Tuesday, July 30, 2019

'Roughly Speaking, Not Ready'

You know when you're on Youtube and you get those endless suggestions ranging from 'reaction' videos to 'influencers' waffling on about something as interesting as the inside of a burst balloon? Who knew so many bedrooms had so many cameras in them. And that's just the legitimate sites...

...anyway, once in a while something interesting does come along. Beyond interesting in fact. It may be one of the finds of the year, so far. Chase cutting as quickly as we can it's a treasure trove of gems. We're all paleontologists of Eltonism so this would be like the bone hunters finding a bone yard not only labeled but dated. It's as we've walked in, put our ear to the door and heard people of the past with tools of the day in hand and expertly creating. But it's at a specific point in the evolutionary timeline. One which we don't get to hear very often. Before we drill down in to some of these latter day (insert another word for fossil) let's lay out what we're dealing with.

Somebody, somewhere has unearthed intermittent basic unfinished tracks from the period 1973-1976. Incomplete songs before final mixing and overdubs had taken place. A mixture of original and/or guide vocals. Hearing these tracks gives great insight in to the thought processes that went through Gus Dudgeon's mind as to what, and most importantly, where he wanted certain dressings added. The most striking thing on first listen that people will notice are the trademark harmony vocals of the day in absentia. This blog always champions them but where they are absent on these early drafts certain (often unheard) elements are dusted off and revealed to the light.

I don't want to go through every track, we do live in an era of spoiler alerts after all. Every listener will find something new (either bad or good) to take away. But I'll give some quick comment on the tracks that by saying something less can still say something more. Be aware too the sound quality might not be up to the standard the ears of the 'streamers' are accustomed to but if you're familiar with medium wave radio reception (one there for the younger readers to check out) then you'll be on familiar ground. Sadly.

Only one track so far is available from GYBR. But it's the title track so we've not been dealt a bad hand. Devoid of backing vocals we see how they work not only as a counterpoint to the music but as a counterpoint to the lyrics. It's as if a reversal of fortune takes place, something which I took from some of the later examples too. There's an underlying sadness present, always has been of course, but without the tempering of the harmonies it's laid bare. Returning may not be seen to be a good thing nor to be celebrated. The absence of the fanned out melody line the orchestral arrangement expands upon delivers the music in a far more enclosed package.

The first large bulk comes from Caribou and are mostly at the same stage of embryonic development. Devoid of backing vocals with basic tracks (most of which are not in their final stage of mixing either). The Bitch Is Back though bucks the trend as it is purely a backing track with no lead vocal, but backing voices are still in situ. What jumps right out is Elton's piano. As we know on the final version it certainly has little or no role to play. Only in concert are we made aware of the fact that it should be there. But on this rough mix it helps the natural flow of the song, playing off very well with the harsh guitars and brass. Certain guitar parts and vocal lines are also a tad higher. We all know Elton is one of the very few who wrote consistently at that tempo on piano so not to highlight it does verge on the neglectful.

Like GYBR, Pinky in this pared back form flips the impression we have been used to. A lament rather than a rejoice. All songs are open to any interpretation but the marriage of music and words, like a fine chemical balance, when docked cleanly is the true result. Like a lot of the material we hear on this bunch docking has not yet been completed. In space nobody can hear you scream…or sing.

I've Seen The Saucers in its more basic construction has surprisingly more depth to it, more focus on the words and music is attained. Same goes for Cold Highway, the pared back approach has the dirty guitars more to the forefront.

The recent movie, ‘Yesterday’ envisioned a world where The Beatles did not exist. Shudder. A same world where Ed Sheeran did exist. Multiple violent shudders. Using that premise imagine a world where Paul Buckmaster had never existed.

Looking at couple of the songs he arranged on Blue Moves that are presented here we get a sneak preview of that nightmarish dystopian world. Arrangements that are as much part of the song as music and words. As One Horse Town slowly builds up the tension, with clock ticking, the explosion of the orchestra detonating never materialises. No propellant, no driving force. But still a massive crater of a gap. I know people will say the space is deliberately left clear for the orchestra to be inserted, And they are right. But any space on an Elton song is precious and luckily it was filled with a reciprocal insert in quality terms. Buckmaster could never be described as being lush but the strings and brass in the style he created are sorely missed. They’re the real dominant motivating part of the song.

Crazy Water is criminally cut short. Buckmaster’s truly thunderous arrangement, full of power , glory and a sheer force of nature has been blanked out. Up until the after the first chorus on the original it’s held back for maximum impact in delivery terms but in this case the basic track can still hold its own throughout. The backing vocals, intricately arranged and executed when missing show the effectiveness they provide. The brutal truncation was not a happy ending.

Chameleon, like Crazy Water, has its motif vocals yet to be added. Yet again we know that when they were added it evolved the song in to something really special. An addition both required and to be approved of.

