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25 Nov 2014

"I Went Crazy For Collecting Records!". Beppe Bonaventura Top 30 Elton John List. Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of AllSongsList

13. Beppe Bonaventura

"Singles, album, vinyls, CD’s, promos, bootlegs, tour programs, books, covers, music sheets, … I have the same single from 10, 20, 30 different countries …" explained me in 2008 when I interviewed him related to the Eltonite's Day. That man is amazing. You could check out his website, that's one of bests fansites in my opinion, http://www.eltonjohnitaly.com/. Even in 1993, he produced a fanzine "Madman" for and dedicated to the heartfelt collectors, until 1996. He's a reference in Italy about Elton. When I was in Milan in 2004 due to the presenting of the "Peachtree Road" album, every one I met was talking about Beppe, so I had to meet Beppe, and the meeting was not disappointing, on the contrary. Beppe, if you made your reviews in english instead of (and also, of course) in italian, you could get the recognition you deserve.This is your turn.

Well, Elton is my life for about 40 years! And not only my musical life ...  Year after year his music has marked my life, everyday. Through Elton I've met a lot of people, I've travelled to a lot of countries, I went crazy for collecting records! Since the summer of long long time ago, when I heard Rocket Man for the first time. After that summer, nothing would ever be the same again.

30) Holiday Inn   From Madman, a fresh sound, an unusual Elton in a track marked by Caleb at the guitar and Davey (!) at the mandolin. Elton at the top of his inspiration could make even immortal a song about a hotels chain.


29) Emperor's New Clothes  The comeback with a great album, SFTWC, after years of mediocrity, and Emperor is an excellent track that reminds me the early golden era (1969/71), before the pop transition.  A basic production by Pat Leonard, with a great piano playing in front of you, a pleasant shock at my first listening.

28) The Ballad Of Danny Bailey    A classic from GYBR, the Elton storyteller that I like. A great percussive piano that I like very much.

27) Better Off Dead   Such a “cabaret” song from Captain Fantastic, powerful, it always reminds me of the solo piano shows Elton did with Ray Cooper, a great song.

26) It Ain't Gonna Be Easy   An unusual track from A Single Man, a great guitar player as Tim Renwick can duet with the piano at the same level. An underrated song from an underrated album. Gary Osborne is not Bernie Taupin, but this is a great song.

25) Bennie And The Jets    A great live song, always singing “Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie And The Jets!” at the concerts.   Maybe not his best track, but it's the “pop” Elton that I like, it's really involving with the piano solos.

24) Where To Now St. Peter   From the “old West” album, a little masterpiece. He unfortunately cannot write such a piece, this is an unrepeatable Elton’s production from every point of view. We have always the duo Buckmaster/Dudgeon at their top levels.

23) Tiny Dancer   A classic in the discography of Elton. Too much live versions bored a little the audience, but the original with great musicians becomes everlasting. A song not to be discussed, we can only appreciate it.

23) Harmony    A wonderful song filled with vocal mixtures already in the legend created by Dudgeon for 70’s albums. Unknown to the non-fans, it’s actually a classic of his production unfortunately it seems that Elton had forgot it.

22) This Song Has No Title   A fresh underrated song from GYBR, really nice. One more example about underrated songs by fans themselves, but perfect in their simplicity and inspiration, it’s the pop period, but at highest level.

21) Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters. An amazing tune about NY City from Honky Chateau in the middle of the passage towards pop of "Don’t Shoot Me" album. Perfect and unique in that genre, a little anomalous in his standard production, with mandolins.

20) Believe    Top 20!  It’s in my opinion one of the best track of Elton, after the golden years (60's/70's). It expresses a dramatic power and a quality that has no comparison in his production in those years, it’s the gem of 90’s.  Paul Buckmaster dislikes this production, but I like it very much!

19) All The Girls Love Alice   Elton rocks! My favourite rock song, fascinating, essential, with, for once, a good guitar riff by Johnstone, it’s certainly one of the best rock pieces in the whole Elton’s production, it’s fantastic live too.  

18) Seasons A tune from Friends couldn’t be missing, considered a minor album, but containing some little gems, and Seasons is one of them, always under Buckmaster’s sign.
 
17) First Episode at Hienton   Perfectly inserted in “Elton John” album, melancholy atmosphere. It is one more example of how magisterially was Bernie’s cryptic lyrics set to music, simply delicious.

16) Rocket Man  Long time ago, in the summer of 1973, I discovered the music and Elton John with this song, I can remember when Rocket Man came out from an old radio in my summer house. It was a lightning struck! And It will be always in my heart ...

15) The Greatest Discovery A simple, touching track from The Elton John album, a so simple theme of a little brother birth, performed in a perfect way with top inspiration. 

14) We All Fall In Love Sometimes/Curtains   The end of the concept album Captain Fantastic, a memorable ending medley, the band at his best, with incredible backing vocals and a memorable drumming by Nigel.  Simply perfect (p.s. This ending is very similar at the ending of the Desperado album by The Eagles, 1973)

13) Take Me To Pilot  It is already a classic, also in live repertory, even if it denaturalizes in comparison to the original one, that remains an example of what the real Elton could do. Incomprehensible lyrics, but a wonderful song from an era that was musically wonderful, not only for Elton.

12) Someone Saved My Life Tonight . Once again from Capitan Fantastic, a piece that moves me everytime, with the band at their best, fabulous vocal mixtures and a great inspiration. From this album Elton John Band actually emerges as ensemble.

