryl Easlea from Universal, and others, to make the upcoming box set 'Elton: Jewel Box' a reality. Also starring in this episode is the delightful Skaila Kanga. We talked about her harp work on the 'Elton John' album, her musical history, and her time in the classroom with Elton. Skaila has worked with essentially everyone over a hugely successful career, and she was still extremely busy when we spoke, back in March Skaila's been keeping busy during the enforced hiatus from live and studio work: she's been posting some lovely seasonal videos of her harp playing over at her YouTube channel.
23 minutes | Sep 17, 2020
Episode 36 - Jewel Box Joy
Well it's finally happened. I've got pretty much everything I've ever asked for, and probably a bit more. In this quickie episode, I dip into the mind-bending rarities track-list, and talk about what's new and what's not. All of the details can be found at the Elton John website.
101 minutes | Aug 28, 2020
Episode 35 - 'Elton John' at 50 with John Higgins
Enormous thanks to John Higgins - Feature Writer for the eltonjohn.com website - who came onto the podcast to share his love for the 'Black Album', and to tell me some of the stories that he'd been able to hear during interviews that he carried out with Paul Buckmaster and Gus Dudgeon about their work on the project. We listened through some 'mixes' that I've made of the tracks, making use of the separate channels in the 5.1 mixes, which I feel make for a pleasing new outlook onto some of Elton's densest material. Apologies to anyone who's been waiting on an episode, or a reply from me. There are several excuses in the episode, I won't repeat them here. Part two of this interview will be up very soon!
75 minutes | Feb 1, 2020
Episode 34 - Fantasy Residency and More Songs They Gave Away
In this episode I apologise for my absence; make some excuses; review the autobiography, in a limited sense; talk about the way that the book, the film and reality interact in one case; accept that I was wrong in another; mentally stage a residency, made up of Elton's deep cuts; all before the main event, which is a follow up to episode 14 - The Songs They Gave Away. In that sense, it's a bit of a grab-bag. Prepare for the familiar to sound very different, in the hands of other artists, and also for some songs that (I hope) you won't have heard before.
85 minutes | Aug 24, 2019
Episode 33 - Anett Murray Interview
This episode starts off with a Rocketman competition, courtesy of Paramount Home Media (here is the prize pack that's up for grabs) before the main event, an interview with Anett Murray, wife of Dee Murray, and a big part of the Elton John family during the first half of the seventies. Anett tells us some fascinating stories of life at home and on the road with Dee. I would like to thank her for sharing her memories with the podcast. Add in some wonderful music, and we have here a very special episode! The photograph that Anett mentions, of her wedding day, can be found here. If you're on Facebook, consider joining the 'Induct Nigel, Davey and Dee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' group. There are countless wonderful pictures like this one, and you can also help the cause for these musicians to be properly recognised for the enormous contribution that they made to Elton's music. The songs that are excerpted in the episode are as follows: You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover - Bo Diddley, 1962 I'm In A Different World - The Four Tops, 1968 (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher - Jackie Wilson, 1967 Space Oddity (Vocal, Drums and Bass only) - David Bowie, 1969 And The Gods Came Down - The Spencer Davis Group, 1970 Sitting Doing Nothing - Elton John, 1968 Take Me To The Pilot (BBC Live Session) - Elton John, 25th June 1970 Burn Down the Mission (Live Fillmore East) - Elton John, 21st November 1970 Jawbone - The Band, 1969 Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (Live Hammersmith Odeon) - Elton John, 23rd December 1973 Philadelphia Freedom (Live Central Park) - Elton John, 13th September 1980 Burning Buildings - Elton John, 1984 Rocket Man (Keys, Guitars and Bass only) - Elton John, 1972. The email address to enter the competition is email@example.com. Unlike what I say in the episode, the competition is in fact open to residents of the US or Canada.