However Bite Your Lip is in a really rough state of unfinishedness. Some untouched parts should have been left as found whilst others certainly needed some rethinking. The slide and rhythm guitars are higher up in the mix, in the style of Rock Of The Westies. Percussion is nonexistent that gives a more cleaner driving rock sound. I was surprised that before it was added there was no variation either in guitar or drums fills or solo’s from both. There’s enough opportunity to have varied things up during the incessant repetitive fade out. It’s as if they envisaged it as a straight ahead rocker but subsequent rethinks meant it swayed towards a dancey disco vibe. The outro however cries out, nay has a tantrum for the string arrangement. The synth line gives an early insight as to where things would go. Thankfully James Newton Howard‘s arrangement was inventive and full of fluctuating approaches.

I love this stuff. We don’t have any demos from this period as they were simply never executed in the same vein as earlier on in the decade. But to hear tracks broken down this way hovering somewhere between waking and sleeping deceives the ear in the same way you hear something when in that twilight state. There’s always some terrific layering on an Elton track regardless of how many or how few are present. Comparing the ‘who’ though is another thought for another day…

I've created a Youtube playlist for all of the tracks I've mentioned plus those I haven't. You'll see on the Youtube channel of the uploader other rare tracks that have been widely available for many years.

Rough Mixes 73-76

Friday, June 14, 2019

'Farewell Yellow Brick Road @ The 3Arena Dublin 12th & 13th June 2019 - Review'

Where to begin? Maybe at the start, possibly in the middle. But not at the end. As there is no end. To quote French, I'm more of ‘à bientôt’ rather than a ‘au revoir’ person. “Farewell' may have many connotations. If farewell means less regular views than before then so be it. An ending? Not here, not now, not ever.

There's no doubt an Elton 'buzz' coarsing through the vein and arterial flows of many a person right now. Remember when tickets for these shows went on sale? It was like Willy Wonka without the choccy bars. To have bought a ticket was more than the right decision. It was a decision that was right. Did Elton need to do this? No, he owes us nothing at this stage. A lifetime of applause to last him for a million years to use his own words. Even though we did buy the 'dreaded cassettes'! To stage his most carefully coordinated show of flamboyance tailored with panoramic visuals on an uncluttered yet towering stage layout does what it says on the tin. His seriousness of purpose seeped through every part of the production. As it did with the performance of the music.

A huge HD central screen with a grander modern scale version of the old cinema experience. An arrangement of the man playing piano just under the screen. We've come a long way in a 100 years. Films, visuals, montages and strategically interjected stage and crowd shots choreographed in complete sympathy with the music. A tremendous power punch.

One show is not enough to take in or be taken in by the spectacle.

No matter where you were placed in the venue your eyes are drawn in a myriad of directions. In all manner of ways and means whether it be simply making the big screen reflect on to those playing below no technique has been left unused. Over two nights I was able to soak up, nay immerse myself in as much as was thrown at me. To within tipping point of being sensually overwhelmed. Not an easy standpoint to hold to. 

Rather than do a song by song synopsis I'll pluck some selected highlights. If you want to know the rest, buy a ticket and go to the show.

It's very good.

Regarding Elton's singing and playing there is no quarter given, taken or asked for. I often wonder who will it most. Elton or us? When he walks around from stage right to left to acknowledge every sector of his public you can see how much of a gee up it gives him. Either way what we've all experienced over the years on both sides of the fourth wall can't be retracted. It is only fit and proper that we should pay our due respects to thank Elton for regularly pitching up in our towns or nearby. He has given himself and us one final chance to deliver a show that is in keeping with the style he has maintained over the decades. 

The band. Loyal sherpa’s. As per usual they played their hearts out. The camaraderie between themselves and Elton is based on mutual love and trust. Which seeps down in to the very deep rooted parts of every pore of the music. It would be impossible to quantify what exactly they mean to myself and all the other fans for their individual and collective contributions.

Put it this way. They went far further than putting the ooomph in to try and then coming up with triumph.

Davey's absence has been and will be noted. Was I disappointed? Of course. But health is wealth and everybody wishes him well. But there's only one person to have true validity to stand in for him. John Jorgenson has the shoe size to take those guitar boots walking. He 'gets' the music. His instrument choice is classy beyond words, his style is unique but flexible at all times to maintain the 'Elton sound'. It was a great study in guitar styles to listen how he was still able to recall his own unique licks and grooves from back in the 90's when I had the great pleasure of seeing him and Davey perform together with Elton. When John is back in the band this blog is very happy. If he were to stay when Davey returns get your happyometer out and watch the happiness mercury rise up. Geyser style.

Now on to the show itself. 

A quick scan of the setlist shows no dullness of any points which could become sluggish. It falls somewhere on the scale of energy sapping and flat out exhausted. Rate yourself on that imaginary scale. His entrance is sudden; already in place and seemingly already underway. The opening salvo of Bennie and All The Girls Love Alice, especially with the formers opening notes with hanging gaps between them sets out the early stall. Alice gives anybody in doubt as to what the agenda is tonight. Posteriors will be kicked. Ray's tubular bell addition on the two breaks again show that additions as late as now still show how the music is still evolving.

Tiny Dancer, the favourite of the fans in the auditorium, with the delightful pedal steel giving it some great sincerity. Proper American steel played properly. Who spotted the new vocal additions on Philadelphia Freedom? Keen ears will have spotted those.

