Elton John – Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun

11th May 2023 · 1970, 1970s, Music

This is the opening track from my favourite Elton John album. And who’s that on backing vocals? Why, yes, it’s Dusty Springfield!

Released in October 1970, Tumbleweed Connection seems to get overlooked – criminally, to my mind – when people look back over Elton’s career. For me he peaked around 1970 when this was released, still retaining some of the rough edges.

You can hear his influences all over the place – in the piano playing that conjures echoes of the New Orleans boogie-woogie of Allen Toussaint and Dr John, in the R&B roots that anchor the songs, of Leon Russell (with whom he would collaborate decades later, repaying his formative influences) and, more generally, in the hybrid of country, blues and gospel.

Lyrically, Bernie Taupin draws on the mythology of the old west – and the Deep South – to create songs eulogising a lost way of life and, in this case, celebrating a fictional outlaw on the run.

Elton’s backing band here are guitarist Caleb Quaye, who had played with Elton back when he was plain Reg Dwight in Long John Baldry’s band Bluesology, and Quaye’s two fellow members of Hookfoot, bass guitarist Dave Glover, and drummer Roger Pope.

Dusty is joined on backing vocals by Madeleine Bell, Lesley Duncan, Tony Burrows, Kay Garner and Tony Hazzard.