Bennie And The Jets - Elton John
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"Bennie And The Jets" - Elton John (1974)
Elton John's hit "Bennie and the Jets" is about a fictional band of which the narrator is a fan.
Bernie Taupin, the lyricist of all of Elton John’s songs, said that the track is a satire on the music industry of the 1970s. The greed and glitz of the early '70s music scene is portrayed by Taupin's words:
"We'll kill the fatted calf tonight, so stick around, you're gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound."
Taupin also goes on to describe the flashy wardrobe of "Bennie," the leader of the band:
"She's got electric boots, a mohair suit You know I read it in a magazine Ohh..".
"Bennie and the Jets" first appeared on side one of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in 1973. It was not made to be issued as a single, but got on the record because it was a double album with room for a simple rompy-feeling song like "Bennie and the Jets. "It must have been hugely popular for the record company to take a relatively minor song from a double album and issue it as a single.
Elton John is on record as fighting tooth and nail against this decision, as he thought the song was weak and would fail. The point isn't that he was wrong- but that it was logical to assume this fate based on what he heard when he listened to the track. He must have thought they were crazy. Why they did then issue it as a single- nobody really knows.
After recording the song they were worried that it was too plain and unoriginal. Guitarist Davey Johnstone said:
"'Bennie and the Jets' was one of the oddest songs we ever recorded. We just sat back and said, 'This is really odd.'"
While mixing the album, it was suggested to think about creating a "live from Playhouse Theatre" sound for the track. Reverb effects were added, applause and other audience sounds from John's previous concerts and a loop from the Jimi Hendrix live album Isle of Wight, plus whistles. This all gave it the feel of a "live concert recording" that has since become a trademark of the song.
Bennie and the Jets was critical to Elton John's career as it was his first Top 40 hit on the R&B charts, going to number one as well. It's acceptance on R&B radio helped land John, a huge soul music fan, a guest appearance in May 1975 on Soul Train, during which he also played "Philadelphia Freedom."
Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses has stated that it was listening to "Bennie and the Jets" that inspired him to become a singer.
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