Saturday, April 13, 1974

Elton John hit #1 with “Bennie and the Jets”

Bennie and the Jets

Elton John

Writer(s): Elton John (music), Bernie Taupin (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

Released: February 4, 1974

First Charted: February 16, 1974

Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 13 RR, 15 RB, 1 CL, 37 UK, 12 CN, 5 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.8 US, 0.25 UK, 3.05 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 55.08 video, 238.03 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Elton John established himself as the most successful act of the 1970s on the strength of hits like “Bennie and the Jets” and five other #1’s that decade. This, however, was his first of only a handful of forays onto the R&B chart, where it reached #15. He was thrilled with the accomplishment, saying “Even if it doesn’t get any higher than 34 I’m gonna stick it up and frame it.” FB He knew, though, that it wasn’t his primary audience. He told Rolling Stone, “What am I going to do on my next American tour? Play the Apollo for a week, open with ‘Bennie’ then say, ‘Thanks, you can all go home now.’” FB It did, however, land him an appearance on Soul Train. WK

In the United States, the song was the third single from Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, following “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and the title cut. In most other territories, “Candle in the Wind” was released as the third single with “Bennie” (spelled “Benny”) as the B-side. WK Elton didn’t want to release “Bennie” as a single because he was sure it would fail. However, a radio station in Ontario started playing it and then it became the #1 song in the Detroit market. WK The record company decided it would make for the better A-side in America and slated “Candle” as the flip side. FB

The song was sort of an homage to the factionary band of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the glam rock of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona. Elton described Bennie as “a sci-fi rock goddess” SF and lyricist Bernie Taupin said Bennie and the Jets “were supposed to be a prototypical female rock ‘n’ roll band out of science fiction.” SF He explained that he “had this wacky science fiction idea about a futuristic rock and roll band of androids fronted by some androgynous kind of Helmut Newton style beauty.” SF He said that Robert Palmer’s video for “Addicted to Love” portrayed how he saw the band: “a dapper frontman backed by robotic models.” SF

Taupin also said the song, told from the standpoint of a fan, was a satire on the music industry and its greed and glitz. WK Also of note – the song integrates live sound effects from a show Elton played at Royal Festival Hall in 1972 and a falsetto where Elton tries to sound like Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. SF


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Elton John
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 362.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 4/12/2021; last updated 7/23/2022.

Monday, April 1, 1974

50 years ago: Al Jolson hit #1 with “California, Here I Come”

California, Here I Come

Al Jolson with Isham Jones’ Orchestra

Writer(s): Joseph Meyer, Buddy DeSylva, Al Jolson (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 1, 1924

Peak: 16 US, 14 GA, 16 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.55 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Born Asa Yoelson in Russia in 1886, Al Jolson became “one of the greatest popular entertainers in American history.” PM He became a successful minstrel singer, vaudevillian performer, and Broadway star thanks to “his dramatic vocal style, extraordinary stage presence, and personal rapport with audiences.” PM

His show Bombo opened in 1921 but three years later he was still tweaking by adding “California Here I Come.” TY2 By that time the show had left New York City on tour. Jolson was listed as a songwriter, but likely had nothing to do with the actual writing. He negotiated with the pubisher to have his name and picture added to the sheet music for $5000. This allowed him to get royalties from the song. TY2 Lyricist Buddy DeSylva (who also played ukulele on the song) and composer Joseph Meyer went along since having Jolson’s name attached to the song “practically guaranteed its success.” TY2

It was Jolson’s sixteenth of 23 chart-topping songs. PM He recorded the song with the Isham Jones’ Orchestra. It is frequently called California’s unofficial state song. WK Georgie Price (#7, 1924), the California Ramblers (#10, 1924, and Claude Hopkins (#17, 1933) also charted with the song. PM Freddy Cannon, Ray Charles, Cliff Edwards, Fletcher Henderson, and Tom Waits have all recorded the song. WK

Jolson revived the song in 1939 in the film Rose of Washington Square, in The Jolson Story in 146, and Jolson Sings Again in 1949. DJ It was also used in the films Lucky Boy (1929), the W.C. Fields movie It’s a Gift (1934), John Wayne’s film Back to Bataan (1945), With a Song in My Heart (1952), and The Saddest Music in the World (2003).


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First posted 4/25/2023.