Indian Sunset. Let's think for a few seconds. Would a mega hit like I Guess That’s Why…, or to use that dreaded cliché the 'deep cut' like Indian Sunset get fulsome applause during it and then a standing ovation at the end? I may have given some pointers here. A genius stroke was at this point of the show to insert an Elton/Ray classic combo exercise in 2 man musical supremacy. Combined ages of...areas of the arena not familiar with the show lulled in to a false sense of security to go for a pit stop. But they stopped in their tracks. Elton's solo, relentless, unforgiving, driven with intensity spurred on by Ray's incessant accompaniment. It seemed to last for ages, stopping suddenly which drew rapturous applause. Captivated attendees waited for the next turn. Bernie's words were seizing the attendees imaginations. Attendees maintained attentiveness. After piano and percussion had been subjected to enough GBH a standing ovation from floor to rafters perfectly sums up why WE know. The song, singer and performance combine with such symmetry that made us fans for life a lifetime ago. Even more were made after that, tonight.

A remarkable achievement. I shouldn't be surprised but Elton can still do that to us in 2019.

Where, but only upwards can be next. Ethereal tuning of long dead transmitters with faulty receivers suddenly kick in to life with 'she'. In that exact moment a grand swell of approval trickled then swamped everyone. Kim's reworking of the synth line alongside his additional programming is a wonderful dreamy, trippy backdrop. Further inspection is required, but maybe later. But JJ did something simple that was unexpected. 

He sat down. Albeit briefly.

Let’s delve in here. As Elton explored his musings on the keyboard on the extended portion, JJ took seat on the high point of the stage near Nigel's drums. With a thoughtful look he engaged his acoustic guitar; engaging with Elton's investigative keyboard expressions. Stunning to see two artists using artistic tools as diverse as stone masonry and pottery finding common ground to create an audio piece that both find comfort and succor in. As their work developed percussionists and drummer (not rudely, not for the last time either) intervened and warped everyone back in to orbit.

The visuals for Someone Saved My Life Tonight. Damn. Nigel’s drumming. Double damn. JM's high note singing. Triple damn. Elton's playing...multitude of damns. Elton's brief, not new, but a gentle reminder of to us all that some songs are genuinely about him. JJ's outro solo along with Matt's wonderful snaring of the main melody riff teamed up in to the hard finale with all the percussive firepower that Ray could muster. How much powder does he keep dry throughout a show for all of this?

And then on to Levon. Before I go on I'm going to make an admission here. On both nights it was the musical highlight for me. The second night's version is the best I have ever heard on disc or in person live on stage. The main body of the song was curated admirably. Steady, assured, a calm before a storm of biblical proportions. I and I'm sure a great deal of others knew what was coming next. Imagine not knowing though! Imagine not having a Scobby Doo as to what would transpire when Nigel floored it. At times I feared (without foundation) for Elton's safety. It was if he was on an oil slick running on slicks. Trying to wrestle control of the piano as it went on and on and on and...with the folks of the band mentally daring each other to be the first to jump ship.

And then JJ cut loose.

A heavy chord struck, he marched to the fore of the floor, grabbed the lower neck of his double neck guitar and when off on one. I'm no musician but I've heard plenty. What he did on the solo or how he did it was truly unprecedented. But we do know why. Because he can. It was a sensational, rip roaring aggressive release of musical energy witnessed by all onlookers. Elton's equally executed jam was responded to, in the best possible way, with an almost superior riposte.

A Night Tripper indeed.

For the unexpected listener they've already being ruined. Spoiled almost to excess. But there's more as a man once said. If Hammond Organ played by Kim with long held notes and then speedy hand sweeps across the keys wasn't enough to further confirm the genius of keyboardists then a drummer and two percussionists gave their union something to cheer about. Again, not rudely, vying with each for some sort of stick and drum supremacy. Surely your parsnips are being well buttered. From top to bottom. The sight of Ray, waiting, like a recently released creature back in to the wild to pounce after teasing JM to join him in a duel of whatever weapons of battery they could lay their hands on. As the 'fight' continued the 'peacemaker' in the form of Nigel stepped in to clear the floor for Elton to regain supremacy of all who are beholding to him to close out the contest.

Who needs Game of Thrones when you can play this.

In case you are wondering how this was all held together then Matt deserves our hats doffed to his, never lifting finger without just cause. His changes at times were constant and unforgiving; driven by a desire to keep piano and all and sundry behind him in reasonable check. More than reasonable, down right outstanding.

FFF/LLB. Jeepers. The slow burning then gradual intensifying lead in with genuinely realistic thunder and lightning, vibrations at no extra cost, giving way to a more familiar intro expertly performed with all the correct pauses and increasing flourishes brought forth in a sea of foggy mist. To be quickly burned off by JJ's GYBR custom guitar. Davey may not be here but he was somewhere remotely projecting himself. His characteristic licks were present and true.

Burn Down The Mission rest assured was a triumph too. But the visuals on the outro drew gasps from us all as they appeared. It's an old cliche that Elton set the 'piano on fire' but this time it did happen. I saw the flashes of flame. I felt the heat of the flames. My face is not naturally this red. I love that smell in the night time...

If ever a section of spoken word required a place mat on the set list lineup it's this one before Believe.  Unscripted, and off the cuff, to the point and spoken with honesty and heartfelt feeling. It summoned several interjections of applause. Nothing said would make anybody present feel uncomfortable. Those outside who need to hear it certainly need to hear it. When Elton thanked Ireland for our loyalty, our support all of the time he got a response that is only reserved in this country for winning and winners. 

