Bennie and the Jets

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"Benny and the Jets"
Single by Elton John
from the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
B-side "Harmony"
Released 4 February 1974
Recorded May 1973
Château d'Hérouville, France
Genre Glam rock, soft rock
Length 5:23
Label MCA (US/Canada)
DJM Records
Writer(s) Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Elton John singles chronology
"Candle in the Wind"
(1974)
"Benny and the Jets"
(1974)
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
(1974)

"Bennie and the Jets" is a song composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.[1] The song is written in the key of G major and first appeared on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in 1973. "Bennie and the Jets" has been one of John's most popular songs and was performed during John's appearance at Live Aid.

Single release[edit]

"Bennie and the Jets" was featured on side one of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, and Elton John was set against releasing it as a single, believing it would fail. Radio station CKLW in Windsor, Ontario, began heavy airplay of the song and it became the #1 song in Detroit. This attention caused other American and Canadian Top 40 stations to add it to their playlists as well and as a result, the song peaked at #1 on the US singles chart in 1974. In the US, it was certified Gold on 8 April 1974 and Platinum on 13 September 1975 by the RIAA,[2] and had sold 2.8 million copies by August 1976.[3]

"Bennie and the Jets" was also John's first Top 40 hit on what at the time was called the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, where it peaked at #15, the highest position out of the three of his singles which reached that chart.[4] The acceptance of "Bennie" on R&B radio helped land John, a huge soul music fan, a guest appearance on the 17 May 1975 edition of Soul Train, where he played "Bennie and the Jets" and "Philadelphia Freedom". In Canada, it held the #1 spot on the RPM national singles chart for two weeks (13–20 April), becoming his first #1 single of 1974 and his fourth overall.[5][6]

Song composition[edit]

Produced by Gus Dudgeon, the song was recorded during the "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" sessions in France at Château d'Hérouville's Strawberry Studios,[7] where John and Taupin had recorded their previous two albums, Honky Chateau and Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player.

After recording the song in the studio, John and the band worried that it was too plain and unoriginal. In the Eagle Vision documentary on the making of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," John himself recalled, "I fought tooth and nail against 'Bennie' coming out as a single." According to guitarist Davey Johnstone, "'Bennie and the Jets' was one of the oddest songs we ever recorded. We just sat back and said, 'This is really odd.'" While mixing the album, Dudgeon came up with the idea of creating a "live from Playhouse Theatre" sound for the track. He added reverb effects, applause and other audience sounds from John's previous concerts and a loop from the Jimi Hendrix live album Isle of Wight, plus whistles, giving it the "live concert recording" feel that has since become a sort of trademark.[citation needed]

John rarely plays the song verbatim to the studio version, and often makes subtle or even drastic changes. Live, the piano solo in the middle of the song has been played in all sorts of variations, from very close to the original to wildly improvised and extended versions, such as the elaborate version during a Central Park concert in 1980 and another memorable take on it during the "Elton and his band" part of the show recorded for what would become "Live in Australia" in December 1986. (It can be seen on various Laserdisc releases of the show.) He's also been known to end the song in a wide range of styles, including classical, swing, boogie-woogie and even using the signature five-note phrase from John Williams' score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The song tells of "Bennie and the Jets", a fictional band of whom the song's narrator is a fan. In interviews, Taupin has said that the song's lyrics are a satire on the music industry of the 1970s.[citation needed] The greed and glitz of the early '70s music scene is portrayed by Taupin's words:

We'll kill the fatted calf tonight, so stick around,
you're gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound.

Taupin also goes on to describe the flashy wardrobe of "Bennie," the leader of the band:

She's got electric boots, a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine Ohh...

