There’s an previous snatch of video footage from 1970 that’s as near real-time alchemy as you’re ever prone to see. Sat at a white piano, an early-twenties Elton John pulls out a crumpled sheet of paper that appears like a schoolboy’s dashed-off homework and flattens it in opposition to the music stand.
The singer had seen Bernie Taupin’s Tiny Dancer lyrics for the primary time simply days earlier, and when he recites the primary verse with out accompaniment – ‘Blue jean child/LA girl/seamstress for the band/pretty-eyed/pirate smile/you’ll marry a music man’ – it appears flat and prosaic.
Then he reaches the catalytic key phrase – “As quickly as you get to the phrase ‘ballerina’, you already know it’s not going to be quick, it’s going to be mild” – and raises his fingers to the keys, strolling by his work-in-progress because the wistful soul chords flood the lyrics with color. All through, John offers the unfussy commentary of a plumber altering a pipe: “It begins off… then it kind of adjustments, y’see, to this verse… totally different tempo… then it builds up… the drums can be fairly heavy by the point it’s completed.”
It’s an intimate second befitting what started as an intimate track. Taupin confirmed in a 1973 Rolling Stone interview (opens in new tab) that his Tiny Dancer lyric was a love letter to future spouse Maxine Feibelman, and she or he later instructed the New York Put up (opens in new tab) about listening to it for the primary time at Trident Studios in 1971.
“I knew it was about me,” she defined. “I had been into ballet as a bit of woman and sewed patches on Elton’s jackets and denims. I had goosebumps. That track was like having your actually good pals provide the greatest reward you possibly can ever obtain.”
However John clearly had grand ambitions for his new composition. In spite of everything, Tiny Dancer would open 1971’s Madman Throughout The Water album, the place it was given a marathon six-minute run time. Whereas that allowed for an epic string and choir association, it additionally killed Tiny Dancer’s probabilities as a single (not helped by the second verse’s Bible Belt-baiting opening gambit: ‘Jesus freaks/out on the street’).
“Individuals neglect,” wrote John in his autobiography, “that when Tiny Dancer got here out as a single, it flopped. It didn’t make the High 40 in America, and the report label in Britain wouldn’t launch it in any respect.”
But Tiny Dancer had legs. To connoisseurs, the track was at all times an under-appreciated gem, however it took a movie snippet to raise Tiny Dancer to its standing as a non-negotiable setlist perennial. Launched in 2000, director Cameron Crowe’s comedy-drama Nearly Well-known was a candy-sweet portrait of a fictional rock band on the highway. However one scene, not less than, did seize the bonhome of a tourbus heading for horizons unknown, as one-by-one the Stillwater lineup breaks into John’s misplaced track.
“When it turned up on the soundtrack of Nearly Well-known, I believe lots of people had no concept what it was, or who it was by,” wrote John in his memoirs. “In actual fact, that scene turned Tiny Dancer into considered one of my largest songs in a single day.”