He’s still standing Elton John has released hundreds of songs over the past 50 years — here are a few we'd love to hear live this weekend

With 33 studio recordings, four live albums, seven soundtrack albums, 16 compilations and a handful of other releases, there’s no shortage of Elton John tracks to choose from when building your ideal setlist.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/10/2019 (1153 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With 33 studio recordings, four live albums, seven soundtrack albums, 16 compilations and a handful of other releases, there’s no shortage of Elton John tracks to choose from when building your ideal setlist.

Do you prefer the melancholic charm of Rocket Man? The vindicated vibe of I’m Still Standing? The unbridled romance of Your Song or the child-like bop of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart? No matter your taste or age — and apologies for the cliché — there really is something for everyone within John’s vast catalogue.

Elton John applauds fans at the sold out Winnipeg Arena show in 1999. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

And while the curious can easily hop on Google to scope out the tracks he’ll be playing at his two shows at Bell MTS Place on Friday, Oct. 4 and Saturday, Oct. 5, there will be no spoilers printed here, only a list of favourite John jams from a few of the Free Press arts department staff who hope to hear them live at the Winnipeg stops of his final concert tour this weekend.

Bennie and the Jets

From: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

I’m a couple decades shy of being able to write about personal memories of when this song came out in 1973 (I’m pretty sure my first introduction to Elton John was the 1994 animated version of The Lion King) but for me, Bennie and the Jets is one of those songs that has just always felt good to listen to and ticks all the boxes of a true jam.

A solid groove? Check. An unforgettable piano riff plus additional solo? Check. A clever story about a fictitious band that is also a comment on the absurdity of the music industry in the 1970s? Check. A catchy-as-hell chorus that will spur a sing-along anywhere you go? Extra check.

To this day it remains on every one of my Spotify playlists (Faves, Oldies, Gym Jams, Party Time) because it is appropriate in literally any situation. What more can you ask for from a song than that?

Erin Lebar

 


 

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

From: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)

The lone track released as a single from 1975’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the song Someone Saved My Life Tonight closes out the first side of the album, which was released the year I was born (and which was in heavy rotation by my parents that year and beyond).

At just under seven minutes long, it’s among the longest of Elton John’s singles, and he apparently refused to authorize a radio edit for MCA, his then-record label.

Lyrically, the song ain’t exactly a happy-go-lucky pick-me-up. The quasi-autobiographical album chronicles the lives of Captain Fantastic (John) and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (Bernie Taupin) as they try to make it in the music world (The songs go chronologically through the story and, interestingly, were also written in that sequence), and Someone Saved My Life Tonight offers a slice of the Captain’s life at its lowest.

In real life, John had been miserable in his relationship with Linda Woodrow, and in 1968 he even attempted suicide. The “someone” in the title refers to the British-Canadian bluesman Long John Baldry, who talked him into leaving the relationship, which was threatening to ruin John’s musical career (and, obviously, his life).

Elton’s vocal and piano chops are in peak form here, and on this album his band is equal to the task; Captain Fantastic (beginning with the brilliant opening/title track) is a such an enjoyable example of their musical prowess.

For me, more importantly, the entire album pulls back the curtain in my brain where ever-fading memories of my early childhood exist. And, in a more recent context, they make me think of my dad, who was a big Elton fan and who died a couple of years ago.

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

 


 

Daniel

From: Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973)

The simple answer would be all of them! However, if hard pressed, I might say Daniel featured on Elton John’s Greatest Hits, and my very first album — an old-fashioned vinyl LP before they became uber-cool – that I purchased in the mid ‘70s with the spoils of my weekly Saturday night babysitting gig paying a princely one-dollar an hour.

Why Daniel? Although I never got at the time that the song is actually about a Vietnam War veteran, something about the idea of “travelling tonight on a plane” — and to Spain, no less — spoke to my wanderlust-stricken teenaged soul. Some might argue my adult soul, as well.

Like so many, Sir Elton’s music has been interwoven throughout my life; as well as being the soundtrack of my youth; the B-side to the Bach and Beethoven recordings I was similarly devouring at the time, while jet-fuelling my teenaged-dreams and aspirations.

I boogied like there was no tomorrow to Rocket Man and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. I wept as the superstar sang his adaptation of Candle in the Wind at Princess Diana’s funeral. Seeing The Lion King at Toronto’s Royal Alex brought new thrills, and I’ve taught many of his pop songs to my own piano students throughout the years as they discover the magic of his music for their first time.

I was also lucky to have reviewed the world première of Alberta Ballet’s Elton John-inspired ballet Love Lies Bleeding in Calgary for Dance International in October 2011 — as well as a later touring production in Winnipeg for the Free Press in March 2017. The sight of an entire lobby filled with wonderful drag performers having the time of their lives is not soon forgotten.