11) Your Song     It's the trademarck of 40 years of stardom, this song is THE SONG, it's Elton John, there's no Elton without Your Song.   It's not the song of my life but it's a great universal song in the history of pop/rock music.

10) Goodbye     The Top Ten! The last track of Madman Across The Water, metaphorically it's a goodbye to the early Elton John, from now it will be the starting as a pop icon too. The track is beautiful is his simplicity, it's a touching on my heart every time. A Masterpiece!

9) Have Mercy On The Criminal    A dramatic track from the "Don't Shoot Me" album, very powerful, I like it very much. In there I find the atmospheres of previous albums with Buckmaster’s arrangements, but this time in a pop key more manifested. Elton and Bernie still at top.

8) Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding. An instrumental performance nearly perfect, not showing its age at all, it could be written yesterday, it always sounds fresh and modern. Love Lies Bleeding doesn’t compare but assimilate very well and already is one that remains in my heart.

7) Sixty Years On    This song has a very heavy production in the album Elton John, but it's a masterpiece from Elton and Bernie, incredible mix of music and lyrics. And Sixty always remember me the powerful sound of the trio (Elton, Nigel and Dee) in the fantastic 17-11-70 live album, a terrific version.

6) Madman Across The Water. The title track still sounds so powerful, dramatic and cryptic. As if it would be written today. I have no words, in my mind, it’s simply a masterpiece.

5) Levon. Once again from Madman, one more classic at high level, probably the more cryptic lyrics could excite to the best Elton when he was writing; the album production then gave a touch of perfection and immortality.
   
4) Ticking   Another very basic song, Elton, his piano and David Henschel on synth.   A drammatic story, a relentless piano playing in the waiting of a tragic end; It's not the Elton of the first era, the sound is more artificial, but the piano playing is incredible, I love it!

3)  Talking Old Soldiers  From Tumbleweed, Elton and piano at his best, I love this song, too. Bernie's lyrics are so touching and piano and voice are only all we need, nothing else. No match. The best track of Elton and a solo piano, a masterpiece.

2) My father's Gun     Another great song from a terrific album "Tumbleweed Connection". The imagine of the old West, with a very elaborated production by Buckmaster and Dudgeon, Elton seems really an American songwriter in this project. Paul Buckmaster did a fantastic job on this track, unbelievable.

1) Indian Sunset    And now, the n° 1!  A masterpiece from my favourite all time album   A fantastic mix: beautiful song, beautiful lyrics, Paul Buckmaster at his best with orchestral production, Gus Dudgeon as the boss, great musicians, the gem from Madman Across The Water.  For me, the ultimate song from the real, true Elton before the changing towards a popstar stardom. Every time this track moves me to tears.



Beppe's Eltonite's Day in 2008:
http://eltonjohnallsongslist.blogspot.com.es/2008/06/eltonites-day-from-italy-one-and-only.html

17 Nov 2014

"When I think Elton I think of pure happiness". Nicole Elizabeth Vaughan's Top 30 Elton John List. Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of AllSongsList


12. Nicole Elizabeth Vaughan

Have you had imagined to be in one of those parties Elton and David does as a benefit event? In Woodside for example? Still dreaming? Well, our next guest made it. She flew from Australia to England to fulfill one of her dreams, among others obviously. At the event, Elton sang "Your Song", "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" and "Tiny Dancer", as Nicole explained later. And the Aussie eltonite was there. Before this, her enthusiasm for Elton is well-known: "I worship at the altar of Elton!" reads one of her sentences. She's unique. So we had to ask her about her own list of favourites. And the response is unique. Let's get there!

Hello my name is Nicole from Sydney, Australia. I was asked to name my top 30 Elton songs... Which I found incredibly hard to do!! How to condense 35 years of my complete love and adoration into 30 songs??!! Instead I thought it easier to think of favourite songs as my moods take me... Here they are in no particular order xxxx

HAPPY MOOD:

Captain And the Kid, Captain Fantastic And Brown Dirt Cowboy, Bitter Fingers, The Greatest Discovery, Funeral for a friend / Love Lies Bleeding, Pinball Wizard, The Bitch Is Back, Durban Deep, Red, Dark Diamond, Wasteland 

SAD MOOD:

2 low 4 zero, Cold as Xmas, Ticking, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Skyline Pigeon, Indian Sunset, This Train Don't Stop There Anymore 

DANCING MOOD:

I'm Still Standing, Heartache All Over The World, Bite Your Lip, Healing hands, Teacher I Need You, Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, Wicked Dreams 

LOVING MOOD:

Something About The Way You Look Tonight, Pinky, Princess, Mansfield.

10 Nov 2014

"I felt my heart going out of my chest and my tears running through my cheeks". Patty Perrin's Top 30 Elton John List. Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of AllSongsList

11. Patricia Perrin

Patty Perrin, or the soul of eltonjohnmexico. This very versatile woman is a superlative artist: on TV shows, as reporter in "Para niños y similares" -"For Kids and similars"-, as an actress in "Rencor Apasionado" - "Passionate resentment", as a presenter in "Laberinto de Sorpresas" - "Labyrinth of Surprises"; collaborating in radio shows as epigrammist "La Mujer Actual" - "Modern's Woman"; press (Periodico Novedades and Revista Tele-Guia); cinema and theatre. Actress of stage, screen and television, this multi-talented eltonite is also well-known for her role in "La dama de Negro" - "The Lady In Black" (www.ladamadenegro.com), a 20 years on the road successful piece of theatre, she has been playing since the start. She also taught for several years in theater workshops and Composition at ITESM-CEM. It was my debt to invite her, the one who gave me my first eltonite experience in her website writing about Elton. More than this, her knowledge about the artist made the whole thing. Patty, this is your turn, thanks a buch for being here.