Influence[edit]

Axl Rose, of Guns N' Roses, has stated it was listening to "Bennie and the Jets" that inspired him to become a singer.[8] He would later perform alongside Elton John at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

Covers[edit]

Mondegreens in the Song[edit]

The song contains the line "She's got electric boots, a mohair suit", which is often misheard as "She's got electric boobs, and mohair shoes".[12][13] A scene in the film 27 Dresses consists of the main characters singing Bennie and the Jets and arguing about the lyrics; both of them spout numerous mondegreens in the process; neither of them knew the actual lyrics.[14]

References in popular culture[edit]

  • The original Winnipeg Jets NHL team's mascot was named Benny,[15] partially in reference to this song.
  • The mascot of Australian association football (soccer) club Newcastle United Jets FC is named Benny, again, as a reference to the song.
  • Kickboxing champion Benny Urquidez is nicknamed "Benny the Jet."
  • In the movie 27 Dresses, the two main characters sing "Bennie and the Jets" at a bar, partially incorrectly in jest. They also continue to mention the song after that scene.
  • On the show The Office, Andy Bernard sings "Andy and the Tuna" to the tune of "Bennie and the Jets".
  • The title and slow, vamping style of the Ben Folds song "Hiroshima (B-B-B-Benny Hit His Head)" are a homage to "Bennie and the Jets".
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, the character Lenny remarks that he thought their gang's name would be "Lenny and the Jets".
  • The song also features in the movies Sliding Doors and Running with Scissors, both starring actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • The song is in the film My Girl 2, when Anna Chlumsky (Vada) and Austin O'Brien (Nick) go out for a walk at night in Los Angeles. The scene occurs about 59 minutes into the movie.
  • The song is also parodied in an episode of Futurama (as "Pharaoh And His Pets") in which Bender becomes a pharaoh.
  • The song was used in the opening credits of the 1975 film Aloha, Bobby and Rose, written and directed by Floyd Mutrux. It is reprised later in the film.
  • In the film Mystery Team, a disguised Jason refers to his "sons" as "Benny" and "The Jets".
  • In the film The Sandlot, the skilled young baseball player, later shown as a star player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is named Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez.
  • In the show Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope mentions that her favourite song by the pasta-themed children's performer Freddie Spaghetti is "Penne and the Jets".
  • In several broadcasts of NASCAR on TNT, there was a weekly segment call Benny in the Pits featuring Benny Parsons, a former NASCAR driver, interviewing multiple pit-road mechanics.
  • In a season six episode of Desperate Housewives, Tom Scavo calls Lynette's "boob implants" Bennie and the Jets.
  • In the closing scene of the first season episode of Almost Human entitled "Are You Receiving?", the song is featured to highlight that the main character's middle name is Reginald, after Elton John.
  • The band TV Girl released an EP on July 25th, 2011, entitled "Benny and the Jetts." It features four songs, the first of which is also titled "Benny and the Jetts," which describes a girl that the singer once knew who was always listening to the song. [16]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bennie and the Jets at allmusic.com
  2. ^ "American single certifications – John, Elton – Bennie _ the Jets". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2012-07-02.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  3. ^ Jahr, Cliff. Elton John, Lonely at the Top: Rolling Stone's 1976 Cover Story. Rolling Stonedate=2011-02-02. Retrieved 2012-07-02. 
  4. ^ Allmusic. "Elton John: Charts and Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  7. ^ cbssyndication (19 August 2008). "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road at". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "Elton John induction page at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Rockhall.com. 25 March 1947. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  9. ^ "The Sounds of Science at Beastie Boys store". Sammerch.com. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Dearmore, Kelly (28 May 1998). "He got game – Page 1 – Music – Dallas". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  11. ^ "VH1 Video on YouTube. Early 1970s performance on the Sonny and Cher Show". Youtube. 14 February 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  12. ^ "Brain Candy Poetry and Songs". Retrieved 2012-05-01.
  13. ^ "Mondegreens". 2011-07-29. 
  14. ^ "27 Dresses - Bennie & The Jets Scene". Retrieved 2011-05-23. 
  15. ^ "Photo of Benny, Winnipeg Jets mascot.". Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  16. ^ "TV Girl Bandcamp Site for 'Benny and the Jetts.'". Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
Preceded by
"Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede
US Billboard Hot 100 number one single
13 April 1974 (one week)
Succeeded by
"TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" by
MFSB featuring The Three Degrees
Preceded by
"Sunshine On My Shoulders" by John Denver
Canadian RPM 100 number-one single
13 April 1974 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" by
MFSB featuring The Three Degrees