Elton John's Biggest Hits In Australia

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Elton John's Biggest Hits In Australia

elton john singles
Elton John in Melbourne, 2019 (Photo by Mackenzie Sweetnam/WireImage/Getty Images)

With 19 top 10 hits in Australia across his decades-long career, Elton John is one of the most successful recording artists of all time locally. Let’s take a look back at his top 5 charting singles for each of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

THE 1970s

5. "Philadelphia Freedom”
Released: 1975 
Peak: number 4

The first song Elton and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin wrote to order, this stand-alone single was inspired by and dedicated to tennis champion Billie Jean King and named after the team she coached, the Philadelphia Freedoms. A couple of years earlier, Elton had met and been impressed by Billie Jean’s activism, which included lobbying US Open organisers to award women the same prize money as men. Despite its inspiration, Bernie’s lyrics are not about tennis, and the song is inspired by the Philly sound prevalent at the time.

4. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
Released: 1973 
Peak: number 4

The title track and second single from Elton’s seventh album, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was written about Bernie’s desire to get back in touch with his roots, having by now had a taste of fame and fortune. It performed considerably better than the album’s lead single, “Saturday’s Alright For Fighting”, which had peaked at number 31.

3. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”
Released: 1974 
Peak: number 3

Another single-only release, Elton’s cover of The Beatles track from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band came out between albums Caribou and Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy. The recording featured John Lennon, credited as Dr Winston O’Boogie, on backing vocals and guitars. The ex-Beatle also featured on the single’s B-side, a remake of John’s “One Day (At A Time)”.

2. "Crocodile Rock”
Released: 1972 
Peak: number 2

Elton’s first top 10 hit in Australia, this was released in the lead-up to sixth album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, which came out in early 1973. An homage to the early rock’n’roll music he grew up listening to, “Crocodile Rock” was also inspired by Daddy Cool’s “Eagle Rock”, which he heard during his 1972 Australian tour. One musical reference caused some trouble for Elton, with the “la, la, la” section of the song prompting the writers of “Speedy Gonzales”, which contains a similar hook, to accuse Elton of plagiarism.

1. "Don't Go Breaking My Heart”
Released: 1976 
Peak: number 1

In Australia, this duet with long-time friend Kiki Dee became Elton’s first number 1 single – and would remain his only chart-topper for another two decades. The song was an attempt by Elton and Bernie, who wrote the song under pseudonyms Ann Orson and Carte Blanche, to create their own take on the classic Motown duets Marvin Gaye had recorded with Tammi Terrell (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “You’re All I Need To Get By”, to name just a couple)  and Kim Weston (“It Takes Two”).

THE 1980s

5. "Blue Eyes”
Released: 1982 
Peak: number 4
One of a handful of tracks on 16th album Jump Up! that Elton wrote with songwriter Gary Osborne, “Blue Eyes” was lifted as the lead single. It is said to be about Elizabeth Taylor, and Elton performed the ballad at the 2011 memorial service for the late film star. The music video for the song was filmed at Tamarama in Sydney, along the coastal walk between Bondi and Bronte.

4. "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues”
Released: 1983 
Peak: number 4

This ballad’s music video also has an Australian link, being one of many of Elton’s clips directed by Russell Mulcahy. Released locally as the second single from 17th album Too Low For Zero – it was the lead single in the UK and the US – the song featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica. It was also the first of four top 25 hits taken from Too Low For Zero – a career best.

3. "Sad Songs (Say So Much)”
Released: 1984 
Peak: number 4

A pattern was developing as yet another ballad peaked at number 4, this time the lead single from Elton’s 18th album, Breaking Hearts. The song is about finding relief in listening to classic tunes when you’re upset, and its music video was once again filmed in Sydney. 

2. "Nikita”
Released: 1985 
Peak: number 3

The Cold War was responsible for a lot of things, including, in this single from Elton’s 19th album, Ice On Fire, keeping the singer separate from the object of his affection, Nikita, portrayed as an East German border guard in the memorable music video. “Nikita” was another of Elton’s hits to result in an accusation of plagiarism, with the writer of a 1982 song called “Natasha” brining legal action in 2012, but the lawsuit was dismissed since the only similarities were in general concept, which is not protected by copyright. The song also features George Michael and Nik Kershaw on background vocals.

1. "I'm Still Standing”
Released: 1983 
Peak: number 3

Australia chose this upbeat track to kick off the Too Low For Zero campaign, which turned out to be a good move, with “I’m Still Standing” becoming Elton’s biggest hit since “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” seven years earlier. Although viewed as a reference to Elton’s continued success after an already lengthy career, Bernie wrote the song about an ex-girlfriend.

THE 1990s

5. "The One”
Released: 1992 
Peak: number 15

The title track of his 23rd studio album, “The One” also marked Elton’s full-time return to his music career after taking time out during 1990 to enter rehab. 

4. "Can You Feel The Love Tonight”
Released: 1994 
Peak: number 9

The biggest hit from his collaboration with Tim Rice for Disney animated film The Lion King, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” featured in the film performed by various members of the movie’s voice cast, while Elton’s version played over the closing credits and was released as a commercial single. The original plan was for the song to be a comic tune performed only by Timon and Pumbaa, but Elton wanted it to be more of a classic Disney romantic ballad.

3. "Sacrifice”
Released: 1989 
Peak: number 7

Released at the very end of 1989, this second single from Sleeping With The Past didn’t reach the ARIA top 50 until mid-January 1990 before going on to give Elton his first top 10 hit since 1986’s “Heartache All Over The World”. In the UK, it had missed the top 50 on initial release before being reissued in mid-1990 (with another UK flop, “Healing Hands”, as double A-side) and going to number 1 – Elton’s first solo UK chart-topper, having only ever reached that position with his Kiki Dee duet. Bernie cites “Sacrifice”, which deals with the breakdown of a marriage, as one of his favourite compositions.

2. "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (with George Michael)
Released: 1991 
Peak: number 3

At Live Aid in 1985, Elton John had accompanied George Michael as the latter performed 1974 single “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (originally a number 13 hit in Australia for Elton). George has included the ballad in his 1991 Cover To Cover tour and, at a couple of his Wembley Arena gigs in March that year, had brought Elton onstage to perform it with him. When it was decided to release the recording as a single later that year, a music video was recorded in Chicago, both at rehearsals and then at one of George’s shows.

1. "Something About The Way You Look Tonight/Candle In The Wind 1997”
Released: 1997 
Peak: number 1

The original version of “Candle In The Wind” had reached number 5 in 1974 (with “Bennie And The Jets” as a double A-side), while a live version with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra also reached the top 100 in early 1988. In 1997, Elton’s re-recording of the song, which had originally been about Marilyn Monroe and had its lyrics altered to pay tribute to the late Princess Diana, eclipsed those previous versions – and every other track released up until that point as it became Australia’s then-best-selling single of all time. Released alongside his current single, “Something About The Way You Look Tonight” (which had only got as far as number 32 up until that point) from 25th album The Big Picture, the charity release stayed at number 1 for six weeks and remained in the top 50 until May 1998, going 14 times platinum (for shipments of 980,000 copies) in the process.

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