Really difficult to choose only 30 Elton John songs by a fan and even harder to put them in a fair order.  But I suppose this is something close to the idea of my personal experience of the journey between my personal life and his music.  I have to confess a lot of them had been chosen because of my memories.  That doesn't mean the other songs are not great, not at all, but I had to do my best in this hard decision.  So... Here we go (beginning with number 30 and finishing with number one... my own favorite...

# 30 YOUR SONG.  His very best classic must have been in this special list.  Never missing in his concerts and because of that, always in our memories of every show I had been (and surely you had been).  We all feel this is our song..

# 29 A STEP TOO FAR.  As my profesional carreer (actrees and writer) I clearly understand how hard is to write a score.  This "Aida" theme has a lovely melody, great chorus and wonderful lyrics.  Everytime I listen to it, I like it more and more.

#28 BELIEVE.  Elton's voice sounds incredible in this rendition.  Deep lyrics and strong music makes this song one of my favorites.

#27 FRIENDS.  An old song that always sounds new.  Incredible that in so very few minutes you can take that melody in your head all day.  And the message of the lyrics is amazing.  A clear example when the music transcend more than the own film. 

#26  WITHOUT QUESTION.  Yes, without question I really LOVE this song.  I liked the movie very much and I really believe that this soundtrack is much better than most people think.  One of the most beautiful melodies Elton has ever composed in my opinión.

#25 RECOVER YOUR SOUL.  It's so hard when you have so great lyrics to make justice with your music... But Elton did it again!  Unforgettable song when things go bad.  Has the power to make you feel up.  Great companion when you are down.  Love it!

#24 DANIEL.  I have heard this song thousands of times and it always move me.  Original and wonderful lyrics and a perfect melody.  Yes, just PERFECT!

#23 SOMEONE SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT.  Deep, emotional, powerful... All in one.  This is a masterpiece.  Unbelievable!

#22 RELIGION.  I have to confess I'm not a religion person, that is why I feel so agree with these lyrics.  I really think a religion person is the one who helps others, not the ones who live inside churches or temples.  It's a very deep song but with very "light" music.  That combination is why I really love this particular song.

#21 CIRCLE OF LIFE.  In my particular opinion, this must be the Oscar winner song.  The Lion King is superb, and this song the best of the best!  Who didn't cry hearing it and felt chills in the skin with the introduction of this movie?  I surely did... That is why it has to be in my personal list.

#20 THE NORTH.  I'm sure this song is only known for the strong fans.  It's not "a hit" but it's wonderful!  Elton's voice sounds so beautiful, the solo piano in the music bridge is so powerful... Really moves me...

#19  CLUB AT THE END OF THE STREET.  Since the first time I heard to this song I couldn't stop dancing and I turned it on time after time.  So contagious, so high!... Yes, it had to appear in this list!

#18 LEVON.  A wonderful story in his lyrics and Elton's rendition is unbeatable.  Superb!  I never get tired listening to it.  Never!

#17  SOCIAL DISEASE.  Yes I know maybe no one expected this song in my list, but I can't help it!  I like EVERYTHING in this song, even the dog barking!  Funny, great music... How can I say?  It makes me happy!

#16  TONIGHT.  Oh my God!  This song!... When a song can make feel someone (me, in this case) what I feel everytime I hear it, has to be a GREAT song!  So deep lyrics, music and rendition!  Standing Ovation!

#15  I THINK I'M GOING TO KILL MYSELF.  With this title and lyrics, it had to be absolutely a very "serious melody"... Yes, that's in theory...  But this is Elton John, so come on!... He uses so funny music even with a tap session... The result?  AMAZING... I have to accept I LOVE THIS SONG!

#14  CRY TO HEAVEN.  Elton's voice is so strong... But this rendition is "something else"... I mean... There's NO CHANCE to ANYONE to sing this song better than Elton ever!!!!  And have you noticed the lyrics?  What a song!... ANNOYING...

#13  SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD.  This song is completely PERFECT... EVEN the instrumental bridge can make you turn to emotional tears... Only Elton could be able to take us to that musical paradise.  I just couldn't believe that anybody would not love this song...

#12  LITLE JEANNIE.  Elton's music has been by my side a lot of years of my life.  When I went to high- school, this song went out.  That whole year I woke up hearing to it.  I love "Little Jeannie" because it is a LOVELY song in all ways and also has the power to translate me to those happy years.

#11  WE ALL FALL IN LOVE SOMETIMES.  Wise men say... I have to mention this song in this list, LOL... One of my biggest favorites!  It makes you cry and laugh at the same time!  I discovered this song can change our mood and the way to think about love depending of what we are living.  I swear it!   A magical song in all the concept!  Just incredible!

#10  SKYLINE PIGEON.  I just can't believe Bernie and Elton had written this song being so young!  The lyrics and melody are so mature!  So perfect!... Yes, this song proves they are both genious!... This song always moves me, doesn't matter if I was young or not...

