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7 Jul 2014

"Together, The Two Of Them Were Mining Gold" David Sigler’s Top 30 Elton John List. Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of AllSongsList

9. David Sigler

It was most likely the summer of ’74 that I discovered the music of Elton John. I had not even heard of him at the time (I was about 7), because I was wrapped up in the bubblegum pop music of that era. However, upon hearing Bennie And The Jets, something clicked and the rest, as they say is history. Jumping on the Eltonmania bandwagon that was starting to sweep the world, my introduction came at the perfect time.

A frenzied time period between 1974-1976 was just that – a frenzy. There was a dizzying array of albums, album artwork and packaging, awesome lyrics, killer album tracks and so many hit singles. It seemed like Elton was everywhere and of course, what he touched turned to gold. You know the songs I’m talking about and the era, so no need to go into details.

I also stuck by Elton as that time came to an end. And it hit hard. The “lost” years of 1977-1979 however still provided some good songs, just not quite as stellar as before. But we played every new Elton album (and by “we” I mean my family). Because of his music prior to this period, Elton was kinda considered like an old friend - and we weren’t going to desert him (even if he pushed us to the limits with things like Victim of Love!) It should be noted that I first saw Elton in concert in 1979 and it basically cemented the fandom.

The 1980’s saw his rebirth as an artist and determination to get things back on track (and he did!) It was a fun time watching him on MTV and producing some fun and innovative videos. The decade started off with a return to form with the album 21 At 33, and ended with the classic Sleeping With The Past. Sure, there were a few bumps in the road along that ride (Act of War anyone?), but heck, what legendary artist has a perfect track record?

I plugged along in the 1990’s as Elton’s music went more adult contemporary but he produced some fine material including The One and the Made In England album. In 1993, I got a chance to meet Bernie after an Elton concert in Washington, DC  - I got to shake the hand of the one who writes the words! And, another big highlight was meeting Elton backstage during the 1995 Made In England tour in Columbia, Maryland – what a thrill! Plus, I enjoyed and appreciated the beginnings of his foray into Broadway – some good quality songs from him and his varying lyricists.

As the millennium dawned, and the subsequent albums that followed, I enjoyed all of them. Elton and Bernie certainly have a more mature approach to their songwriting these days. Lyrical themes and melodies seem to be more in line with their age and status in life (at least that’s what I’ve heard them say in the press), but it’s still connecting with me.

As I reflect on putting this together, I’ve seen Elton at least 25 times in concert, put together fanzines, collected nearly everything, enjoyed Taupin’s lyrics outside of Elton (and vice versa), made scrapbooks, tracked down that odd song on some charity album, etc. I’ve also met some outstanding people and have made long lasting friendships as a result of our mutual appreciation of Elton’s music.

And lastly, I have found a wonderful creative outlet with a weekly radio show I host, called Two Rooms: Celebrating The Music Of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, on WOMR. The show attempts to bring Elton and Bernie’s entire music catalog to a wider audience – and not just the hits. It’s a joy to produce this show and judging from the feedback I have received, others are enjoying it too. Two Rooms broadcasts every Sunday at midnight on 92.1 FM WOMR. For more information about the show, feel free to visit or reach me directly, you may email me at:

Now, on to my Top 30 Favorite Elton John songs:

30. Indian Sunset – 1971 – I view this album track from Madman Across The Water as basically a short story set to music. Bernie Taupin’s lyric about the treatment of the American Indian is full of wonderful imagery and sadness. Yet it’s Elton’s vocal and overall treatment of the melody that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. Paul Buckmaster’s orchestral arrangement only enhances the drama and power of this song.

29. Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – 1972 – From Honky Chateau, this song is a fine album track that explores the darker side of New York City. With minimal accompaniment from the band, it’s Elton’s piano and vocals that are the highlight. And Taupin’s lyric is simply one of his best and perhaps, most direct.

28. Original Sin – 2001 – From Songs From The West Coast, here’s a ballad that has so much imagery in the lyric (thanks to Taupin, once again), that it’s hard to say which lines are my favorites. But its Elton’s vocals that underscore how good this song is and his higher notes on the chorus are just as affecting.

27. Spiteful Child – 1982 – A little rocker from the album, Jump Up! The first time I heard it, I loved it. The crisp piano rolls are amazing and while the lyric from Taupin may be a little downtrodden, the melody and production of Spiteful Child may make it a flashy 80’s-style piece of power pop fluff, but I still play it over and over.

26. Harmony – 1973 – The classic band line up from the classic album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, brings us Harmony, an album track that is surely one of Elton’s best songs.  Taupin’s lyric shifts gear a couple of times but the chorus is beautiful. It’s Elton’s vocals that send it home and the backing vocals wrap up this song and album on a winning note.

25. The Last Song – 1992 – A classic for the ages. The Last Song is a somber look at asking for acceptance and coming to terms with whom you are and who you love. This love letter style lyric, about a dying son speaking to his father is one of Elton and Bernie’s best. It’s a song I don’t listen too much but when I do, everything stops. It’s that powerful.

