Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Elton John - BBC Sessions, Volume 7: 1975-1980

I really thought I was done with this series of albums in which Elton John performs for the BBC. I think he did a lot of great music in the early and mid 1970s, but the late 1970s were a career low for him, thanks to the popularity of disco at the time and drug problems and other personal problems he was having. 

But then I stumbled across a great solo version of "Island Girl" done for the BBC while looking for some other BBC stuff by another artist. I figured that was a full band song, and I had no idea he did a stripped down version with just his voice and piano back in the 1970s. That made me think that perhaps I'd been hasty in writing off his late 1970s public performances. Perhaps he did other songs in a solo acoustic piano format instead of slathering them with disco beats and other bad 1970s production. 

It turns out I found a bunch of stuff like that. In fact, I found so much that I broke off a few songs from Volume 4 in this series (it had been overly long) and added them here. Then I filled the rest with a bunch of performances for the BBC and other TV and radio shows, all of them done in the same solo acoustic format that is drastically different from his studio albums of that era. I'd overlooked or written off some of these songs, but these versions made me consider them in a whole new light.

Note that the song "Bennie and the Jets" appears here twice. Normally I'm against such duplicates, but it's okay here because the first version is with a full band while the second version is a solo piano one. Also, a different version of "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself" appeared on Volume 4.

The song "No Man Is an Island" needs a little explanation. Apparently, during an interview for a documentary in 1980, Elton John was asked to come up with a song on the spot using the words to John Donne's famous poem "No Man Is an Island." (The actual title of the full poem is "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.") John ably did so, but he kind of cheated in that he used the melody to his song "Breaking Down Barriers," which would appear on his 1981 album "The Fox." So that's why the song "No Man Is an Island" remains unreleased, but it has "Breaking Down Barriers" as a subtitle.

This album is 53 minutes long. I'll probably stop here with the BBC series, unless more interesting TV and radio performances from the 1980s, especially solo acoustic performances, drop into my lap.

Note again that Volume 4 in this series has been changed, since the first four songs here used to be on that one. So you might want to get the updated version of that one, to avoid duplication. And what had previously been Volume 7 (the 1976 BBC concert in Edinburgh) has been renamed Volume 8 to keep things in chronological order.

01 Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Elton John)
02 Bennie and the Jets (Elton John)
03 Philadelphia Freedom [Live Vocals Only] (Elton John)
04 Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word (Elton John)
05 Island Girl (Elton John)
06 I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself (Elton John)
07 Shine On Through (Elton John)
08 Bennie and the Jets (Elton John)
09 Part Time Love (Elton John)
10 Song for Guy (Elton John)
11 Shooting Star (Elton John)
12 No Man Is an Island [Breaking Down Barriers] (Elton John)
13 Little Jeannie (Elton John)
14 talk (Elton John)
15 Sartorial Eloquence (Elton John)

The cover art photo comes from a 1979 concert, but I don't know any other details about it.


  1. Hey Paul - Have you found any BBC or concert recordings of Terry Reid that are not already on youtube?

    1. I haven't looked. I'm not that familiar with Terry Reid, except for knowing a few factoids, like how he was almost the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Is he good?

    2. He's better than good. Check out his first 2 LP's

  2. Thank you for all the Elton John BBC concerts.

  3. I remember "No man is an island", it was Paul Gambacini who came up with the idea, Elton was a bit taken aback but went with it and it worked.

  4. Hey sir, you list BBC Sessions, Volume 7 - Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, Britain, 9-17-1976 as Volume 7, so perhaps this is Volume 8?

    1. Check it out - I've already changed the Edinburgh show to being Volume 8. I figure this should be Volume 7 since it starts in 1975, which is before 1976.