The Elton John deep cut loved by Bob Dylan

Elton John certainly doesn’t have to worry about his status as a songwriter. Ever since the 1970s, John’s work with lyricist Bernie Taupin has resulted in the most incredible music of the 20th century, from the massive rock and roll tunes like ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’ to tearjerking ballads like ‘Candle In the Wind’. Although John was writing to please himself most of the time, one song did get a favourable review from one of the biggest names in songwriting.

When first putting his tunes together, John drew from the sounds of singer-songwriters around the same time. Despite sitting behind a piano rather than an acoustic guitar, John wanted to make songs that had the same impact as Carole King or Cat Stevens, framing his songs in a narrative concept with Taupin’s words.

Throughout the first albums he and Taupin would write together, John seems to be setting up a scene in the listener’s mind whenever he writes a song, bringing a sense of bombast to tracks like ‘Country Comfort’ and ‘Honky Cat’. For all the vivid imagery depicted in the lyrics, John got his highest praise when he ran into Bob Dylan.

While on tour, John and Taupin were in transit to the next show when he saw the rock legend at the Fillmore East. As John remembers, Dylan said that he was a big fan of theirs, recalling in his autobiography ME, “We passed Bob Dylan on the stairs at the Fillmore East, and he stopped, introduced himself, then told Bernie he loved the lyrics of a song from Tumbleweed Connection called ‘Ballad of a Well-Known Gun’.”

Looking through Dylan’s back catalogue, it makes sense why he would like this John classic. Rather than the typical glam rock that would go on to define John’s work throughout most of his career, this comes from the period when he and Taupin were enamoured with the sounds of country music.

Rather than rely on the traditional verse-chorus style, this is a cinematic tale about what happens when gunslingers find themselves on the wrong side of the law now and again, paired excellently with the song ‘My Father’s Gun’ from the same album. Considering Dylan’s turn towards acoustic-based country music in the coming years, he would have been keeping his ears close to the ground when listening to artists like John putting out this style of song.

While Taupin would eventually try to write a song about Dylan called ‘When Bobby Went Electric’, John would say that he could never find a way to put music to the words that Taupin had written. No matter whether their Dylan tribute worked out, their penchant for western-style storytelling never left them.

Across the massive songs on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, tracks like ‘The Ballad of Danny Bailey’ and ‘Roy Rogers’ were indebted to the days of watching gunslingers on horses fighting it out with the lawman. Although John never claimed to possess the same spirit as the musical outlaws he sang about, he was on the right track by getting words of encouragement from the man behind ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.

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