So I pulled out my Empty Sky CD this past week. Truth be told, it’s not one that I gravitate to very often. I’m not sure why. It’s a solid album, and every time I listen to it, it draws me in, and I vow to include it in the rotation more often.
Did you know that Empty Sky was the very first Elton John album, recorded in 1969? That’s 43 years ago!!! (It wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1975, though).
It’s really mind-boggling to hear Elton’s voice (he sounds so young!), listen to Bernie’s lyrics (some so sweet and innocent, a couple are way above my head) and think about Elton before “The Band.”
So I decided to blog about the title song. I’ve always liked it. At over 8 minutes long, it’s a bit of an anomaly. I’ve never heard it live (at least that I can remember), although I think it would stand the test of time at a concert. I’ve always liked the percussive intro…plus it’s got a bit of an Isley Brothers “You Make Me Wanna Shout” flavor to it towards the end.
Empty Sky (the song) covers a theme that seems to be a particular favorite of Bernie’s…that of imprisonment and breaking free. Sometimes the theme is applied literally (as it is in this song), sometimes not.
I’m not a rat to be spat on locked up in this room
Those bars that look towards the sun at night look towards the moon
Everyday the swallows play in the clouds of love
Make me wish that I had wings take me high above
From what I remember, neither Elton or Bernie think very highly of this album, calling it “naive.” But Elton once had this to say about this song in particular: “I remember when we finished work on the title track – it just floored me. I thought it was the best thing I’d ever heard in my life.”
I can imagine! When I listen to this song (and the others on the album), I can say it floors me, too. Mostly from a sentimental standpoint. I realize how long ago this was written/recorded, how it marks the official beginning of such a long and illustrious partnership, how it represents the genesis of a personal connection to Elton and Bernie’s music that has meant so much to me for so many years…(Darn, I’m getting all misty-eyed just writing this).
On a different note, I spent a lot of time looking at the sky this past week, I suspect because we had a hurricane sidestep us on its way up the coast, and now I’m seeing all the horrific images from the Northeast. Selective perception, perhaps (because I’ve been listening to this CD), but looking at the crystal blue South Florida sky makes me think of this song even more.
And I looked high and saw the empty sky
If I could only, I could only fly
So I dedicate this song to all of those people impacted by Hurricane Sandy. I’m sure many of you wish you had wings that would take you high above…and far away.
Empty Sky (Empty Sky – 1969)