I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Elton John Podcast

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November 20, 2018  

Episode 24 - David Larkham Interview

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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

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October 31, 2018  

Episode 23 - Bernie’s Auction - What We’ve Learned

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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).

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October 20, 2018  

Episode 22 - Caleb Quaye Interview

Caleb

I was lucky enough to be able to spend more than an hour in the company of the brilliant Caleb Quaye. Without Caleb, there would be no Elton John as we know him. He got Elton and Bernie the gig with Dick James, and it was his audacious approach to using Dick James' studio that made it possible for Elton to take his first, extraordinary musical steps there in 1967 and 1968. His guitar work is legendary - the man is essentially a virtuoso - and it's his playing that makes those first four Elton John albums sing.

Please show Caleb your appreciation by putting some money into his GoFundMe. He is raising money in order to get the rights to use some archival footage in the documentary of his life that he has put together, entitled 'Louder than Rock'. Put your hands in your pockets now - there'll never be a better chance than this to show Caleb how much you value the work and the magic that he put into Elton's career.

This episode features a slew of indescribable rarities and forgotten tracks. The image of the tape box that Caleb takes a look at with me can be found here

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September 23, 2018  

Eppsisode 21 - Stuart Epps Interview

Elton Shocked

Stuart Epps is Elton John royalty! He was a huge part of the team that worked together to bring Elton out from the sidelines of Tin Pan Alley, into megastardom. He saw that process first hand, working in a variety of different roles. Here he tells his story.

Stuart's brand new audiobook can be ordered from his website

The rarity that I play in the episode is the Steve Brown produced version of 'Take Me To The Pilot' from Olympic Studios, recorded in something like August / September 1969. 

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September 15, 2018  

Episode 20 - Elton’s Buried Treasure vol. 2

Elton Shocked

In this episode the cake is unbaked, and every ingredient of the Elton John recipe is celebrated. Complex drum and percussion sounds are unpicked, backing vocals are highlighted, lead vocals are isolated, and previously buried piano tracks are brought to the surface. 

A few techniques are used. As well as the out of phase stereo technique, (used extensively in episode 1), I make use of isolated channels from the 5.1 surround sound remixes, as well as multitracks of some songs, breaking them down and building them back up, track by track.

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August 19, 2018  

Episode 19 - Early Cover Versions of Elton’s Music

Elton in 1969

It's well known that Elton and Bernie spent their formative years trying to write hits for other artists, while trying to find their own voice. This episode tells the story of Elton and Bernie's early years through the prism of those early cover versions.

Included are the 'surprise' number 3 hit in New Zealand in 1969, the song on the US Top 10 Gold album that gave them the breathing space they needed as they went about planning the second album, and the cover by a fellow songwriter, 50 years ago this week, that gave them the encouragement to carry on through a very dark period. 

This episode is backed with a major bit of work - all of the early covers from English-speaking territories have been documented, with all possible internet links (e.g. to YouTube, discogs and 45cat) gathered. Additionally, for each of the 39 covers, an attempt has been made to answer the question 'how did they find out about Elton's music?'

The research has been summarised in this pdf, or alternatively here on this webpage. This document is designed as a guide to accompany this episode and future episodes on this topic.

A couple of recordings are included for the first time on the internet in this episode, namely Guy Darrell's Skyline Pigeon, and Lew Rich's Taking the Sun from My Eyes, which is included in full in the episode, courtesy of David Bodoh, of eltonography.com

The Roger Cook interview is taken from the Strange Brew podcast

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July 30, 2018  

Episode 18 - Elton’s Anonymous Cover Versions - ft. Dana Gillespie

Elton in 1969

In his formative years as a session musician, in fact even after the recording of his third album, Elton earned some extra cash recording cover versions of the hits of the day, anonymously, for budget record labels. These long player albums retailed at around the same price as a regular single, and they would be rushed out to share the shelves with their 'legitimate' counterparts. Until the record labels worked out that they could make money by making compilations out of the actual recordings, these records sold in their millions. 

For years, these records sat at the back of people's collections, and in piles in charity shops, before Elton's fans started going through them. More than 50 recordings featuring his voice have since been identified, and many more remain to be discovered.

In these sessions, Elton sang and played keyboard along with many now-familiar names, including David Byron, who went on to front Uriah Heap, and Dana Gillespie.

Dana's biography is long and impressive, taking in connections with Jimmy Page, Donovan, Dylan, Bowie and Lionel Bart. She was also the original Mary Magdalene in the Jesus Christ Superstar stage show, and a four-time British Junior Waterski champion.  Dana very kindly agreed to be interviewed for this episode, and her recollections are here, bringing the story of these sessions to life.

Featured in the episode are recordings that did not find their way onto the collections that came out under titles such as 'Reg Dwight's Piano Goes Pop' in the nineties. I've tried to find less commonly-heard recordings, and in the process I have uncovered a couple of recordings that are new to YouTube (and uploaded them to my channel). 