71 minutes | Jul 22, 2019
Episode 32 - Mysteries of Elton
Welcome aboard the Mystery Machine, as we take a Flight of Fancy into the unknown corners of Elton's musical world. In this episode, I investigate the spookiest, dustiest corners of discogs, I search for the bootlegs that don’t even exist in our reality, and I uncover the songs that live only in the memories of people who say that they have heard them. Several pieces of music, where the level of Elton’s involvement is disputed, are played in the episode. You can listen to the songs again, and vote, using this online form, to record your opinion as to whether you hear Elton in the music that is presented. Feel free to submit your own responses still, but I have collected the results here.
101 minutes | Jun 17, 2019
Episode 31 - Empty Sky at 50
Empty Sky, Elton’s debut album, and also his most honest, laid-back sounding set of songs, hit the shelves 50 years ago this month. It didn’t make much impact at the time, but it is greatly loved, both by fans, and by the people that created it. This episode tells the story of the album through interviews with the gang of ‘lost boys’ who were credited on the sleeve – Elton, Bernie, Caleb, Steve Brown and David Larkham. In the process, their musical influences are identified, the lyrics are analysed, and the music is teased apart to reveal what lies under the surface. In preparation for this episode, I have sequenced a 6 CD ‘possible deluxe edition’, based on what is known to exist. The first 3 CDs are discussed in this episode. They contain the stereo and mono mix of the music recorded in these sessions, alternate mixes that can be found on acetate, BBC sessions and live recordings. The remaining CDs (full of demos, unreleased tracks, Elton's studio sessions, and covers by other artists) will be discussed in forthcoming episodes. The full tracklisting can be found in this pdf. The image for this episode is the David Larkham photograph that was used as the basis for his cover illustration. There’s also a rant about Rocketman...
127 minutes | Apr 17, 2019
Episode 30 - Listening Session with Peter Thomas
You are invited to a very special listening session and conversation with Peter Thomas, the preeminent Elton John collector and archivist. Peter Thomas, in his role as founder of monitor and speaker company PMC, has worked with the finest studios, mastering houses and broadcasters in the world. He has a passion for sound quality, and this extends into his hobby, which is researching and collecting Elton's earliest and most obscure recordings. In this episode you will get to hear some snippets of Peter's favourite acquisitions, as well as the histories around the acetates and reels of tape that carry these sounds through to the present day. The image for this episode is Peter's promo copy of 'I've Been Loving You', along with the handwritten release and contact details, featuring Elton's home phone number in Pinner. Once again I'd like to thank Peter for the wonderful generosity he has shown, sharing his time, his treasures, and his memories.
69 minutes | Mar 6, 2019
Episode 29 - Top of the Charts with a ROCKET, ft. The Lambrettas
This episode counts down the 15 biggest non-Elton singles on Rocket, and in the process, tells the story of the label, attempts to define the Rocket sound (spoiler - there isn’t one), and draws out the connections with Elton’s music, where these exist. The chart itself can be viewed here. Thanks to Doug Sanders from The Lambrettas, who was interviewed for this episode, and gave some wonderful insight into what it was like to be the most successful Rocket artist (apart from Elton perhaps) at the turn of the eighties. The full interview can be found here. Doug has supplied some wonderful pictures from 1980, including the band posing outside the then Rocket HQ, and receiving their Silver Discs for Poison Ivy. Spot the familiar faces! The signed Kiki Dee Box Set that I mention in the episode can be purchased (in the UK) here. The Elton-penned song featured at the end of the episode can be found on my YouTube channel here.
72 minutes | Feb 18, 2019
Episode 28 - Alternate Versions, Mixes and Edits
This episode revels in the obscure, picking up the curios in the discography, studying them, and making an attempt at explaining them. Here are the early versions, the erroneous edits that never should have been heard, the remixes, the rough mixes and the acoustic mixes. The highlight of this episode, for me, is the mono mix of Hymn 2000, which is played in full. Empty Sky in mono is so rare, it was thought for years not to exist at all. You will have heard some of these, I'm sure, but I would be very surprised if you had heard them all!
