[Review] Elton John: Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (1973)

His best-selling album album so far featured “Crocodile Rock” and “Daniel.”

Kronomyth 7.0: Honky Chat II.

More like shooting fish in a barrel at this point, as Elton John returned to Strawberry Studios in France for another instant classic. Wisely, Elton didn’t mess with the winning formula of Honky Château, bringing in the same players and following the same formula: one brilliant ballad, one irresistible rocker, and a pack of middling tunes to pass the time in between them. The ballad, “Daniel,” and the rocker, “Crocodile Rock,” were enough to vaunt the album to the top of the charts. We don’t need to discuss the merit of them, since you can probably hum both from memory. The rest of the record is professionally penned product featuring strong melodies, solid performances and lyrics their sometimes hit, sometimes miss their mark. “Teacher I Need You” and “Texan Love Song” would fall into the latter camp.

As much as the album’s title has given cause to speculation, I always saw it as Elton distancing himself from a lyricist who seemed quick to pick a fight and push the boundaries of taste. Given the album’s proximity to the consistently excellent Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, you would expect a lot of these songs to get under your skin, and they do eventually. “Elderberry Wine,” “Blues For Baby And Me,” “I’m Going To Be A Teenage Idol” and “High Flying Bird” aren’t throwaways, but enhance the experience much as the filler material on GYBR filled the hours nicely. In fact, if you consider the surrounding session material that appeared on B sides from the period, which were included on the expanded remaster, you’ll hear an artist at the top of his game. With songs like “Screw You” and the re-recording of “Skyline Pigeon” added to the conversation, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player stands as one of Elton’s best three of four albums.

Original LP Version

A1. Daniel (3:52)
A2. Teacher I Need You (4:08)
A3. Elderberry Wine (3:34)
A4. Blues For Baby And Me (5:38)
A5. Midnight Creeper (3:53)
B1. Have Mercy On The Criminal (5:55)
B2. I’m Going To Be A Teenage Idol (3:55)
B3. Texan Love Song (3:33)
B4. Crocodile Rock (3:56)
B5. High Flying Bird (4:10)

All compositions by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. Screw You (Young Man’s Blues)
12. Jack Rabbit
13. Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady Again)
14. Skyline Pigeon

The Players

Elton John (vocals, piano, Fender Rhodes, organ, harmonium, mellotron), Davey Johnstone (guitars, banjo, sitar, mandolin, backing vocals), Dee Murray (bass, backing vocals), Nigel Olsson (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Bernie Taupin (lyrics) with Jacques Bolognesi (trombone on A3/A5/B2), Paul Buckmaster (orchestral arrangements on A4/B1), Jean-Louis Chautemps (saxophone on A3/A5/B2), Gus Dudgeon (horn arrangements on A3/A5/B2), Alain Hatot (saxophone on A3/A5/B2), Ivan Jullien (trumpet on A3/A5/B2). Produced by Gus Dudgeon; engineered by Ken Scott.

The Pictures

Art direction and sleeve design by Michael Ross & David Larkham. Cover photography by Ed Caraeff.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on January 26, 1973 in the UK (DJM, DJLPH-427), the US (MCA, MCA/MCAT 2100), Japan (DJM, IFP-80705) and Mexico (Musart, EDI-60036) with gatefold cover and lyrics booklet; reached #1 on the UK charts and #1 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 3x platinum record). 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in c. 1977-79 in the US (MCA, MCA-3005) {beige label} with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on cassette in the US (MCA, MCAC-37113).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 1987 in the US (MCA, MCAD-31077).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Polydor, 827690-2).
  5. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1995 in the US (Rocket, 528154-2) and Japan (Mercury, PHCR-4017) with 4 bonus tracks.

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