It was 50 years ago today (March 3rd, 1973) that Elton John's sixth album, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player, hit Number One on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The album, which held down the top spot for two weeks, stayed in the Top 10 for nine straight weeks.
The success of the album was propelled by the strength of two massive hit singles — “Crocodile Rock” — a three week chart-topper that marked Elton's first U.S. and Canadian Number One hit, along with “Daniel,” which peaked at Number Two on Billboard's Hot 100 and hit the top spot on the magazine's Easy Listening chart. Several songs became FM staples, including the rolicking “Elderberry Wine.”
The tracklisting to Elton John's Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player is: “Daniel,” “Teacher I Need You,” “Elderberry Wine,” “Blues For My Baby And Me” “Midnight Creeper” “Have Mercy On The Criminal,” “I'm Gonna Be A Teenage Idol,” “Texan Love Song,” “Crocodile Rock,” and “High Flying Bird.”
Guitarist Davey Johnstone, who joined Elton John's band in 1971 and currently serves as his musical director, has been lucky enough to witness the Elton John – Bernie Taupin songwriting partnership up close for 50 years and has literally seen some of rock's most beloved songs being written in front of him: “Elton’d have a stack of lyrics and he’d just look through them. He wouldn’t do any pre-work (on the songs) in those days, y’know, he wouldn’t ever sneak ‘em at home with them, he’d wait till he get to the studio, and then literally sit down after breakfast and write a song. I mean, I’ve seen him write songs in the time that it’s taken me to make a chicken sandwich, or something.”
Elton John admitted that his over-the-top persona — both on and off the stage — was often a mask for his admitted low self-esteem: “When I was drinking and doing drugs, you become completely ridiculous. I mean, you become self-obsessed, your values go completely out the window. Y'know, you don't like the color of the wallpaper on the plane, or the way it's done, you don't like the color of the furniture in the hotel room — it's all that absolute nonsense. Like all entertainers, they're very comfortable on the stage, off the stage, I didn't really. . . I was still the young boy from Pinner, who was just kinda insecure, a little overweight, and, y'know, had an inferiority complex. I just showed off on stage. All entertainers want to do is show off.”