Monday, October 12, 2020

50 Years of Music • Tumbleweed Connection

Elton John's third album, Tumbleweed Connection was released on October 30, 1970 in England, and in January, 1971 in the United States. This Americana-themed album is one of my favorites of all-time.

In 1970, Elton was having his breakout year with the release of Elton John in April, then his legendary August run at the Troubadour in Los Angles, followed by this fall classic release in October. 

Like so many British kids born right after World War II, both Bernie Taupin and Elton John were heavily influenced by American culture and music growing up. Tumbleweed Connection is a reflection of Taupin's obsession with the American West and perfect timing as the wild west was again back in vogue in the late 60's and early 70's in both film and music. Country Rock as a sub-genre was also getting a full head of steam from bands such as The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Linda Ronstadt and Leon Russell that inspired John and Taupin to dive into this country-themed album.

The artwork cover and inside photos are perfect - The wraparound cover photo for the album was taken at Sheffield Park railway station in Sussex, approximately 30 miles (50 km) south of London on the Bluebell Railway. Photographer Ian Digby Ovens captured John (seated to the right in the photo but appearing to the left on the front cover, shown above) and Taupin (standing to the left, on the back cover) in front of the late-nineteenth-century station, to represent the album's rural Americana concept despite the English location. Additional photos were taken from the interior of a train on the line for the album liner notes and libretto. Wikipedia 

I had always wondered where the cover photo was taken as none of the train station advertising signs seemed familiar. I think it's cool the way they used the English railway station with its dated feel and thus, the connection between to the two countries and culture.

The lyric insert is also a sheer delight as any fan loves to read the lyrics and look at the artwork while listening to the album on the turntable. This album had everything, great songs wrapped in an appealing consumer package. My friends and I all became Elton John fans immediately after Tumbleweed Connection. This past week, I'm holding my wife's original copy and its in prestine condition as she is a hardcore fan and my own memories just flood back as we listened to all his 70's records together in high school and college. When I opened the lyric insert after so many years, I thought, "They really nailed this thing!"

In 1970-71 as a sophomore in high school, even with the Vietnam War on the nightly news, this still was my age of innocence. Bernie and Reg had made a Western rock 'n' roll album as good as the 1969 film, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, and if you memorized lines and play acted scenes from that movie, you probably memorized a lot of the lyrics from Tumbleweed Connection. 

Please make the time this week to listen to the whole album and those lyrics will surely come back to you as quickly as the time from then to now. 

And it's good old country comfort in my bones
Just the sweetest sound my ears have ever known
Just an old-fashioned feeling fully-grown
Country comfort's in a truck that's going home