We sung Olé Olé Olé to him.

If that weren't enough he played it back on piano. Where do you go from here? Do Believe as if Elton's life, as if ours, and most certainly as if the lives of those of some who featured in the accompanying film clip depended on it. Close to the truth if truth be known.

From Sad Songs onwards seats were not required at the venue. The beacon moment of the 'rock out' segment was Saturday Night on night two. The sound was loud and proud (as it was on both nights, all of the time). But at times on the chorus I had difficulty hearing Elton and the band. It was if the crowd were hypnotized and the voices unberchanted 'Saturday' as if it were a cure for something. A boom heralded a twofold attack from the air and ground. Firstly a ticker tape shower in tandem with JJ soloing with titanic gusto.

And that seemed to be it. A final group bow and ships sailed off the stage. A final or false sunset? The long, almost inordinate duration of the gap seem to lure some people in to thinking the show was over.

It will never end.

If DLTS on night one was a faithful and trustworthy crowd participation, an audition possibly, then Your Song on night two was the award winner. Elton's brief pause during it was way better than buzzers pressed or seats swiveled. 

And now we must confront GYBR. Not the song but it's (re)placement and its context. As I said on the Rocketman review old songs can now have new meanings. The context as regards the songs future significance had been altered. We won't dwell too much on the 'Farewell' aspect of proceedings, there is no last nor no first. It's a continuous Circle Of Life of continuous rebirth and regrowth.

Elton may have gone up the Eltonvator and walked casually off along the ‘Road’ but he's merely going over there. Just out of sight but still in the area.

His music hasn't gone away, you know.

To acknowledge if this indeed my last show is to close a door that still has some Passengers to board. There's some while to go before we can truly say This Train Don't Stop There Anymore...

Sunday, June 9, 2019

'Blonde On Blonde' - Part 3

Paul  January 1, 2013
Davey, over the Christmas break I got the chance to
watch again some of the old concert videos from the
80′s. That Les Paul with the whammy bar was one serious
piece of kit, I’ve always loved it. Any chance of
dusting it off again for use on tour later in the year?!
Davey January 5, 2013
I still use it, but we had the Gibson Custom Shop remove the whammy and the Oberheim synth pick up, fill in all the holes and bring it back to it’s original Black Beauty good looks!
Elton gave me that axe – I had picked it out for him in Manny’s Music store in ’72, and when I had several instruments stolen ( bastards!) EJ gave me that guitar to use…bless him.

Paul January 5, 2013
Davey, they did a fine job on it. It sounded really great on I’m Still Standing during the 1984 and 1985/86 tours, especially on the extended intro and outro. From the recordings I’ve heard of those tours, you really wrung every note out of it during the outro before Elton’s vocals came back in. Brilliant!!
Davey January 5, 2013
It’s easier to get in a jam situation with a smaller unit – Dee and I usually started things rolling and adapted our ideas through whole tours….

Paul  January 1, 2013
Davey, you’ve had some great backing vocalists on tour with you over the years. My personal favourite has to be The Atlanta Voice Choir. They had a lovely balanced harmony, just right to compliment your own voices in the band. They really showed how they suited Elton’s music perfect when they were involved in the Captain Fantastic 30th anniversary shows in 2005. They got the intricate vocal arrangements spot on, especially on Better Off Dead and We All Fall In Love Sometimes/Curtains. What was it like recording Peachtree Road and touring with them?
Davey January 5, 2013
They were wonderful, love those guys….very moving, to hear some of their ideas and passion.

Paul  January 1, 2013
Davey, you appeared with Elton on Top Of The Pops many times over the years. The Christmas episodes were always the big ones. I only discovered the other day that the 1972 Christmas edition was wiped due the BBC’s criminal policy on videotape during that period. Only a small clip exists of Elton singing Rocket Man in the ‘ZOOM’ glasses from that edition. Any recollections of that particular show? Or any TOTP’s appearances for that matter.
Davey January 5, 2013
I do remember John Reid, EJs manager then, opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate Rocket Man hitting number 1, and cork exploded from the bottle and flew up John’s nose!!

Paul  January 1, 2013
Davey, not sure if this question has been asked already. so apologies if I’m repeating it. As you know, the lyrics for ‘Dogs In The Kitchen’ appears in the booklet with the Captain Fantastic album. There’s been allsorts of rumours over the years as to whether Elton put music to that Bernie lyric or not. I was wondering do you have any knowledge of whether the lyric ended up as a finished song or not?
Davey January 5, 2013
No, but we all loved the title, kind of like Ducktail Jiver!

Paul  January 5, 2013
Davey, Philadelphia Freedom is in my top 10 Elton singles of all time. Everything about the sound on it is wonderful, most of all the orchestral arrangement. Can you tell us what was it like to work with Gene Page who did the arrangement for it and Tell Me When The Whistle
Davey January 5, 2013
We cut the basic track at Caribou – Stevie Wonder was sitting around the studio digging it! After all the guitar overdubs and Elton’s soulful vocals and harmonies the track went to Gene Page. We didn’t get to meet him, Gus Dudgeon did when he was putting the orchestra on. We heard the finished thing along with the very original arrangement for Tell me when the whistle blows and after initially going, “what was that?” – the next time we heard it, we knew both charts were awesome.

