Today, UMe releases the 50th anniversary edition of Elton John‘s seminal album Honky Château, out now on 2CD, 2LP, and limited-edition gold vinyl LP. Purchase HERE.
Originally released in May 1972, Honky Château was Elton’s step into global superstardom, spawning classics such as “Rocket Man,” “Honky Cat” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.” 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’.
Also unveiled alongside the album’s release is rare footage of Elton John’s performance of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (Live at The Royal Festival Hall, London 1972).” Watch HERE. Elton’s second concert at the iconic venue was an opportunity for him and his band to perform their newly-recorded album Honky Château in its entirety for the very first time.
The recording of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (Live at The Royal Festival Hall, London 1972)” gives fans a fantastic insight into the song’s very first live outing at the fabled February concert, which took place a full three months before Honky Chateau’s May release. The concert saw Elton and his band – newly returned to the UK after recording the album in January at the now-legendary Château d’Hérouville – play the recently completed but unreleased album almost in its entirety to an awestruck audience. The live recording 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.
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.
Honky Château became the first of six consecutive Billboard Hot 100 No 1 albums. Still a shining jewel in Elton’s back catalog, it was the album that announced his arrival on the world stage and solidified his reputation in the US. Its impact and legacy endures to this day, and it will forever be remembered as the album where the Rocket Man truly took flight.