Elton John Releases ‘Honky Chateau’ 50th Anniversary Set

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Elton John in 1972 (Photo via UMe; used with permission)

Elton John’s acclaimed 1972 album, Honky Château, has received a belated 50th anniversary reissue. The title, on 2-CDs, 2-LPs and as a limited-edition gold vinyl LP on his website, arrived on March 24, 2023, via UMe. Listen to many of the tracks below including a playful, session demo of “Honky Cat.” The collection also includes eight songs from his 1972 concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall. The live performance, recorded two months before the release of the studio version became the album’s first single, features the classic band line-up of Davey Johnstone (guitar), Dee Murray (bass) and Nigel Olsson (drums). The newly expanded edition also includes a selection of outtakes from the original session tapes. The set also has a 40-page booklet containing rare photos, memorabilia and an essay featuring interviews from those who were there at the time.

From the announcement: Honky Château was Elton’s step into global superstardom, spawning such classics such as “Rocket Man,” “Honky Cat” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.” Originally released in May 1972, his fifth 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.

Watch “Rocket Man (Live at The Royal Festival Hall, London 1972)”

As Elton recalls of their famously 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.’”

Listen to the Session Demos for “Mellow” and “Hercules”

A pivotal album in his 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.

By June 1972, “Rocket Man” was in the U.K. pop charts at #2. In the U.S., the single reached #6, helping the LP become the first of six consecutive Billboard #1 albums. “Honky Cat” became John’s first up-tempo number to make the U.S. Top 10.

The playful session demo for “Honky Cat” is more than a minute longer than the studio version. (A live version is also below.)

The complete track listing and more performances appear below the Amazon links.

Honky Château – 2-CD Track Listing
Disc 1:
Honky Cat
I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself
Susie (Dramas)
Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Salvation (Session Demo)
Susie (Dramas) (Session Demo)
Rocket Man (It’s Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time) (Session Demo)
Mellow (Session Demo)
Slave – Alternate “Fast” Version (Session Demo)

This announcement ad for the LP appeared in the June 10, 1972 issue of Record World

Disc 2:
Honky Cat (Session Demo)
I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself (Session Demo)
Hercules (Session Demo)
Slave (Session Demo)

Susie (Dramas)
Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters
Honky Cat
Rocket Man (It’s Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time

Related: Our Album Rewind of Honky Château

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. Brian D
    #1 Brian D 2 February, 2023, 19:32

    Despite my love of Madman and Tumbleweed, there is not a weak song on this masterpiece!

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  2. Baybluesman
    #2 Baybluesman 9 March, 2023, 21:53

    The “Honky Chateau” album was my first exposure to Elton John, back in 1972.

    Impressed, but not knowing much about him (at the time), I went back to my local record store, and requested the owner to play “Tumbleweed Connection” and “Madman Across The Water”.
    As he was a savvy businessman, he would sample albums for regular customers (on his high-end audio set-up), even if he didn’t have an open copy.

    As expected, I bought both LPs same day, and started my appreciation of, and collection of, Elton John’s/Bernie Taupin’s incredible early 1970s quality output.

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