#9  TINY DANCER.  I like this song because a lot of aspects.  First of all, is dedicated to the "seamstress of the band" (Maxine, Feibelman, first Bernie's wife) and besides of the love he felt, it's a different way to talk about a relationship.  Besides that, Elton made one of his greatest melodies and sings this song with so much passion that you can bet he was the man in love.  One of the best musical colaborations between them in my opinion, and we, the listeners are the winners! 

#8  LIVE LIKE HORSES.  Sing besides Pavarotti was surely not easy... At least you are Elton John!.  I really prefer his own versión to be honest.  The first time I heard this song I was in shock... And everytime I do it... I'm in shock!... Everytime I think Elton can't do something better, he surprises me.  And this song is the prove!... I fell to tears everytime!...

#7  HARMONY.  Yes, Harmony and me a pretty good company!  This song is a happy company to everybody who listen to it.  Moves you and takes you to a nice mood.  That's the power of music... Of Elton's music!...

#6  BLESSED.  I really feel blessed to be able to hear to this song.  Original and moving lyrics...  Amazing to dedicate a song to an unborn baby and the music, Elton's voice, instrumental part and chorus makes this song a goodess creation (created by two genious mortals)...

#5  LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS.  Yes, wait a minute.  I perfectly know this is a Lennon song... But this song is in my list because, I'm also a Beatles fan and this cover was the song that made me know Elton John as a musician.  The first time I listened to it I was visiting my cousin Javier Zavala and I was shocked.  I remember I asked him who had the courage to record a Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds cover and mostly, who was able to do it SO WELL... Then he answered: That's Elton John, this is the record... Then, I discovered a photo of a lovely man with silver shoes and a white hat... Since that moment, I became his huge fan... Now, is it clear why I have to mention this song in this list at number five?...

#4  DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART.  This duet with Kiki Dee is one of my vitamins when I feel down.  It has the power to make me happy everytime I listen to it.  I would never be tired to dance and sing when it is in the air.  Funny, nice... Just incredible.

#3  GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD.  Political lyrics, unforgettable melody.  It just can't be more perfect!  One of the most emotional song ever written.  Not only one of my Elton's favorites, one of my ever listened songs favorites!

#2  DON'T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME.  If someone ever doubt about the singer ability of Elton John has to listen to this song.  I have heard a lot of great covers but ANYBODY can perform it better than him.  Powerful voice and music, desperate lyrics which turn to poetry.  Simply one of the most perfect songs in the world!

#1  THE ONE.  Yes this is the one and number one for me.  Why?  Lots of reasons.  The first one is that is a song which lyrics makes everybody desire to be dedicated by their love one... Second, the music.  This is one of the most beautiful melodies Elton has ever composed!  The instrumental part is so emotional... And if this is not enough, the first time I was able to see Elton live, was exactly with The One tour at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.  One of the most emotional moments in my whole life was when Elton sang that song and his piano was raised in the instrumental part.  I felt my heart going out of my chest and my tears running through my cheeks.  Yes, everytime I listen to this song or remember that moment, I come to tears... Yes...just like now...

Thank you Miquel for the opportunity of sharing this list with all Elton fans all over the world... And, of course, thank you Elton for your music!...

Patty Perrin's Eltonite's Day in 2009:
http://eltonjohnallsongslist.blogspot.com.es/2009/01/ladies-gentlemen-fantastic-patty-perrin.html

25 Oct 2014

"Indebted to Elton and Bernie for providing with a favorite musical soundtrack of life”. John Kwok’s Top 30 Elton John List. Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of AllSongsList

10. John Kwok

Hello Eltonites, welcome to the last season of AllSongsList, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the list, with new guests. Having studied clarinet and piano in his youth, the opener is someone who has been a fan of Elton's music ever since he heard "Rocket Man" for the first time on the radio and learned the words to "Crocodile Rock" in his junior high school music class back in the fall of 1972. In high school, he remembers hearing "Island Girl" blasting out of the radio of one of his classmates in their drafting class. His name is John Kwok, a former paleobiologist and a member of the National Center for Science Education (http://www.ncse.com). He's currently working on the keyboard as a freelance writer and book doctor. He's written an unpublished near future alternate history post-cyberpunk science fiction novel set in the USA and Ireland; an excerpt was published here:
  http://www.trickhouse.org/vol15/door_09_charlesalexander/charlesalexander.html (A book publicist once told him he was writing William Gibson meets the McCourts.). He intends to write a near future cyberpunk science fiction novel devoted to his life-long love of paleobiology and the music of a certain well known British pop and rock and roll musician. (Think William Gibson meets Gary Shteyngart meets Captain Fantastic.). 

When I was asked by Miquel Sala to produce a Top Thirty list of Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs, I knew this would be a difficult, almost impossible, task given the extensive breadth and depth of their back catalogue; a catalogue which demonstrates why they should be viewed as the finest songwriting team of the latter half of the 20th Century, and perhaps, the early 21st Century too. The songs I have chosen, in the order ranked, tend to emphasize more their relatively recent songwriting, from the late 1980s to the present, simply because of the sophisticated artistry demonstrated by both in their melodies and lyrics. For these reasons I have presented a list of what I view as their forty one best songs, and one which omits some obvious choices and lesser known ones.

