There is always an importance to the first number one record, especially when highlighting the illustrious career of Elton John, a true beast of ability on the keys, vocals, and of course through songwriting power. His 1972 record Honky Château is a detrimental record to his professional life, spawning a plethora of quotable arrangements that illustrate perfectly his prowess in the industry.
Beginning with the bold performance of “Honky Cat,” John is a magnificent force that powers through the horns and sudden pops of sound to ring in his own vocals as the forefront. Describing, “Get back, honky cat. Better get back to the woods. Well, I quit those days and my redneck ways, and oh, change is gonna do me good.” He is almost uplifted as he narrates this story of drastic transformation within his record. Not only was this a turning point for John’s break into the mainstream arms, but the musical production is grand and almost covered in gold.
Even on the track that could spawn infinite sadness, “I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself” is a reflective, but ultimately catchy look. John is often a delight even when describing death, but here this is a broken side that often never sees the public eye. Underneath those shiny riffs and chords on the piano, Honky Château is frankly a depressing record. It hides under tracks like “I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself,” “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time),” and “Slave” which are isolated and honestly manipulative toward a hurt sound.
A track that acts as an outlier comes in the form of “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” where John provides a voice to the ballads that carefully grows until it is a full karaoke scream. In a sense where the pretty words begin to fade and a truthful John is at the helm, he uses these strings that are subtle until it is almost just him and the piano. Through a deserted, but reaching style, he dives into a different subculture of his ability. With Honky Château, each step becomes more and more weighted until reaching this climax of grand finale styled fireworks.
Now moving into one of his final tours for 2019, at one point Elton John was just a humble artist from British beginnings. As Honky Château rounds out to the finish line, each piece becomes a fluent statement in the artistry of his performances. Whether screaming in the dark or surrounded by other bodies, John moves to become a recognizable shadow of music.