5 Iconic Elton John Covers In The 70s

5 Iconic Elton John Covers In The 70s | I Love Classic Rock Videos

Elton John in an interview with Mike Douglas - Philip Anness / Youtube

Even the most casual music fan recognizes the name Elton John. His flamboyant costumes, soaring vocals, and electrifying piano performances have secured his place in music royalty.  

Alongside his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin, John has crafted a legendary songwriting career, recently receiving the esteemed Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. While John and Taupin’s songwriting partnership is undeniably iconic, there’s another facet to John’s musical genius: his masterful interpretations of other artists’ work.

This list digs into five unforgettable covers John delivered during the electrifying 1970s. Get ready to explore the depth of his artistry as he transforms existing songs into his own electrifying anthems.

“Love Song” (1970)

Elton John’s 1970 album, Tumbleweed Connection, was steeped in the sounds of American roots music. Yet, amidst the twangy guitars and dusty landscapes, a tender love ballad emerged: “Love Song”. This track stood in stark contrast to the Americana vibe that permeated the rest of the record.

The song’s gentle nature came courtesy of Lesley Duncan, who not only penned the lyrics and melody but also lent her vocals and acoustic guitar to the recording. Duncan was a frequent collaborator during John’s early career, providing backing vocals on several tracks across his albums.

Interestingly, she even recorded her own version of “Love Song” for her debut album the following year, with John himself returning the favor by playing piano on the track.

“Love Song” transcended the boundaries of John’s own repertoire, captivating the hearts of other artists. From Olivia Newton-John to Barry White, Neil Diamond to Heart,  the song’s beauty resonated with a diverse range of musicians, solidifying its place as a timeless classic.

“Honky Tonk Women” (1971)

In 1970, Elton took the stage for a momentous live performance that would be immortalized as his first live album, aptly titled 11-17-70. The date itself holds the key – November 17th, 1970 – the day the electrifying concert was broadcast live over New York’s WABC radio station. 

Stripped down to a powerful trio with bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson, John delivered a captivating setlist. The heart of the show drew heavily from his recent releases, showcasing tracks from his self-titled 1970 album and the critically acclaimed Tumbleweed Connection.

Adding an unexpected spark to the evening was John’s soulful rendition of the Rolling Stones’ hit “Honky Tonk Women”. The 1969 rocker, penned by the legendary duo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, received a fresh injection of energy under John’s command.

The electrifying performance cemented the live album’s potential, and upon its release in April 1971, 11-17-70 climbed its way to a respectable No. 11 on the Billboard 200 chart.

“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (1974)

In 1974, John took a psychedelic trip down memory lane, covering the Beatles’ iconic 1967 track “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Originally penned by the legendary songwriting duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the song was known for its whimsical lyrics and trippy atmosphere. John’s version stayed true to the original spirit, but added his own signature flair.

The collaboration didn’t stop there. Adding a layer of intrigue, John enlisted the help of none other than John Lennon himself! Lennon lent his talents on backing vocals and guitar, though under the playful pseudonym Dr. Winston O’Boogie.

This unique pairing proved to be magic – John’s cover skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for two impressive weeks at the beginning of 1975.

This achievement solidified John’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” as a historic moment in music. It became one of only two recordings of Lennon-McCartney compositions, outside of The Beatles themselves, to reach the coveted No. 1 spot on the Hot 100. The other, “A World Without Love” by Peter and Gordon, achieved this feat in 1964.

“One Day at a Time” (1974)

While “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” dazzled on the A-side of the single, the B-side held a hidden gem – Elton John’s rendition of Lennon’s “One Day at a Time”. This heartfelt ballad, originally appearing on Lennon’s 1973 solo album Mind Games, received a fresh interpretation by John. 

Lennon himself even contributed his guitar skills to the track, solidifying the collaborative spirit between the two musical titans.

Interestingly, this cover wasn’t just a one-off single offering. In 1995, when Elton’s ninth studio album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (also released in 1974) received a remaster, “One Day at a Time” was included as a bonus track.

This inclusion ensured the song’s longevity, allowing fans to appreciate John’s soulful take on Lennon’s introspective masterpiece.

“Pinball Wizard” (1975)

In 1975, Elton donned a flamboyant costume and embodied the iconic “Pinball Wizard” for director Ken Russell’s film adaptation of The Who’s rock opera Tommy. John wasn’t just acting – he and his band also recorded a cover of the Who’s 1969 hit of the same name. While John lip-synced the song in the movie, the studio recording captured the electrifying energy of the track.

The film scene itself is unforgettable. John, sporting sky-high boots and a beanie topped with a pinball pom-pom, faces off against Roger Daltrey’s Tommy at a unique pinball machine.

This wasn’t your average game – the machine featured a piano keyboard where the bumpers would normally be! The battle between the established Pinball Wizard and the rising Tommy is a highlight of the film.

John’s cover of “Pinball Wizard” transcended the movie screen. Released on the Tommy soundtrack, the song became a hit single in the UK, soaring to No. 7 in the charts in 1976.  While not released as a single in the US, it still managed to impress, reaching No. 9 on the US Radio & Records airplay chart, proving its impact on both sides of the Atlantic.