On October 22, 1976, Elton John released a double album, Blue Moves. This release would mark a significant change and temporary downturn in the career of the man whose sleek pop/rock recordings, savvy songwriting, and exciting stage shows had made him the unchallenged Goliath of the music world.
To understand how this rather dark and moody album came to be, it is helpful to review the extraordinary run of success that preceded its creation as well as the pressures and unhappiness that seemingly became its writers' muse.
By 1976, Elton John had conquered the world’s music scene. He had released ten studio albums, one soundtrack record, and a live recording. Aside from his debut album, Empty Sky, all of his releases had achieved much acclaim and huge commercial success.
The release of Honky Chateau in 1972 had marked the beginning of a streak of seven straight number one albums. In 1975, his autobiographic concept album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, had debuted at number one, a feat never before achieved in the music industry. The follow-up, Rock of the Westies, had done the same.
During this period, Elton’s music had dominated radio. “Rocket Man,” his 1972 single, had started a run of sixteen consecutive top twenty hits, and at one point in the mid-70’s, Elton John’s recordings had accounted for over three percent of music sales worldwide.
Further, at the height of his fame — in October 1975, while Elton was in town for two sold-out shows at Dodger Stadium — the city of Los Angeles had proclaimed an “Elton John Week” and honored him with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In short, Elton and his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, had risen from total obscurity to become the most prominent songwriters in the industry.
After only six years on the scene, Elton John had already become a legendary recording artist and live performer.
His hard work ethic had raised his prowess in the music world. But by 1976, the years of nearly constant touring and the excesses of a rock-star life (which had come to define Elton as much as his music) were beginning to take a toll. When it came time to record his eleventh studio album, the Rocket Man was a shadow of his former self, already having attempted suicide a year earlier during L.A.’s "Elton John Week."
Entering the studio in Toronto for the Blue Moves sessions, Elton John was finding an uncomfortable spotlight placed on his sexuality (he admitted to being bisexual in Rolling Stone the same year). He was addicted to drugs and alcohol and exhausted from his punishing schedule. It seemed to many that his star was nearing a burn-out phase.