Elton John, King of the Chateau

July 15, 2017

Elton John did something on 15 July 1972 that he’d never done before in America — and it was something he hadn’t done in his own country yet either. On the US album chart for that week, Elton’s Honky Chateau toppled the Rolling StonesExile On Main St from the summit, giving the British singer-songwriter his first No. 1 on either side of the Atlantic. It stayed on top for five weeks and on the chart for 61.

Elton had devoted a great deal of time to breaking America, and this was the period that would really see him assume superstar status. He’d already had three top ten albums in the US and been acclaimed as one of the most original writers of his generation for albums like Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across The Water, but Honky Chateau, named after the now-famous Château d'Hérouville near Paris, where it was recorded, raised his game to new levels. Elton and his band loved the creative atmosphere so much, they stayed there for three albums.

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The 'Honky Cat' single in its Mexican edition picture sleeve

The first single from the album, ‘Rocket Man,’ had been climbing the Hot 100 since early May, and peaked at No. 6 in the very week the parent album landed at the top. ‘Honky Cat’ would follow it into the top ten in September.

Elton’s British audience were still being a little slower on the uptake. They took Honky Chateau to No. 2 and the ‘Rocket Man’ single to the same position, but ‘Honky Cat’ could only reach No. 31. It wasn’t until 1973’s Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player began a run of four consecutive UK No. 1 albums that Elton’s British preeminence became truly unstoppable.

Produced by Gus Dudgeon with Elton’s faithful band of Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson, plus of course with Bernie Taupin also in residence at the Chateau as in-house lyricist, Honky Chateau remains a delightful listen. Tracks like ‘Honky Cat’ and ‘Hercules’ lay bare Elton’s southern rock influences, with a particular nod to Dr. John, and ‘Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters’ remains one of his most charming early ballads. 44 years ago exactly, no one could argue that his first stay in the Chateau helped Elton conquer America.

Purchase Honky Chateau.

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Follow the official Elton John Best Of playlist.

 

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3 comments

  1. Humble Harry (LEVON'S DAD)

    I remember My Mom said I was too young to go see Elton in concert @ The Hollywood Bowl in 73… I stayed in My room Crying that night, Honky Chateau was My 1st album that I bought & when You came to the Forum in 74 I went all 5 nights with My Brother opening night & a different friend each of the other nights to Turn Them On To You… I’m hopin to some how come up with the $$$ to see You when You play Staples Center in Oct… Still very questionable My car got impounded about 2 months ago, & tryin to save enough to get another car on disability is rough… Could use some help gettin My 1st album/cd out I know when I do I won’t be hurtin so bad financially… Most of My songs are sad simple stories from My life… I know I got sumthin…

  2. Stu Pickles

    Just had to post to say that the first poster “Humble Harry” is mental. Seriously, take a Valium and go back into your trailer, you give respectable Elton fans a bad name.

    1. Alex

      Nice piece on ‘Honky Chateau’, a wonderful album. Btw, “Stu Pickles” (dumb name), if anyone here is ‘mental’, it’s you. Wtf? Humble Harry is a true fan, wile you act like a true jerk.

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