UMe today announces the 50th-anniversary reissue of Elton John’s Honky Château. Available to pre-order now on 2CD, 2LP and limited-edition gold vinyl LP, the album is released on March 24th. Pre-order here. “Rocket Man (Live at The Festival Hall, London 1972)” and “Mellow” (Session Demo) are also unveiled today as the first instant grats available from Honky Château 50th Anniversary Edition. This live debut of “Rocket Man at the Royal Festival Hall” - recorded two months before its release as the album’s first single - is striking in its freshness and its ability to nearly replicate the studio arrangement on stage. The line-up of Davey Johnstone (guitar), Dee Murray (bass) and Nigel Olsson (drums) immediately established itself as the core of the “classic” Elton band, solidifying Elton’s studio and stage presence through his most prolific period.
Honky Château was Elton’s step into global superstardom, spawning classics such as the aforementioned “Rocket Man,” “Honky Cat” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.” Originally released in May 1972, his 5th studio album ushered in a to-this-day unparalleled hot streak of classic albums and was the first time he recorded at the now legendary Château d’Hérouville, a residential recording studio situated 25 miles north-west of Paris. It was here where he and Bernie Taupin were to write – and the band subsequently record – some of the biggest global hits of his career. Elton, Bernie and the band - performing together on record for the first time - decamped to the Château for week’s pre-production on Honky Château in January 1972. Bernie brought his typewriter; the band set up in the dining room. Bernie would write lyrics at night and leave them on Elton’s piano for him to work on in the morning.
As Elton recalls of their notoriously prolific output at the time, “The first morning we were there, I had three (songs) done by the time the band drifted downstairs looking for something to eat: ‘Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters,’ ‘Amy’ and ‘Rocket Man.’” The remainder of the album would follow suit; ‘Susie (Dramas),’ ‘Hercules,’ ‘Salvation,’ ‘Honky Cat,’ ‘Slave,’ ‘I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself’ and ‘Mellow.’”
A pivotal album in Elton’s ascent to superstardom, the album’s sepia-tinged cover belies the effortless grooves within of a band who had truly found their feet as a unit. By mid-1972 their live recordings now matched their hallowed live shows, and they effortlessly channelled a soulful sound that effortlessly drew together the deep south of America via Pinner and the Parisian suburbs.
Following the release of Honky Château, by June 1972 “Rocket Man” was in the UK pop charts at No 2. In the US, the single reached No 6. Honky Château became the first of six consecutive Billboard Hot 100 No 1 albums. It remains a firm fixture in the setlist of this record-breaking Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. “Honky Cat” showcased the extraordinary swagger that was to define all of Elton’s work for the following half-decade. His first up-tempo number to make the US Top 10, the track helped cement Elton’s reputation in America.
Still a shining jewel in Elton’s back catalogue, Honky Château was the album that announced his arrival on the world stage. Its impact and legacy endures to this day, and it will forever be remembered as the album where the Rocket Man truly took flight.