Elton John’s music is as timeless as ever, and although the red taillights have faded on my youth long ago, I still long to jump on that plane, heading for Spain.

Holly Harris

 


 

I Want Love

From: Songs From The West Coast (2001)

I Want Love is an iconic Elton John bop; it’s a song with a message, and while that message may not be one of having finally found love — such as Your Song — or one of small dancing pirates that can also sew — such as Tiny Dancer — it nonetheless ranks up there with his best work.

I Want Love is a slow, piano-heavy ballad about loss, longing and hope. And who better to convey all that in a music video than Robert Downey, Jr.?

Downey may be best known as Iron Man, but back in the early 2000s he was known for his stellar work in films such as Less Than Zero and Chaplin, and for being, well, a trainwreck. After a series of arrests and incidents involving guns, cocaine and multiple stints in prison, Downey had become unemployable in Hollywood.

That is until John arrived on the scene, hired RDJ and gave us this incredible music video, shot in one continuous take by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy).

Today, Downey is one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, Elton John is coming to Winnipeg and I have rekindled my childhood crush. I think we’re all winners here.

Frances Koncan

 


Tiny Dancer

From: Madman Across the Water (1971)

Elton John’s entire catalogue it iconic, but Tiny Dancer takes the cake for me. The melody hits me right in the heart and, even though I’m tragically bad at remembering lyrics, it’s one of the rare songs I know all the words to — which is a blessing for anyone within earshot because I can’t help but sing along whenever it comes on. And unlike Phoebe Buffay in a 1996 episode of Friends, I’m aware that the lyrics to the chorus aren’t, “Hold me close young Tony Danza.”

Tiny Dancer is on John’s fourth studio album, Madman Across the Water, and was written by his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin. The lyrics paint a picture of California in the late 1960s and, according to John, are a reference to Taupin’s then girlfriend Maxine Feibelman, who was the band’s seamstress in the early days.

Much like the song’s slow intro, Tiny Dancer took its time rising to prominence. It didn’t crack the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released as a single in 1972, but got a boost in popularity when it was used on the soundtrack for the film Almost Famous in 2000. In the movie, the song helps ease the tension between bandmates while Billy Crudup’s character comes down from a bender. Tiny Dancer was certified triple-platinum last year and a new music video for the song, shot by filmmaker Max Weiland, was released in 2017.

Eva Wasney

 


 

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

From: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

The title track from Elton John’s 1973 album was released when I was two years old. I can clearly recall listening to it in our living room, hooked up to the stereo via giant padded earmuff-style headphones, avidly chewing on the thick, curly cord as I was swept up in the orchestral majesty of this bittersweet pop gem.

It wasn’t until trying the song decades later at karaoke (note: do not attempt — those aaah-aaah-aaahs are really high) that I realized I didn’t really know a) all the lyrics or b) what the song was about.

The Elton John I knew from the cover of 1974’s Caribou album didn’t seem like much of a country boy, but he wants to go “back to the howling old owl in the woods”? And does one actually hunt horny back toads? Are they good eating?

More troubling was the fact that the song seems to concern a rent boy (or kept man, depending on your perspective) who’s being passed around in high society (“I’m not a present for your friends to open”). It was more than just a pretty pop song I’d sung along to for years (inserting phonetically similar sounds, obviously, for the lyrics I was not even close to getting right). However, the knowledge gave added depth to an already plaintive tune.

There’s a reason Elton John named his last-ever tour after this song: because it’s his masterpiece. He’s may be going back to a jewel-encrusted mansion, not his plow, but the song’s sentiment reflects leaving the fraught world of fame for simpler pleasures perfectly.

Jill Wilson

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Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Manager of audience engagement for news

Erin Lebar spends her time thinking of, and implementing, ways to improve the interaction and connection between the Free Press newsroom and its readership.

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Frances Koncan

Frances Koncan
Arts reporter

Frances Koncan (she/her) is a writer, theatre director, and failed musician of mixed Anishinaabe and Slovene descent. Originally from Couchiching First Nation, she is now based in Treaty 1 Territory right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

Concert preview

Elton John
● Oct. 4 and 5
● Bell MTS Place
● Tickets: Sold out

Elton John
● Oct. 4 and 5
● Bell MTS Place
● Tickets: Sold out

PREVIOUS WINNIPEG APPEARANCES

Nov. 15, 1999: Winnipeg Arena — Medusa Tour
Sept. 19 and 20, 2008: MTS Centre — Greatest Hits Live
May 7, 2011: MTS Centre — Greatest Hits Tour

History

Updated on Friday, October 4, 2019 8:47 AM CDT: Updates to note shows are sold out

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