24. I’m Still Standing – 1983 – I remember the day I saw this 45 at the Waxie Maxies Record Store in the mall. I had not heard it before. However, I knew Elton and Bernie (and the original band) were back together for the album this song came from, Too Low For Zero, so I was full of anticipation. When the needle hit the groove, it surprised the hell of me! What a jubilant 3 minutes of pure pop! I’m Still Standing always makes me feel good and when the video became a hit on MTV, I knew something special was going on with this song and Elton’s career in the MTV era. I’m Still Standing is a joy. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

23. Street Kids – 1975 – You can’t go wrong with this down and dirty rocker from Rock Of The Westies. The piano licks and layered guitars kick this one in high gear with the pedal down. And it’s one of Elton’s meanest vocals too. I just love the drive and attitude Street Kids conveys.

22. Mexican Vacation (Kids In The Candlelight) – 2013 – Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint why a song captures you in a way but this one sure does. I think it’s the lyric sentiment  from Taupin, of children of war being rescued. Which war? I’m not sure but the line “every golden child tonight feels change is the wind” just hit me. What a great way to express that change is coming for the better and there is hope. Taupin at his best and Elton’s driving, bluesy piano nails the message home.  

21. This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore – 2001 – A perfect album closer to Songs From The West Coast that not only makes everyone think of their morality, but also your stage in life. This song is about recognizing that we may not be what we once were. It’s clearly a sad song and the melody is perfect for Taupin’s desperate lyric.

20. Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny) – 1982 – There were tribute songs written by Elton and Bernie for other legends before but this one is my favorite. Taupin’s heartfelt lyric about the slain John Lennon touches a lot of emotions:  anger, sadness, and the senselessness of it all. Elton’s painfully touching vocals move me every time I listen to it. You can hear the anguish of his voice in the chorus and subsequent pleas for Lennon to “come out and play” one more time. Empty Garden is a classic song that has stood the test of time; and only seems to get better and more moving as the years go by.

19. Cold As Christmas (In The Middle Of The Year) – 1983 –A song about a love dying between an elderly couple, Cold As Christmas is a wistful ballad (another lyrical gem from Taupin). It has all the ingredients of a typical song from the original Elton John band.  But wait, it does because this song and the album it comes from (Too Low For Zero), reunited that band!

18. Mama Can’t Buy You Love – 1979 – A terrific piece Philly soul produced by the legendary, Thom Bell. Mama Can’t Buy You Love has a sweeping (dare I say) disco feel and I make no apologies for liking it. Elton simply put his vocals on it (no songwriting credit) and sang in a lower register than too; but you can’t mistake his trademark vocal style. Everyone I knew loved this song when it came out and it bring back good memories of the summer of 1979.

17. I Swear I Heard The Night Talking – 1990 – That opening drum shot and quick hitting synthesizers made this song an instant favorite. Another lost album track, I Swear I Heard The Night Talking is a moody and dark lyric of which Elton pulls off brilliantly. Taupin’s lyric is about as dark as he’s ever gotten. The lyric is about being pulled in by the nighttime to realize your lust and desires. Elton’s sharp vocals and the accompanying thrashing guitars make for a different type of song from the duo. Elton’s final “ohhhh yeah” at the end further illustrate this with its haunting echo (too bad they cut it a bit short). 

16. The Captain And The Kid – 2006 – This song really moved me upon the first listen because it not only pulled the refrain from another favorite song (Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy), but also in its determination to put a bookend to the story of Elton and Bernie’s relationship. Not that the story is over but The Captain And The Kid, a pseudo country rock song, felt like an old friend stopping by after a long time of being away.  

15. When Love Is Dying – 2010 – Who says Elton can’t still hit a high note? On this song, it’s great to hear his upper range and the ability to hold such a long note. A duet with Leon Russell, from their album, The Union, was written by Elton and Taupin, When Love Is Dying is full of great moments from singers but Elton steals the show. And Brian Wilson’s contributing backing vocals are killer too. This song should have been a single.

14. Voyeur – 2013 – Every now and then, a more recent song will just grab me by the collar and make force me to stand up and listen. Voyeur is one of those songs. A killer lyric by Taupin and, another inventive melody by Elton, I was not only hooked at the first listen, but I play it repeatedly. I love the shift in the melody between the verses and the long, haunting one note that Elton sings with the word ‘voyeur.’ And the ending fade out of Elton’s piano reminds me of Tubular Bells, a great ending to a great song from The Diving Board.

13. Elton’s Song – 1981 – With this song, it felt as if Elton was telling my story and many others I’m sure, of unrequited love. I remember Elton playing this on the American Music Awards in 1980, but I had to wait to officially have it on a record a year later. A stark Tom Robinson lyric with Elton’s touching vocal and strong melody, this song reminds me of perhaps, not the best time in my life, but it gave me hope. And by Elton taking this chance with this song, he seemed to say, to me at least, that he was willing to connect with his fans of all varying backgrounds and situations. A surprising song, from an underrated album called The Fox.