48 minutes | Feb 4, 2019
Episode 27 - Breaking Down 'Passengers'
This is the story of Elton's personal redemption, through the prism of the song 'Passengers', the UK top 5 hit single with the unique songwriting credit - Elton, Bernie, Davey and South African musician Phineas Mkhize. This episode follows Elton from the lows of being placed on the UN's cultural blacklist in 1983, for playing at Sun City, to the highs of being recognised as Harvard's 'Man of the Year' for his charity work, particularly in Africa, in 2017. At the heart of the episode is an email interview with Phineas' son Bennett. His story helps us to connect Elton - the megastar who wanted to make a statement about apartheid - with Phineas - the maskandi musician who hated politics.
72 minutes | Jan 22, 2019
Episode 26 - Rare Masters Vol. 2 (Part 2)
In this episode, I finish going through the imaginary box-set. First, I detail all of the non-album tracks that were released between 1984 and 1990 (CD3 of the collection that I have programmed), and I then go on to discuss the rarities that might find their way onto Rare Masters Vol. 2 (annexed off onto CD4). If you're inspired enough to get some of your singles out, to see how they compare against the transfers I've used in this episode, let me know how it turns out. I would love to hear some improved transfers of this material. It looks like we're on our own with this stuff. Someone must have a pristine Conquer The Sun out there! A couple of minor errors have been corrected in the accompanying document, and the audio for Episode 25 has been subtly changed to reflect this.
82 minutes | Jan 8, 2019
Episode 25 - Rare Masters Vol. 2 (Part 1)
The Elton John Podcast with the unwieldy name goes where the record company dare not go - Rare Masters Vol. 2. We all loved the first volume when it came out, and many of us have been going grey waiting for the next instalment. It didn't look like it was going to happen, so I've just gone ahead and done it. All of the non-album A and B-sides recorded between 1976 and 1990 have been collected and collated, and three wonderful CDs are the result. Unfortunately it's not actually available - the best I can do to provide this is this YouTube playlist that I've compiled. This episode discusses CD1 and CD2, which takes us up to the end of 1983. The next episode will be about CD3 and also about the unreleased material that might find its way onto such a collection. All of the material has been thoroughly researched, in an attempt to determine what was recorded when, and in some cases who played on what. This is basic information, something that should be a matter of public record, but there are no reliable sources out there. This lack of information, alongside the the fact that we can't even buy the music, represents an insult to Elton and his collaborators, and to the fans that want to hear it. I have compiled a document to accompany the episode. Send me an email, let me know how well I've done, and where I've gone wrong - there are bound to be mistakes. I intend to update the YouTube playlist with improved sources, including my own in those instances where none of the transfers currently on YouTube are up to scratch. Please feel free to upload your own transfers - the more the merrier!
72 minutes | Nov 19, 2018
Episode 24 - David Larkham Interview
Another treat - an interview with David Larkham – the man who controlled the visual element of the classic albums, liaising with Steve Brown, Bernie, Elton and others to bring their ideas to life. David was there at Steve Brown’s house in 68/69 with Bernie and Elton, hanging out; he was there at the Troubadour, taking photos; he was out there in Jamaica, waiting for the studio to be ready like everyone else; on tour; in Caribou… You name it – he was there. He’s still involved in bringing together the imagery that is central to Elton’s farewell tour – Elton wouldn't have anyone else doing this work for him! The episode image (which you can download from here) is an illustration of David's from late 1968, which was used as the front page of Elton’s first press pack, up until the release of Empty Sky. The interview about the sleeve for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which is mentioned in the podcast, can be found here.
49 minutes | Oct 30, 2018
Episode 23 - Bernie's Auction - What We've Learned
In this episode, I attempt to play (and sing in one case) the three ‘new’ songs from 1967 that have come to light via Bernie’s upcoming auction. I also go through the working lyrics that Bernie is selling in New York on the 9th of November, and talk about what they tell us about Bernie’s process. You can currently download the pdf featuring the lyric sheets here (click on the download arrow at the bottom of the page).