I am indebted to the work of all the Elton John fans who have researched this material. The hall of fame must include David Bodoh, whose 'Eltonography' website hosts a wonderful list of the tracks that Elton is throught to have contributed to. Thanks also go to the gentleman who compiles the tobekompleated discography. His discography features images and track-listings of many of the records that collectors might want to investigate.

Anyone with an interest in these records would also enjoy the following web pages that are devoted to them - hitcovers, copycatcovers, and topofthepops

Here are the other links that I make reference to in the episode: 

The remainder of the interview with Dana - about her incredible career

A recording of Dana tackling 'That Same Old Feeling', a beautiful song, a top 10 hit for Pickettywitch in January 1970.  

David Byron's take on 'Let's Work Together' by Canned Heat

Elton taking secondary vocals on 'Wand'rin' Star' by Lee Marvin

The full playlist of tracks on '28 International Top Songs'. Here's a blog post about this record. 

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May 14, 2018  

Episode 17 - The New Routes of Davey Johnstone - 1971-73

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The second of a two-part biography of Davey Johnstone's early musical history. 

Davey's range, and his scope for development, were apparent to all at his first Elton John session, for Holiday Inn. Elton wasn't going to let a talent like Davey slip through his fingers. 

This episode takes in Davey's astonishing work for Madman, Honky Chateau and Don't Shoot Me, his early live work with the band, the sessions that he continued to do, and tracks from his solo album, released in 1973. Some tracks are presented in centre extraction, in order to highlight Davey's parts. 

I would like to thank the YouTube channel 'The Sessions' for very kindly giving me permission to use their interview with Davey. Their channel can be found here.

 

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May 13, 2018  

Episode 16 - The Folk Roots of Davey Johnstone - 1951-71

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The first of a two-part biography of Davey Johnstone's early musical history. 

Just three years after getting his first guitar, a 14-year-old Davey could be found in folk clubs around Scotland, a class apart from the groups of seasoned musicians who welcomed him. At 17 he moved to London. He quickly found his home on the road and in the studio, where he was becoming an in-demand session player. 

I would like to thank the YouTube channel 'The Sessions' for very kindly giving me permission to use their interview with Davey. Their channel can be found here.

This episide features an interview with Russell Laing, the son of the leader of Davey's second band, The Fife Reivers. I would like to thank Russell for sharing his wonderful memories of those days. Here is a link to Russell's story about David Bowie that I mention in the episode. Russell still makes otherworldly music, some of which can be found here. I also mention the fascinating booking diary for Russell's dad's folk club, one of many fascinating documents and photographs collected by his dad. The image for this episode comes from that collection, featuring Jim, Davey and Russell doing their party piece. 

Thanks as ever to Keith Hayward, who has written two of the best biographies of Elton. Plenty of information relating to Magna Carta and Noel Murphy comes via the second of those books

It has been rather a large interim this time - things should be back to normal now, whatever normal is.

 

 

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March 21, 2018  

Episode 15 - Ego at 40

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24 months passed between the recording sessions for Crazy Water, and those for Elton's next (major) single, the angry, jagged Ego. From the sound of the record, Elton hadn't been able to find much solace in the interim. Ego twists with the energy of a tantrum. It's dark and humourous, petulant and self-mocking, all at once. 

Backed with Flintstone Boy, a lightly subversive slice of queer country music, this single was Elton's state of the nation address for Spring 1978, and a real artistic statement. Unfortunately for Elton, punk had come, the new wave was in the ascendancy, and younger record buyers were not looking in his direction. For their part, Elton's own fanbase were alienated by the lack of a singable hook in the song. Released 40 years ago today, Ego stalled at number 34 on both sides of the Atlantic.

This episode is a celebration of this vital single release. Part biography, part musical analysis, the episode looks at 1977/1978 Elton, and these two songs, from every conceivable angle. 

The episode takes some of its shape from the excellent Elton John biography 'Captain Fantastic' by David DeCouto

The two centre extractions that I talk over can be heard in full on my new YouTube channel

 

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March 4, 2018  

Episode 14 - The Songs They Gave Away

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Elton wrote a lot of incredible music over the years, in fact, more than he needed at some points of his career. This is the story of the songs that Elton gave away, either by design, or by default. Two of Elton's demos are featured - both of them are significant upgrades in terms of sound quality over what generally circulates. 

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March 1, 2018  

Episode 13 - I’ve Been Loving You (For Precisely 50 Years)

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50 years ago today, on the 1st of March 1968, a 20-year-old Elton released his first solo single, 'I've Been Loving You', on Philips. Today's episode is an all-encompassing celebration of that moment, telling the story through the people around Elton, and the music they were making at the time. Two practically impossible rarities are included to mark the moment. 

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