Under consideration were these songs from 1969 to 1980; “Skyline Pigeon”, “Border Song”, “Sixty Years On”, “The King Must Die”, “Take Me to the Pilot”, “Friends”, “Come Down in Time”, “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun”, “Where to Now Saint Peter?”,  “Burn Down The Mission”, “Country Comfort”, “Amoreena”,  “Madman Across the Water”, “Holiday Inn”, “Honky Cat”, “Hercules”, “Mellow”, “Salvation”, “Slave”, “Teacher I Need You”,  “Blues for Baby and Me”, “High Flying Bird”, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”, “Grey Seal”, “Harmony”, “Roy Rogers”, “Sweet Painted Lady”, “All The Young Girls Love Alice”,  “I’ve Seen That Movie Too”,  “The Ballad of Danny Bailey”, “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘N’ Roll)”, “Social Disease”,  “Step into Christmas”,  “Pinky”, “Grimsby”, “Dixie Lily”, “Ticking”,  “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy”, “Bitter Fingers”, “Tell Me When The Whistle Blows”, “(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket”, “Better Off Dead”,  “We All Fall In Love Sometimes”, “Island Girl”, “I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)”, “Grow Some Funk of Your Own”,  “Crazy Water”, “Cage the Songbird”, “Chameleon”, “Tonight”, “Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance)”,  “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, “Two Rooms At The End Of The World”,  and “White Lady White Powder”.

I also considered these from the 80s and 90s; “Just Like Belgium”,  “The Retreat”, “Spiteful Child”, “All Quiet On The Western Front”, “Cold as Christmas”, “Too Low for Zero”, “Kiss The Bride”, “Saint”, “One Small Arrow”,  “Breaking Hearts”, “Burning Buildings”, “Who Wears These Shoes?”, “Passengers”, “In Neon”,  “Restless”, “Soul Glove”, “Wrap Her Up”, “Cry to Heaven”,  “Candy by the Pound”, “Act of War”, “Paris”,  “Hoop of Fire”,  “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (Part Two)”,  “ A Word in Spanish”, “Japanese Hands”, “The Camera Never Lies”, “Durban Deep”, “Healing Hands”, “Club at the End of the Street”,  “Amazes Me”, “Blue Avenue”, “You Gotta Love Someone”, “Simple Life”,  “Sweat It Out”, “Runaway Train”, “Whitewash County”, “When A Woman Doesn’t Want You”, “Emily”, “On Dark Street”, “House”, ”Belfast”, “Man”, “Latitude”, “Please”, “Pain”, “Lies”, “Blessed”, “You Can Make History (Young Again)”, “If The River Can Bend”, and  “Recover Your Soul”.

Finally, these from 2001 to the present were also considered; “Dark Diamond”, “Birds”, “Ballad Of The Boy In Red Shoes”, ”Mansfield”, “Answer in the Sky”, “Turn the Lights Out When You Leave”, “All That I’m Allowed”,  “And The House Fell Down”, “The Bridge”, “Blues Never Fade Away”, “I Must Have Lost It On The Wind”,  “Old 67”, “The Captain And The Kid”, “Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream”, “Mandalay Again”, and “My Quicksand”.
If I had included songs Elton wrote with other lyricists, these co-written with lyricist Gary Osborne, “Little Jeannie” and “Blue Eyes”, would rank high on my Top Thirty list, at 15 and 5 respectively. So too would those Elton co-wrote with lyricist Tim Rice, with “Circle of Life” at 10, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” at 5, and “Written in the Stars” at 4, alongside one of Elton’s best from the 1980s.  I haven’t included Elton’s hit cover versions of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” because he didn’t compose their melodies.

Honorable Mentions:

Of the songs I considered, these came close to making the Top Thirty List; “Sixty Years On”, “Burn Down The Mission”, “Madman Across the Water”, “Honky Cat”, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”, “Harmony”, “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy”, “Cage the Songbird”, “Tonight”, “One More Arrow”, “Burning Buildings”, “In Neon”, “Cry to Heaven”, “Paris”, “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Part Two)”, “A Word in Spanish”, “Healing Hands”, “Amazes Me”, “Blue Avenue”, “Runaway Train”, “On Dark Street”, “Blessed”, “Ballad Of The Boy In Red Shoes”, “Answer in the Sky”, “All That I’m Allowed”, “The Bridge”, “Old 67”, and “The Captain And The Kid”.

John’s Top Thirty list:

30  Hey Ahab/Home Again/5th Avenue

“Hey Ahab” (“The Union”) reminds us that Elton John and Bernie Taupin are still capable of writing a hard rock song after all these years, this time evoking Captain Ahab,  the psychologically and physically scarred protagonist of Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick”, in a spirited, gospel and soul-influenced, tune still popular with audiences. “Home Again” (“The Diving Board”) is another instant Elton John/Bernie Taupin classic that has been described as hymn-like by New York Times critic Jon Pareles in his review of the December 3, 2013 Madison Square Garden concert, in a performance featuring the entire Elton John Band and “The Union” backup singers. However, musically and lyrically, a much better song may be “5th Avenue”, their best New York City-themed song since “Empty Garden”, and one also worthy of comparison with “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”, that was inexplicably left off the official album release of “The Diving Board” and included only in some of the special editions. It’s especially memorable for the self-reflective poignancy of Bernie’s lyrics, with a superb chorus that may remind others of the chorus in “Burning Buildings”.