Paul  January 9, 2013
Davey, I know Pete Townshend is on record as saying that Elton’s version of Pinball Wizard is the only cover of a Who song worth bothering about. I have to say that you guy’s rocked it even harder than they did! Slipping in I Can’t Explain was a clever twist, I take it that was Elton’s idea to add it in?
Davey January 18, 2013
Not sure whose idea, but we were rocking on all cylinders at that time and ideas were flowing thick and fast….
Always love working with Pete, a great man and fantastic, yet humble musician.
I’m going to see them in a couple of weeks.

Paul  January 9, 2013
Davey, not only had you the great privilege of appearing with John Lennon onstage, but you had the honour of working in the studio with him. Can you tell us what he was like to work with at Caribou during the recording of Lucy In The Sky and One Day At A Time. Elton’s version of One Day At A Time is beautiful, your guitar motif on it is wonderful.
Davey January 18, 2013
Thanks, I was doing a sax take-off on the guitar part on that…..
Working with John and having him hang out with us at Caribou and throughout 1974 was a huge gas, something I’ll never forget – he was so….Lennonish!

Paul January 9, 2013
Davey, I was listening the other night to the ‘Here’ disc of Here And There. The duet with Lesley Duncan on Love Song is miles ahead of the album version. Plus Bad Side Of The Moon is one of the greatest Elton live moments ever, the intro you guys do on it is mindblowing!
Davey January 18, 2013
That “Bad side..” intro was mine, so glad you like it….
Always loved the beautiful simplicity of “Love Song”

Paul  January 9, 2013
Davey, Screw You is another of those b-sides that deserves more attention. The sound effects you play at the start of it are cool. How did the Jean Genie reference come about in the backing vocals?
Davey January 18, 2013
Thanks, apart from the intro, it’s the only time I’ve ever tuned each string of the guitar to the same note!! Bizarre effect…..
The Jean Genie thing came because our engineer, Ken Scott, was working with Bowie at the same time…..just a bit of fun!

Paul  January 21, 2013 
Davey, I was listening recently to a tribute to Ravi Shankar and by all accounts the sitar is one devilishly hard instrument to master. Thankfully you put your stamp on some great Elton songs with it from the early years right up to recent times. Can you tell us how you first came in contact with the instrument and any memories of playing it on those studio recordings.
Davey January 23, 2013 I first heard the sitar live in Archie Fisher’s apartment in Scotland and was ‘sold’ on the spot! I ordered a sitar from Bombay – it took a year to build and ship to me in London. I remember opening the crate on London Docks and sitting by the water tuning it and playing it right there! It’s the one that’s on EJ albums and I still have it…..this was in 1969 when it was extremely cool to have a sitar and an Afghan coat!!

Paul  January 24, 2013 
Davey, I know The Big Picture is an album that divides opinions with Elton fans, for a number of reasons. I’m just curious as to what your thoughts are on it now a decade and a half since it came out.
Davey January 24, 2013 
It wasn’t one of my favorites – too many long ballads and slow songs.I love Something about the way you look tonight – was that on that record?
Paul  January 25, 2013 
Davey, indeed it is! One of my favourite songs too…I get what you’re saying about too many ponderous songs on it. I thought If The River Can Bend worked great live, though. January and Wicked Dreams were great rockers too, if there was more of them then maybe the album would have had a better balance. I Can’t Steer My Heart Clear Of You is a great atmospheric track, Charlie Morgan put some great signatures on the chorus especially.
Davey January 28, 2013 
Charlie Spyder Sticky Buns Morgan is a fantastic musician.As John L once said, an album is really just like a postcard of where you are at any given time….

Paul  January 24, 2013 
Davey, when you came back from your ‘gap year’ away from Elton after playing with Meat and Alice, what impact did playing with those acts have on what you brought to the Elton table? For starters I certainly think the ’82 tour shows rocked like no others!!
Davey January 24, 2013 
I think we were so HAPPY to be back together, we just went crazy creatively….

Paul  January 25, 2013 
Davey, Elton did a great version of Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop on the Rumours tribute album around about 1997/98. Which you and Guy produced…that guitar solo you did was real hardcore stuff…love it!! I’m curious as to know how those projects work, do the people putting it together tell you what song to do or does Elton get to choose which one?
Davey January 28, 2013 
Thanks, that was Mick Fleetwood and his manager Carl asking me could I get Elton to do the song….I love Fleetwood Mac ( all versions!) and Guy and myself built the entire track and then EJ did his vocal…like that….No two projects are the same, especially when the idea is for ‘various artists’ to cut new versions of older songs…..I think Glee have now cornered that particular market!!

Paul  January 30, 2013
Davey, Rock This House is a great uptempo number that you guys did with BB King a few years ago. The sort of track that I hope you guys get to do with Elton on a future album. It must have been some buzz doing that song with him, I believe it was recorded in Las Vegas on The Red Piano.
DaveyJanuary 31, 2013
Yeah, we did that one afternoon on the Vegas stage, I love BB – I had EJ and him sign the guitar I used – a copy of his “Lucille” axe….what a lovely man he is, bless him.

