Elton John

Don't Shoot Me

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By Bill DeMain  

Elton John’s sixth studio album, Don't Shoot Me (I'm Only The Piano Player), released in January 1973, is the one where everything came together for the British piano man. It has the first appearance of the classic line-up of his band - Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone. It has cinematic strings and punchy horns, arranged by Paul Buckmaster. It has what became a trademark blend of boogaloo rockers (“Elderberry Wine”), sweeping ballads (“Blues For My Baby And Me”) and bluesy honky tonk (“I’m Gonna Be A Teenage Idol”). And it has the two monster smashes that lifted Elton to superstar status. Though they may be overfamiliar to us now, “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock” are still four-minute miracles of pop tunesmithery. One of the first hits ever to feature a Mellotron (that flute-y sound), “Daniel” was Elton and writing partner Bernie Taupin’s moving anti-Vietnam ode, sung from the viewpoint a young man watching his older brother go off to war. The fizzy “Crocodile Rock” makes affectionate nods to ‘50s hits “Runaway” and “Speedy Gonzales” while making you feel nostalgic for the ‘50s, even if you didn’t grow up in that decade.

The reissue comes with four bonus tracks, the highlight of which is a gorgeous solo piano version of “Skyline Pigeon.” “Dreaming of the open / Waiting for the day / He can spread his wings,” goes the chorus. Elton could be singing about himself upon the release of this career-changing album.

Musician and journalist Bill DeMain writes frequently about music. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Entertainment Weekly, MOJO, and Musician.