29  American Triangle/The Wasteland/When Love Is Dying

“American Triangle” (“Songs from the West Coast”) is an especially moving tribute to Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming undergraduate who was senselessly murdered simply for his homosexuality; the recorded version includes memorable backup vocals from Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright. Also from the same album, “The Wasteland” is Elton and Bernie’s blues and soul-tinged hard-rocking tribute to legendary American Blues pioneer Robert Johnson, whose music would – and still does – influence many noted contemporary musicians in blues, soul, gospel and rock. “When Love is Dying” (“The Union”) may be Elton and Bernie’s best love-lost ballad in years, at least since “Sacrifice”, if not before, with the studio version benefitting greatly from Brian Wilson’s choir-like vocal arrangement.

28  Oscar Wilde Gets Out

With a memorable minor key melody from Elton and especially compelling lyrics from Bernie chronicling the tragic fall of Irish writer Oscar Wilde during the final decades of his life, “Oscar Wilde Gets Out” is the best song of theirs on the latest album, “The Diving Board”. Without a doubt, the most compelling renditions of it are those performed live with Davey Johnstone on banjo, Matt Bissonette on bass, Kim Bullard on keyboards, Nigel Olsson on drums and John Mahon on percussion, accompanied by 2 Cellos who also performed on its original studio recording. I believe this song, as well as “Home Again”, should have been featured on the USA leg of the recent “The Diving Board” tour.

27   Gone to Shiloh

Some of Bernie Taupin’s finest lyrics have dealt with his life-long love affair with Americana and American history, and his lyrics for “Gone to Shiloh” (“The Union”) are no exception, especially since they remain amongst his most thoughtful reflections on the American Civil War itself. It’s a compelling saga about a young Union soldier from the bitterly contested state of Tennessee leaving his younger siblings – or maybe, his children - and the family farm, bound for an epic battle between the Union and Confederate armies at Shiloh, Tennessee. The song ends on a downbeat note, with a dire warning to the South if Union General William Tecumseh Sherman opts to wage total war – which he did – against it.

26  Nikita/Tinderbox

Only Elton could transform this hit song from the “Ice on Fire” album, “Nikita”, about a young male Soviet Russian soldier into an ode of unrequited love about a young female Soviet Russian guard patrolling the Berlin Wall’s “Checkpoint Charlie” that should be viewed as one of the finest ballads ever written by him and Bernie; one which I wish Elton would perform live more often here in the United States. “Tinderbox” (“The Captain And The Kid”) refers to the relatively brief period when Elton and Bernie opted to go their separate ways, with memorable background vocals from Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson, Bob Birch and John Mahon quite reminiscent of the almost angelic vocal harmonizing from Davey, Nigel and Dee Murray on the classic 70s and early 80s albums.

25   I’m Still Standing/I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That

These are two of Elton and Bernie’s best hard rock anthems of self-affirmation, with Elton singing why he is still on top in “I’m Still Standing” (“Too Low for Zero”), which remains a fan favorite during his concerts. The phenomenally popular – at least here in the United States, but now rarely performed – “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” (“Reg Strikes Back”) was Elton’s highest-charting USA single in the 1980s, with Elton bidding a most fond adieu to his soon-to-be ex-lover.

24   Bitch is Back/Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

These hard rockers, “Bitch is Back” (“Caribou”) and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”), are easily still among the most familiar songs from Elton and Bernie for both long-time fans and those barely acquainted with their impressive body of work. Tina Turner has covered frequently “Bitch is Back” in her live performances, providing her own unique gospel and soul-infused hard-rocking spin to this song. “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” is quite simply, their hardest rocking song, period.

23   Crocodile Rock/Bennie and the Jets

 Others might rank “Crocodile Rock” (“Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player”) and “Bennie and the Jets” (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”) much higher on their Elton John Top Thirty Song list and I would have too if I had excluded great songs ranging from “Sacrifice” in the late 1980s to the recently released “Home Again”. Yet these are still sentimental favorites of mine, even while recognizing that musically and lyrically, both Elton and Bernie have made major artistic leaps since writing them back in the early 1970s. “Crocodile Rock” truly takes us back “…when rock was young”, capturing the innocent sweetness of 1950s American rock and roll.  “Bennie and the Jets” remains Elton and Bernie’s great funky glam rock anthem, unexpectedly becoming a hit song on African-American rhythm and blues radio stations before it became a hit played frequently on American AM and FM rock and pop radio stations.

22   Tiny Dancer

One of the greatest love songs written by Elton and Bernie, with Bernie writing poignantly about his first wife, the “seamstress for the band”, still sounds as fresh and as vibrant in concert as it did when it debuted on the “Madman Across the Water” album and was performed live by the original trio consisting of Elton, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson. In recent performances, Kim Bullard on synthesizers and 2 Cellos on electric cellos perform Paul Buckmaster’s superb arrangement for string orchestra that is heard prominently on the original studio recording.        

21   Levon/Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Yet another memorable song from the “Madman Across the Water” album, “Levon” remains a perennial favorite with audiences during Elton John Band concert performances. (On a more personal note, this may be the third Elton John/Bernie Taupin song – after “Rocket Man” and “Crocodile Rock” – that I fell instantly in love with and memorized the lyrics too, still recalling a Brooklyn, NY YMCA day camp counselor who sang an acoustic version of it on his guitar back one summer in the early 1970s.)  Much to his credit, Bernie Taupin has excelled for years in crafting song lyrics that are genuine short stories in miniature, and this is one of the finest early examples of him recounting the saga of that “good man”, and proud war veteran, Levon.  The original studio recording features one of Paul Buckmaster’s great orchestral arrangements, which are being performed now in concert via Kim Bullard’s keyboard programming and 2 Cellos’ memorable playing on their electric cellos. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” (“Honky Chateau”) is Elton and Bernie’s finest ode to New York City, and one made memorable by the virtuoso playing by Dee Murray on bass and Davey Johnstone on mandolin in the original studio recording. Much to my surprise, this was replicated again with Matt Bissonette on bass, and especially, Davey Johnstone on mandolin, yielding one of the most memorable musical highlights I heard during the December 4, 2013 Madison Square Garden concert.