Paul  January 30, 2013
Davey, can you tell us how important it is for you to read Bernie’s lyrics and get a feel of them before you put down your part. I’m thinking of the title track of Captain Fantastic when your parts reflected the lyrics perfectly. The nostalgic feel of the verses looking back on the late 60′s softly accompanied by you on acoustic guitar and mandolin giving way to electric guitar to reflect the hard change in attitude on the chorus where Elton and Bernie want to break free artisticallly.
Davey January 31, 2013
Bernie’s lyrics are SO important because they inspire you to create something special that reflects what he’s trying to say…..I remember reading all the lyrics to Too low 4 zero on a plane while we were delayed for 4 hours…..we just got more and more drunk as the plane got later and later! When we finally got to Montserrat 3 days later ( yes, 3!) I knew all the words by heart!!!

Paul February 1, 2013
Davey, all this week on a radio station I listen to they’ve been focusing on material from Bert Jansch, someone you knew very well. Can you tell us how influential he was on your playing?
Davey February 1, 2013
I used to play his first EP over & over & over trying to work out how he could play the bass notes and pick out the syncopations which blew my mind. Incredible.Listening to Bert, John Renbourn, John Martyn, the Incredible String Band and Joni Mitchell shaped my playing – Barney Makenna guided my banjo pyrotechnics! With a lot of help from Arthur Guinness…….

Paul  February 1, 2013
Davey, the news that you guys are recording with Elton as a unit has got me excira and delira!! You all should have been on The Voyeur, but you know my thoughts on that one…I’m curious to know how Matt’s vocals fits in to the mix? I’ve listened to some recordings of the tour just finished and I have to say Matt is some player. Like his predecessors, he’s got a great sense of melody and seems really tight already with the rest of you guys right from the off.
Davey February 1, 2013
We sound great – vocals natural and very Yellow Brick Road blend.Matt rocks.

Paul  February 2, 2013
Davey, the soundtrack to The Road To El Dorado is one of my favourites. It has a great organic sound on it which thankfully Pat Leonard carried on into SFTWC. You played with a lot of session musicians on that album as well as your colleagues from the band. What was it like to work on that project and any favourites from it?
Davey February 3, 2013
The original demos for ElDorado were done in Atlanta with only me, Guy, Bob and Elton – Matt Still was the engineer. That collection is my favorite part of that project.Pat Leonard came in and added a star-studded cast to our existing tracks, but in my opinion, the tracks were better before…..you can’t guild the Lilly too much!

Paul  February 3, 2013
Davey, I’m not sure what format you listen to your music on, but I’m curious as know what you think of this downloading lark. I don’t have an iPod…another Luddite, I’m afraid! I’m still using cd’s and probably always will. I think not having a physical copy of the music lessens the importance of connecting with it. I also think with all the downloading that goes on something is being lost in the conversation between the artist and the fan. The biggest drawback being the loss of the great artwork and packaging that came with the vinyl especially, the Captain Fanatstic album presentation being the greatest example in the Elton catalogue.
Davey February 3, 2013
It’s the state of the business…I still like a handful of great CDs when I’m driving, but like you, I miss the wonderful album cover art that gave such life and color to any band’s projects.

Paul  February 3, 2013
Davey, I’m not sure what format you listen to your music on, but I’m curious as know what you think of this downloading lark. I don’t have an iPod…another Luddite, I’m afraid! I’m still using cd’s and probably always will. I think not having a physical copy of the music lessens the importance of connecting with it. I also think with all the downloading that goes on something is being lost in the conversation between the artist and the fan. The biggest drawback being the loss of the great artwork and packaging that came with the vinyl especially, the Captain Fanatstic album presentation being the greatest example in the Elton catalogue.
Davey February 3, 2013
It’s the state of the business…I still like a handful of great CDs when I’m driving, but like you, I miss the wonderful album cover art that gave such life and color to any band’s projects.
Paul  February 8, 2013
Davey, I didn’t know when I asked this question that BBC4 were running a tremendous series each night for the last week looking at the great era of vinyl and how albums shaped the world people lived in. And vice versa. It was chaired by Danny Baker and his guests each night picked three albums for a ‘wall of sound’ that said in music what they felt and the impact it had on them. If you had been a guest on the show, what 3 albums would you have picked?It was great to see Elton’s music being mentioned in the same context as the other greats. I know, you know and many others know where Elton’s place is on the musical pyramid…the apex and no lower. Thankfully in recent years the critics have re-evaluated his importance and legacy.Needless to say GYBR and Captain Fantastic featured quite prominently on the series. Those albums had their influences, but by golly they certainly influenced many more. I remember hearing years ago Joe Elliott of Def Lepard going into great detail how GYBR was a major shaping of his music education. Plus he does a killer version of FFF/LLB!!
Davey February 8, 2013
Don’t know about whole albums, except maybe ANY Beatles album…..but the Righteous Brothers, “You’ve lost that lovin feeling” Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” ( and about 6 others) and for me personally, The Incredible String Band “5,000 spirits or the layers of the onion”We are blessed indeed that so many great musicians have been inspired by our humble contribution….Love Danny Baker.

