Song for song this may be my favorite Elton John studio release. Bernie Taupin and Elton John created an album aimed at popularity and they had me the first time I heard “Crocodile Rock” played on the radio. And popular it was as it became his second consecutive Number One album in the United States, selling in the vicinity of eight million copies.
Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player builds on the musical foundation laid down on Honky Chateau. It would continue his move in a pop/rock direction and away from his early work which primarily presented him as a piano-based balladeer and crooner.
The album features some of the best lyrical imagery of Bernie Taupin’s career. Many of the songs create pictures in your mind that stay with you.
There is also innocence about it. This is helped by the album's sparse production which adds to its overall charm.
Prior to the dominance of album only radio, singles were an important part of pop music. They drove sales for many artists as they received more and more airplay. Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player produced two of the most commercially successful and memorable single hits of Elton John's career. “Crocodile Rock” is a song that I have never grown tired of listening to. It is basic rock ‘n’ roll and has a wonderful fifties feel. It is up-tempo, catchy, and nostalgic as it looks back to a happy time that is long gone. This piano driven track would be the first Number One single of his career. “Daniel” would be almost as successful as it would reach Number Two. This mid-tempo ballad was a poignant tribute to a returning Vietnam War veteran.
There are number of other quality tracks to be explored. “Elderberry Wine” was the B-side to the “Crocodile Rock” single, making it one of the better two-sided releases of the seventies. It is post-Beatles pop at its best. John's piano work and bluesy vocal push this melodic song along. “Midnight Creeper” is about as hard as Elton John rocks. “High Flying Bird” closes the album on a haunting and beautiful note.
Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player remains one of his better studio releases. It confirmed that he was a musical artist of note as the consistency of his material and high quality of his performances are excellent. Released in January of 1973, it set the table for one of the most popular albums of all time which followed only ten months later.