20   Someone Saved My Life Tonight

One of the most gut-wrenching rock ballads ever written by Elton and Bernie, this song may be the best from “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy”, not least because it features prominently, Nigel Olsson’s unique style of melodic drumming, and Bernie’s emotionally compelling lyrics recalling the moment when Elton contemplated suicide before breaking off a relationship with a woman he thought he’d marry.  This great song is still quite compelling to hear performed live in concert by the entire Elton John Band, especially now with Nigel Olsson emphasizing his superb melodic drumming, in performances reminiscent of the original studio recording. Surprisingly, this wasn’t a favorite of mine when I heard it played repeatedly on my local radio stations back in the summer of 1975; I’ve long since grown to love it as one worthy of recognition as among the finest ever written by Elton and Bernie.

19   Philadelphia Freedom

Originally written as a musical tribute to Elton’s friend, the great professional tennis player Billie Jean King and her tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms, it is also a magnificent soul and rock tribute to the “Philly Sound” that emerged out of Philadelphia in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the only hit single from Elton John and Bernie Taupin that was released only as a single, not as a track on one of their early to mid 1970s albums. Having heard this recently live in concert and watching videos from other recent concerts, I can say that Elton is singing it better than ever – at least since his mid 1980s vocal surgery – accompanied by exceptional musicianship from Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson and the rest of the band.

18   I Want Love / This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore

Elton John is channeling John Lennon in “I Want Love” the smash hit song from the “Songs from the West Coast” album, in a musical style that pays ample homage to Lennon’s post-Beatles songwriting. I think this will be remembered as the first great 21st Century Elton John/Bernie Taupin song, having heard a riveting acoustic version of it during an Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute concert at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium several years ago; the concert itself was noteworthy just for Phoebe Snow’s rendition of “Empty Garden”. The final song on the “Songs from the West Coast” album, “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore”, is his and Bernie’s most poignant post-“Captain Fantastic” autobiographical ballad, with Elton viewing his career as an older train that was once “the main express”; it remains, along with “Original Sin”, as one of my two favorite songs from this album, featuring an exceptional orchestral arrangement from Paul Buckmaster, who composed all of the album’s arrangements.

17   Your Song

There’s an almost timeless quality to Elton’s music and Bernie’s heart-felt, poignant lyrics for this early song of theirs which debuted on the “Elton John” album. It certainly remains one of their great love songs, and one which is sung forcefully with more conviction by Elton now in concert than I have heard on either the original studio recording or in concert performances from the 1970s and early 1980s.

16   Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

One of the most compellingly poignant ballads from Elton and Bernie, “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” (“Blue Moves”) also has a timeless quality to it, not least because it has been covered by singers as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Joe Cocker; each having made this song their own, giving their own distinctive musical signatures.

15   Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me

Quite possibly the greatest ballad ever written by Elton and Bernie from their classic 70s period, this quintessential song became a  chart-topping hit for Elton and then, many years later, in the great duo version with him and George Michael. The original studio version (“Caribou”) features great backup vocals from Toni Tennille and several others associated with the Beach Boys.

14   Sad Songs (Say So Much)

“Sad Songs (Say So Much)” remains one of the great Elton John/Bernie Taupin soul-infused rock ballads, and one especially memorable in its original studio version (“Breaking Hearts”) courtesy of great harmonizing from Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson.

13   The Last Song

A hauntingly beautiful ballad from Elton and Bernie (“The One”) that recounts a father’s grief over the imminent loss of his son dying from AIDS; it is their most notable song pertaining to HIV/AIDS. It may be the best song from the 1990s to the present emphasizing Elton’s singing as he plays the piano, virtually unaccompanied, and one that is musically and lyrically much better than almost all of the songs included in the various versions of the new “The Diving Board” album. I am surprised Elton isn’t playing this song much lately, either in concert with the Elton John Band or in his solo performances.

12   Empty Garden

This poignant, heart-felt, tribute to the late John Lennon from the “Jump Up” album, demonstrates not only a genuine return to form of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin songwriting partnership by 1981, but also  greater sophistication in their melodies and lyrics than what they wrote during their classic 1970s period. I think this will be another great song of theirs that will be covered by singers for generations; indeed I heard a great, rousing rendition of it from Phoebe Snow at an Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute concert held at Carnegie Hall’s Stern auditorium several years ago.

11   Original Sin

Elton didn’t exaggerate when he said that this was the best song he had written during the “Songs from the West Coast” tour. It may be the best love song that he’s written with Bernie since “The One”. With its exquisitely beautiful melody and sophisticated lyrics referencing Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, I am surprised he hasn’t performed this much as part of his typical set list with the Elton John Band.

10   Live Like Horses

This great rock anthem about personal freedom is one best heard in the live performances that Elton did with the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti; it is one of the two great ballads on the sadly underrated “The Big Picture” album. However, it may have been more over-produced by Chris Thomas during its original studio recording. Still, even on that recording, one hears Elton’s impassioned singing, as memorable in its own right as those during the concert performances with Pavarotti. This is a great song which Elton should perform frequently on both his band and solo tours.