12. The One – 1992 – A grand ballad is there ever were one and another example of Elton’s melodies matching Taupin’s lyics perfectly. The One has so many great moments, that it’s hard to name the part that resonates the most with me. But maybe, it’s just the the delicate piano solo in the middle of the song.

11. Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding – Is there truly a better opening song from an Elton John album from Goodbye Yellow Brock Road other than this one? Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding is a masterpiece that fuses two incredibly strong songs together to make one complete rock song. The bass lines that Dee Murray plays in the build up to what is essentially the Love Lies Bleeding part, is classic and sets  the stage for the “rock” part of this song. Combined with Elton’s perfect vocal of Taupin’s sad lyric of a love dying, Davey Johnstone’s hard driving guitar work and Nigel Olsson’s steady drumming, this is my second favorite rock song by Elton.

The Top Ten

10. Little Jeannie – 1980 – After the experimental years from 1978-1979, this song reminds me of the summer of 1980 and how relieved I was to find Elton back to doing what he does best: writing great pop songs. Written by Elton and lyricist Gary Osbourne, Little Jeannie had all the ingredients of what Elton and Taupin had done so well. Great hook, perfect backing vocals and a charm about it that just made me feel good.  For a Top 3 hit, it doesn’t seem to get much respect now, but it brings back a special time for me.

9. Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy – 1975 – What a surprise shift this song has as it builds up to the chorus. The gentle acoustic opening to the rocking edge of the chorus, it’s a perfect opening to my second favorite Elton John album. It was fun also getting a glimpse into their early lives via Taupin’s personal lyrics.

8. Pinky – 1974 – Similar to the same feelings I have about High Flying Bird, this easy going ballad just has something about it. And perhaps it’s because I would consider it as Elton’s most romantic vocal. Just the way he sings the opening lines is enough for me. Lyrically, Taupin delivers his usual shift in tone, as the narrative one minute finds the couple in love and by the end of the song, it’s over.

7. High Flying Bird – 1972 – A great album track that pretty much captured me as soon as I heard the backing vocals kick in on the chorus. Plus, Elton’s warm and smooth vocal delivered Taupin’s lyrics with much sincerity. To this day, I think it’s one of their best songs.

6. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – 1973 – This song, perhaps my first experience of really listening to the lyrics and thinking, hmmmm, the sentiment here is a bit heavy. Being caught up in the sheer enjoyment of Elton’s melodies and vocals; Goodbye Yellow Brick Road made me pay attention to the words like never before and thus, likely started an equal appreciation for Bernie Taupin as well. The chorus of this song is wonderful, with its beautiful harmonies and orchestral arrangement, but I don’t have to tell you that.

5. Crocodile Rock – 1972 – Another song I discovered a few years after its release, Crocodile Rock is another example of Elton and the band really clicking on every level. Taupin’s lyrical homage to the 1950’s, is not a copy cat either of other songs from that era, but rather an original and just plain fun.

4. Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting – 1973 – Easily one of Elton’s hardest rocking songs and a great example of Elton being able to do it all musically. I’ve always been partial to the sweeping piano roll he does, just before the chorus. The driving beat of Nigel Olsson’s drums, Dee Murray’s incredible bass lines and Davey Johnstone’s blistering guitar work, it’s a great rock number and one that never fails to ignite, after all these years. Elton’s gritty vocals are awesome too as he delivers Taupin’s lyric with pure gusto.

3. Rocket Man – 1972 – The soaring guitar work and incredible backing vocals makes this one a stand out. It’s funny how I can vividly recall coming home from elementary school to play this song from the album Honky Chateau. Rocket Man is such an immaculate piece of pop music, there’s really nothing I can add except to say that I love this song by Elton and Taupin.

2. Bennie And The Jets – 1973 – A song I had not heard until my cousin introduced me to it one sunny summer day in 1974. I had not even been aware of Elton John before this, because I was more into the bubblegum music of the Osmonds, Partridge Family and other similar artists of the day. When I saw the picture of Elton on the Greatest Hits 8-track (!), sitting perfectly on his piano stool, I thought, who is this guy? Upon hearing Bennie And The Jets for the first time, it started me on this journey as I became more impressed which each song I heard from he and Taupin thereafter. For all intents and purposes, this is the song that started it all.

1. Philadelphia Freedom – 1975 – From the very first opening notes of this song, I was hooked. I had already been a big fan of the Philadelphia Sound, so this was two worlds colliding for me, in what has become my favorite Elton John song.  Plus, it was at the height of Elton’s mid-70’s creativity and popularity and there was really no other time like it. Philadelphia Freedom reminds me of being a kid and spinning 45’s and albums non-stop. The band, Taupin’s freedom of the road inspired lyric, the pristine production and Elton’s incredible vocal, all unite for what I consider his perfect single. 

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