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article imageReview: 'The Making of Elton John — Madman Across the Water' Special

By Alexander Baron     Dec 17, 2012 in Entertainment
Elton John is a contemporary music legend; most of this hour long documentary will not be new to die-hard fans, but there is something here for everyone.
At the start I should declare an interest; the very first album I bought for my personal use was Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player, and I doubted I would ever hear a better one. Then he released the double classic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Most English speakers will know the stories behind both versions of Candle In The Wind. If you want to learn the stories behind other Elton John songs, there are currently a few dozen of them in the SongFacts database.
You can also check out his official website, of course, and Eltonography for more than anyone needs to know about all his releases and everything about him.
This BBC documentary has been screened before, but it takes a lot to overdose on Elton.
The front cover of the classic  Madman Across The Water  album.
The front cover of the classic "Madman Across The Water" album.
Creative Commons
In spite of its name, the programme does not include the magnificent title track from this vastly under-rated 1971 album. Instead we are taken on an equally familiar route back to Pinner where a young Reginald Dwight won a music scholarship and was packed off for a classical education to the Royal Academy of Music. The programme makers have fished out his elderly music teacher along with of course his first lyricist Bernie Taupin, and a number of other people who knew Elton early on in his career from his tentative beginnings with Bluesology to in-house songwriter for Dick James.
Sadly, there is a lot in this programme that has no place here or in anyone's life story, but drink and especially drugs, and rock 'n' roll are a sadly all too familiar story, the long list of premature deaths in this field is grim testimony to that.
Like Keith Richards and even more so Nile Rodgers, Elton is a survivor; he is also now 65, and if he is not too old to party hard, he has reached an age when most people don't want to. The underlying theme of this programme is that those early years, after he and lyricist Bernie Taupin had their first taste of success, made up Elton's golden age, a period of unsurpassed creativity. Even though he picked up an Oscar in 1995 (for his far from greatest song) and has continued to produce high class work consistently, there can be no arguing with this statement.
The almost ignored debut album Empty Sky, the three consecutive albums: Honky Château, Don't Shoot Me... and ...Yellow Brick Road; Captain Fantastic..., and the earlier Madman Across The Water will surely be remembered as the most outstanding of a career that stretches back to the 60s, and will surely see another decade or two yet.
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