Elton John Hipster Appreciation Update – Where we are today.

The Elton John Hipness Continuum, part 1.

Rolling Stone

About ten or so years ago, none of my rock snob friends or erstwhile hipster pals would even acknowledge Elton John as a true force of songwriting brilliance. So I was amused to read, recently, that the meme seems to be shifting today and now Elton’s first few albums, Elton John, 11-17-70, Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across The Water and Honky Chateau are considered to be the GOOD Elton albums,  made before he alledgedly jumped the shark. Extra hipster points awarded to Elton’s Friends and Empty Sky, just as deep Beach Boys fans tend to overvalue Sunflower or Wild Honey, merely because your parents ignored them.


Now, the meme reads that Elton “lost the plot” on “indulgent” works like Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

Crazy, right?

So here’s what I’m thinking.

At this rate, in about five or ten years, Piano Player, Yellow Brick, Capt. Fantastic, heck even Caribou, will be upgraded to “Golden Age of Elton”.

YellowbrickCapt. Fantastic

In about ten to fifteen years, songs like “Grow Some Funk of Your Own,” “Island Girl” and “The Bitch Is Back” will be revered.

Maybe in 20 years, we’ll be praising “Nikita” and “Sad Songs Say So Much.”


On second thought, maybe that’s too much to ask. For now.

PS: This piece is merely addressing “rock snob” ideas of what a good Elton John album is. I already think Piano Player and Yellowbrick Road are classic.

10 Responses to “Elton John Hipster Appreciation Update – Where we are today.”

  1. I’d have to say that Chateau or Capt. Fantastic did the trick for me.

  2. Honky Chateau will always be my favorite Elton John album…of course by the time I was old enough to shoot him, he was in his black latex covered in colored ping pong balls and ginormous glasses phase.

  3. EJ’s music was a big part of my childhood/teen years. I can appreciate everything up to “Captain Fantastic”, but I still love Tumbleweed Connection ,Madman, Don’t Shoot me,and GBYBR. I still play these and as far as pop/rock goes they are as good as anything. The stuff after that doesn’t really get me on the team,as it seemed paying for his excessive lifestyle became the motivation for making new music- which doesn’t really make for great music. Madman and Tumbleweed are my current top 2 EJ albums.

  4. I grew up on Honky Chateau and Madman, and even if I rarely listen to them now I’d still rate them highly. I would DEFINITELY place Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in that classic category. I’ll give you Don’t Shoot Me… and maybe Capt. Fantastic, but I think that’s where he teetered over the edge. Coincidentally or not, that’s when he got huge. I’ll always have a soft spot for Don’t Go Breaking My Heart though.
    He was wonderful on the Elvis Costello show.

  5. Michael Says:

    Being born in ’72, I didn’t really hear Elton John until ’77. So I am “forgiven” by my musical brethren for liking everything up to and including Yellow Brick Road. Had I not seen him performing Crocodile Rock on The Muppets, I am told, I would have dismissed everything after Honky Château for the “banal tripe” it was. After listening to music passionately for another 30 years, I still like much of Yellow Brick Road. I think Elton “lost it” (or, rather, I lost Elton) around Caribou. In fact, for years I thought Nikita, Sad Songs and A Word in Spanish were from the same record, simply released in slow increments like reverse Gravol. For me, the last kick at the can was Too Low for Zero. I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues still stands up for me and no one can argue the pop-perfectness of I’m Still Standing (even if you don’t like it, your foot will move and it will still get stuck in your head). The return of Murray, Olsson and Johnstone and the exclusive Taupin/John collaboration is probably what did it for me. So, forgive my musical immaturity, I will proudly keep my vinyl up to Yellow Brick Road and I have mp3s of I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues AND I’m Still Standing in my “Play All” list.

  6. Okay, I’ll give you Wild Honey, but Sunflower overvalued? Them’s fightin’ words my friend!

  7. Ambrose Pottie Says:

    Hi Paul, long time…… I’m sitting here plunking away at Rocket Man on my ukulele, and somehow also stumbling on your site at the same time. More specifically:
    Chris Brown (I’m playing with him in Kingston tonight)>Rheostatics> Michael Wojewoda> Paul Myers. Maybe next I’ll try Malcolm Tent.

    Good stuff, saw the Baldry doc and hope to read the book soon. Looking forward to Rundgren book and some good XTC stories.

  8. Great post Paul. I remember sitting in my brother’s room, on a high stool, looking out a big window onto the “court” in the cul de sac across the way from us listening on our only family stereo (of which, of course, he was custodian ) to his Madman Across the Water album. I loved and knew every song by heart and wanted to marry Elton. Being a mere tween, I didn’t think it wasn’t possible, and androgyny in those days was expected and didn’t mean a thing. I love everything up to Captain Fantastic – which I think I loved because it explained, justified and celebrated the creative impulse. I have never really become tired of his voice, which I find comforting in the sense that continuity is important to me. I like knowing he’s still got “it” even if “it” is a little older. I was never one to say “I like their old stuff.” Having said all that, there is one song that remains my all-time favourite EJ song, and one of my all-around fave songs; Skyline Pigeon. A perfect melancholy song, which EJ and BT are experts at.

  9. pulmyears Says:

    Mark, maybe I’M the snob because I too love Sunflower, but I think I’m one of those deep Beach Boys fans. I love Beach Boys Friends too. And Carl & the Passions So Tough.

  10. I Want Love from 2001 is one of the best songs Elton and Bernie ever wrote, and I would call that “late period” EJ. Blue Moves from 1976 is a good album too.

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