Songs of 74: Bennie and the Jets / Elton John

This year Radioinfo will take you back 50 years to the songs that were released and charted in 1974. It was a mighty fine year for music.

Bennie and the Jets / Elton John – No 5, 1974 (Kent Music Report)

Late 2019, just before the Covid pandemic but in the midst of the Black Summer bushfires, my beloved friend and Capital Radio Group PD Pete Davidson and I decided we would attend one of Elton John’s last ever concerts in Sydney. It was memorable for the many, many detours around closed roads we needed to take, for Elton, and for Nigel Ollson on the drums. Nigel and Elton have worked together since 1970 and Olsson almost matches John for flamboyance. Almost!

They did this song, which to my mind was essential for a live experience, not realising that this original was never recorded before a live audience at all.

Gus Dudgeon, the producer of Elton’s seminal album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, heard how Elton somehow accidentally hit the opening piano chord exactly a bar before starting proper and thought it sounded like how some superstar would hype up a crowd live by teasing what was about to come.

So he took live sounds from John at Royal Festival Hall and also from a Jimi Hendrix concert in 1970 with some additional claps and whistles.

Elton was certain that of the 17 songs on the two albums that made up Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (it remains his bestselling studio album), ‘Bennie and the Jets’ was NOT hit potential and resisted it being released. It would get to No 1 on the US Billboard Charts.

In Australia it is a double sided single, with ‘Candle in the Wind’ the A side. Bizarrely, despite clearly reading ‘Bennie and the Jets’ on the back of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, it is printed as ‘Benny and the Jets’ on the Australian single.

And while we’re going with misspelling and mispronunciation, the lyrics are not:

She’s got electric boobs,

Her ma has too,

There was head lice on the highway, oh

They are:

She got electric boots

A mohair suit

You know I read it in a magazine, oh.

Although who are we to spoil someone else’s karaoke?

By Jen Seyderhelm – Radioinfo Writer, Editor and Music Trivia Buff.

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