Paul  February 16, 2013
Davey, one of the landmark big outdoor shows for you guys was Dodger Stadium in 1975. Can you tell us about that moment when you walked out onstage for the first show, which I believe was in the afternoon. Also were the highland dancers your idea?!
Davey February 16, 2013
I don’t even remember any Highland dancers!! Definitely NOT my idea.Amazing ,incredible vibe. A wondrous experience. It was chilling and thrilling to see so many people going nuts.
Paul February 23, 2013
Davey, you should have a look again at the Russell Harty documentary that he did for LWT. You’ll see them there!!Did you think at that moment in ’75, number 1 singles and albums and huge outdoor showS etc, that you’d reached the zenith so to speak? Or was the challenge to stay up there as great as the challenge to get there in the first place
Davey February 24, 2013 We were just loving working together – there was never an intention of making ‘hit’ tunes, people all over the world just seemed to like what we were doing….when you get THAT kind of feedback it validates what you’re doing and makes it incredibly enjoyable.

Paul  February 23, 2013
Davey, unfortunately I don’t play a musical instrument…why we needed to learn algebra at school and not this great art is a mystery to me. Anyway, I’m curious to know about the transcripions and arrangements you would have done around Elton’s piano demos. I read somewhere ages ago that the chord structures Elton uses are very complex for a guitarist to play, yet another testimony to your abilities.
Davey February 24, 2013
Kind words, but again, I think I was just in the right place at the right time. And Elton recognized our amazing telepathic gift.

Paul  February 28, 2013
Davey, I watched you guys on the live webcast of the Sao Paulo show. Top notch as per ususal…it was like being there even though it was well after midnight here! I see you played I’m Still Standing with the Les Paul, it certainly rocked it up a few notches! I thought Skyline Pigeon with the band was sublime, you’ll have to keep it in the set!
Davey February 28, 2013
Man, you don’t miss a thing!

Paul  June 25, 2013
Davey, I gotta say that show on Sunday night at The Marquee in Cork was probably the best Elton show I’ve ever been too, on a par with the 2007 show at the same venue. It was a delight to see you back and you were on fire! Elton looked really relaxed and you lads and lasses in the band seemed to be having a right ball throughout. Can you send my best wishes to John for a speedy recovery and I hope to see you back at The Marquee in the not too distant future. Btw, thanks for the pick!!
Davey June 25, 2013
Unreal show, good to see you rocking out as always.
What a venue, what a crowd, what a show…..we couldn’t have done it without you guys. That gig is in my top 5 on the planet.

John will be fine – he must rest and get fit again and not try to come back too soon….like me! All the pain and discomfort from my surgery ( NOT hemmeroids, NOT amputation, NOT sex change…thank you very much Elton!) was totally worth it on Sunday – we played our arses off!

Paul  August 23, 2013
Davey, a little birdy from LA has been telling me that you and the rest of the band are in rehearsals for the showcasing of The Diving Board songs next month. Without having heard either the album or you guys play them yet I can be certain which ones will be surperior. I’ve heard Home Again a few times since it was released, while it’s a decent enough song for me it’s lacking that little something. Something that the producer unfortunately felt the need to ignore…that edge on an earlier question you referred to that you and the band bring to an Elton album. Anyway I believe that the BRIT awards show, the Leeds show and the iTunes festival are all going to be broadcast at some stage during September so I’ll be there in spirit along with the rest of the worldwide audience!
Davey August 25, 2013
We are making the songs our own…..which can be a task if you didn’t actually play on the record, but it’s sounding rather excellent.

Paul  September 4, 2013
Davey, I was reading other day that Elton originally wrote a completely different version of Recover Your Soul and that you lads in the band recorded it but was later scrapped. You don’t happen to remember any details about it…or anything about another song that had a longer period of development, Live Like Horses. I know Paul Buckmaster wrote an arrangement for it during the Made In England sessions that was never used. Can you recall any differences in the way Elton tried to record it during the 1994 recording sessions compared to the way it finally ended up sounding on The Big Picture. If only to help you in your book research…
Davey September 5, 2013
Don’t remember that – Recover was pretty much the way we wrote/ recorded it.
Live like horses, was nicknamed, Eat like horses by me and Bob Birch…..
Paul Buckmaster had written a stunning little guitar part that I used when we cut it….
That song seemed to be around forever, but never quite lived up to it’s expectations, even with the wonderful Pavarotti etc…..
Paul  September 7, 2013
Davey, I know Paul Buckmaster also did the arranging of the rhythm sections, as well of course the tremendous orchestral scores, on the albums that were recorded at Trident Studios. I’m curious to know then, as you mentioned about that guitar part he did for LLH, any other instances of band parts he may have written on the later albums you worked with him on. Both for yourself and the other band members.
Davey September 9, 2013
He wrote the guitar solo in Take me to the pilot.
After I joined, he tended to follow my parts, like in Have Mercy on the Criminal, because we were a real band by then, and Paul would come in after the basic tracks were done.