9     Something About the Way You Look Tonight

The B-side to the “Candle in the Wind 1997” single, “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” is the other great ballad from “The Big Picture”, a country-western-flavored love song sung by Elton to the beautiful woman he has seen, acknowledging his emotional salvation in finding her, the love of his life.

8      Believe

A rousing anthem in celebration of the power of love, “Believe” remains one of the greatest songs ever written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and one made especially memorable courtesy of a great string orchestral arrangement from  none other than Paul Buckmaster, who resumed a long-overdue musical collaboration with Elton on the “Made in England” album. In recent concert performances, Kim Bullard on synthesizers and 2 Cellos have performed Buckmaster’s superb arrangement.

7      Sacrifice  

From the “Sleeping with the Past” album, Elton and Bernie wrote a late 1980s version of “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” that is musically and lyrically, far more nuanced and elaborate than their earlier love-lost ballad. It may be their most poignant musical portrait of a love affair, and especially, a marriage, in ruins. It is yet another song of theirs that should be viewed as a timeless classic, worthy of being covered by other singers as notable as Frank Sinatra and Joe Cocker.

6      Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

The title song from the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album has a great chorus for the audience to join in, as Elton has announced during recent concert performances of it. This may be their most memorable, image-laden, “kiss off” song, evoking not only the “Wizard of Oz”, but an idealized, bucolic view of rural America as imagined by the much younger Elton and Bernie. During her latest tour, the young American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles – who has been compared favorably with the likes of Billy Joel, Tori Amos and Regina Spektor and whom I regard as a much better songwriter than Lady Gaga  – has sung “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, offering listeners a truly compelling, original twist to it, which bodes well for its future as yet another timeless classic from the Elton John/Bernie Taupin songwriting team.

5      Candle in the Wind    

This memorable ballad in memory of Marilyn Monroe from the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album has the unique distinction of being a major hit three times during the first three decades of its existence. However, the last occasion, in 1997, occurred when Bernie opted to revise the lyrics to pay tribute instead to recently deceased British Princess Diana, which Elton performed at her state funeral held In London, recording it as a single hours later under the supervision of legendary producer George Martin. Without question, “Candle in the Wind” remains a timeless classic from the John/Taupin songwriting and one that is still performed in concert, using the original lyrics paying homage to Marilyn Monroe.

4     I Guess Why They Call It The Blues

Many might regard this as the best song Elton co-wrote with Bernie and Davey Johnstone, and they may be right. Instead I think of it as the best song from the “Too Low for Zero” album. It’s a terrific bluesy rock anthem of a love song in which Elton now plays up its blues inflections in both his singing and piano playing during his live performances. The original studio recording features a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder and great vocal harmonizing from Davey, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson.

3       Daniel

Quite possibly their greatest folk rock ballad, “Daniel” (“Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player”) is frequently cited as the best song ever written by the John/Taupin songwriting team. It’s a reasonable assessment, not least because it contains a great Elton John melody and excellent Bernie Taupin lyrics that are yet again, a most memorable short story rendered as poetry. Taupin’s lyrics are hauntingly beautiful and ambiguous, if only because Elton had crossed out the final verse explaining who Daniel really was, since he thought the song might be too long if he had retained it.  The original studio recording features great acoustic bass and guitar playing from Dee Murray and Davey Johnstone and melodic drumming from Nigel Olsson, which is echoed now, in recent live performances, by Matt Bissonette on bass and John Mahon on percussion, as well as by Davey and Nigel.

2       Rocket Man

This is the finest folk rock ballad I’ve ever heard about manned spaceflight and the loneliness of space experienced by an astronaut “burning up his fuse up there alone”. Bernie Taupin’s lyrics are poignantly more realistic than David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” lyrics, coupled to an especially memorable Elton John melody that evokes not only the loneliness, but even boredom, experienced by astronauts during the Apollo lunar landing missions, that is still relevant for those serving today aboard the International Space Station. Having heard the original studio recording from the “Honky Chateau” album played at an Apple Store in New York, NY, I was struck immediately by the song’s excellent production values courtesy of Gus Dudgeon and his sound engineers, yielding a recording that still sounds as fresh and as vibrant today as it was when it was recorded at Strawberry Studios back in the early 1970s; a  recording that sounds vastly superior to any made by T Bone Burnett and his engineers for the recording sessions of both “The Union” and “The Diving Board”. On the “Two Rooms” tribute album, Kate Bush sang a reggae-inflected version that earned in 2007, The Observer readers’ award for best Cover of all time.

1      The One

The finest ballad about finding one’s greatest love ever written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, which was the title song from one of their best recent albums. It is especially memorable for an almost solemn-like piano introduction, a great melody and an incredible metaphor-rich set of lyrics, that describes how a man – any man – might stumble upon “The One”, the love of his life. The studio recording features drumming from sound engineer – and drummer – Olle Romo – that is uncannily Nigel Olsson-like in its melodic drumming. It’s no surprise that I look forward to hearing the song performed live with the entire band, even if “The One” still remains a compelling ballad performed only by Elton himself, which he did most recently during the American leg of “The Diving Board” tour. Along with  “The Last Song”, “Believe”, “Live Like Horses”, and “Something About the Way You Look Tonight”, “The One” was one of the greatest songs written by the John/Taupin songwriting team in the 1990s and, I believe, will be regarded by many as the finest song of theirs for generations to come.