Paul  September 12, 2013
Davey, I’ve heard the new album. It is what it is, I gave it 3 stars in my review.
You definitely picked the best songs to showcase it live. I just listened to the Radio 2 show last night, tremendous. Home Again live, wow. Nigel doing his slow drumming thing on it is incredible. And people wonder why we’re so ‘into’ this when those joys appear. Oscar Wilde Get’s Out, only you Davey could have the insight to put what you did on it. Oscar being from Dublin, the banjo being a great ‘Dubliners’ sound it was the natural next step to include on the song. Which doesn’t detract from the remit of having Elton to the forefront. It’s tricks like that are missing in the studio cuts…at least the live versions will remedy that anomaly!!
Davey September 12, 2013
Thanks for noticing. It’s an interesting conundrum – people will hear different versions than the album, but hopefully my arrangements won’t detract from the songs.

Paul  October 20, 2013
Davey, I’ve just seen a video of the Q&A’s that you did at the EXPO. Fantastic stuff, I wish I could have been there. Also the video of the ‘Magic Johnstone’ performance was outrageous, I did a piece on my blog about it which Tam kindly posted a link to on your own website.

Getting back to the Q&A’s at the EXPO, one of the points raised that you elaborated on was how good sonically Captain Fantastic was in terms of how just Elton and yourselves in the band delivered such a great sound. I’m tired of hearing people talking about how the current producer suddenly discovered how to record Elton better than anyone else did in the past. To state that it would infer that all the band members, producers and engineers who went before either didn’t know or didn’t care about what they were doing. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth as far as I’m concerned. I think that point has been lost in all the recent caffufle about the new album.

Anyway, I did a blog piece weeks ago before the EXPO about Captain Fantastic which echoed what you said about the album being stripped down yet still having a full sound. Nearly 40 years later and it still has the power to deliver…

Davey October 20, 2013
You’re right on…..and you get it.

Paul  October 28, 2013
Davey, I’ve been looking at some friends pics on Facebook that were at the recent MDP shows. The Flying ‘A’ that you’re using looks off the wall!! Could you fill us in on it please!
Davey October 29, 2013
It’s actually a reverse Flying V – my tech Rick Salazar got me a black one and a cherry – they’re awesome. Looks f…ing awful but plays and sounds great!

Paul  November 6, 2013
Davey, I saw Billy Joel here in Dublin on Friday night and he was incredible. He got 5 star reviews left right and centre. He was bang on form and did the hit’s, rarities and everything in between. The amount of people that flew in from abroad for the show was amazing. He still has some drawing power. The band was on fire too, your old sparring partners Tommy Byrnes, Dave Rosenthal and especially Crystal Taliefero all stood out. The Billy is indeed Back!!
Davey November 8, 2013
Great to hear that – I’ve been a Billy fan since 1977 – saw him at MSG and we had an instant connection.
His band are also fantastic players and lovely people

Paul  November 19, 2013
Davey, Madman Across The Water is one of your all time great moments. I was just wondering what you thought of the earlier version that Mick Ronson played on? It’s quite a contrast to your version. Can you tell us your memories of Mick, I know he played on the Dead Ringer album also.
Davey November 20, 2013
Mick was such a lovely person. We had a blast working together. That was in the serious drinking days….Dangerous shit!

Paul November 16, 2013
Davey, I’d thought the fact that you were doing NINE tracks from GYBR (equivalent to the whole of Madman or Captain Fantastic for instance) would have been maybe just enough for some people. But I suppose the fact you didn’t jump through hoops onstage aswell may have annoyed some of them!!
Tell me this and I’m dying to know, did you rehearse Dirty Little Girl at all? Because if you do that one at a future show, Christmas and birthday’s will coincide with jackpot day!!
Davey November 16, 2013
If we do any more from GBYBR, then Dirty LG would for sure be on my list! It really IS filthy!

Paul  December 7, 2013
Davey, I’ve been following the US tour through friends on FB that have attended the shows. Plus a few recordings have popped up that are nothing short of sensational!! It’s almost like being there. I’ve noticed in some pics that you’re using a lovely cherry sunburst Les Paul on Hey Ahab. The colour contrast is as striking as the new stage design!!
Davey December 8, 2013
Yes, it was a great tour – I hope we can bring the stage set to UK next year….and the band is RED hot – like my new Les Pauls…Noholes , Preacher and Amber.

Paul  December 14, 2013
Davey, I was listening to CATK the other day. Proper Elton and band album…in my top 10 for life.
I Must Have Lost It On The Wind has that great harmonica part on it from you. Can you tell us how that part on the track came about and what was the inspiration for it?
Davey December 15, 2013
I just thought it would be cool to have a Dylan- esque harmonica part on there, and since I don’t play a lot of harp it was perfect!

Paul  December 16, 2013
Davey, I’m wondering do guitar companies get in contact with you at all to try out their latest model on tour, even companies that you mightn’t have used before. Or offers to tie you down and only use a certain companies models exclusively for example?
Davey December 17, 2013
I use what I like to play – my tech Rick Salazar is the greatest.
He knows what I like…..

Paul  December 17, 2013
Davey, I think Lord Of The Flies from the b-side of Slow Rivers is another one of those forgotten gems. The trad jazz vibe with you on banjo is a very un-80′s sound from Elton. I love it!!
Davey December 18, 2013
You’re right! I’ve forgotten it!