Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

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Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Elton John - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.jpg
Studio album by Elton John
Released 19 May 1975
Recorded June–July 1974, Caribou Ranch, Nederland, Colorado
Genre Rock, pop
Length 46:54
Label MCA (US)
Producer Gus Dudgeon
Elton John chronology
Elton John Greatest Hits
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Rock of the Westies
Singles from Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
  1. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight"
    Released: 23 June 1975
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau B[2]
Rolling Stone (favourable)[3]

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the ninth formal studio album release for Elton John, is an autobiographical account of the early musical careers of Elton John (Captain Fantastic) and Bernie Taupin (the Brown Dirt Cowboy). It was released in May 1975 by MCA in America and DJM in the UK. It debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200, the first album to do so, and stayed top for seven weeks.[4]

It was certified gold in May 1975 and was certified platinum and 3x platinum in March 1993 by the RIAA. In Canada, it also debuted at number 1 on the RPM national Top Albums chart and only broke a run of what would have been fifteen consecutive weeks at the top by falling one position to number 2 in the ninth week (31 May–6 September).[5] On the UK Albums Chart, it peaked at number 2. In 2003, the album was ranked number 158 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. This was the last album until Too Low for Zero that Elton John and his classic band would play on together.


Written, according to lyricist Bernie Taupin, in chronological order, Captain Fantastic is a concept album that gives an autobiographical glimpse at the struggles John (Captain Fantastic) and Taupin (the Brown Dirt Cowboy) had in the early years of their musical careers in London (from 1967 to 1969), leading up to John's eventual breakthrough in 1970. The lyrics and accompanying photo booklet are infused with a specific sense of place and time that would otherwise be rare in John's music. John composed the music on a ship voyage from the UK to New York.

"Someone Saved My Life Tonight", the only single released from the album (and a number 4 hit on the US Pop Singles chart), is a semi-autobiographical story about John's disastrous engagement to Linda Woodrow, and his related 1969 suicide attempt. The "Someone" refers to Long John Baldry, who convinced him to break off the engagement rather than ruin his music career for an unhappy marriage. It was viewed by Rolling Stone writer Jon Landau as the best track on the album: "As long as Elton John can bring forth one performance per album on the order of 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight', the chance remains that he will become something more than the great entertainer he already is and go on to make a lasting contribution to rock."[3]

In a 2006 interview with Cameron Crowe, John said, "I've always thought that Captain Fantastic was probably my finest album because it wasn't commercial in any way. We did have songs such as 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight,' which is one of the best songs that Bernie and I have ever written together, but whether a song like that could be a single these days, since it's [more than] six minutes long, is questionable. Captain Fantastic was written from start to finish in running order, as a kind of story about coming to terms with failure—or trying desperately not to be one. We lived that story."

John, Taupin and the band laboured harder and longer on the album than perhaps any previous record they'd ever done to that point. As opposed to the rather quick, almost factory-like process of writing and recording an album in a matter of a few days or at most a couple of weeks (as with "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"), the team spent the better part of a month off the road at Caribou Ranch Studios working on the recordings. Producer Gus Dudgeon was apparently also very satisfied with the results. The album's producer was quoted in Elizabeth Rosenthal's "His Song", an exhaustive detailed accounting of nearly all John's recorded work, as saying he thought "Captain Fantastic" was the best the band and Elton had ever played, lauded their vocal work, and soundly praised Elton and Bernie's songwriting. "There's not one song on it that's less than incredible," Dudgeon said.

The 2006 album The Captain & the Kid is the sequel, and continues the autobiography where Captain Fantastic leaves off.

Cover art[edit]

The cover art was designed by the pop art exponent Alan Aldridge. The original LP included a "Lyrics" booklet which included an uncompleted lyric for "Dogs in the Kitchen" that was not on the album's line-up, and another booklet called "Scraps," which collected snippets of reviews, diary entries and other personal memorabilia of John and Taupin during the years chronicled on the album. It also contained a poster of the album's cover. These were reproduced, in smaller versions, for the 2005 Deluxe Edition CD. Limited edition copies were pressed on brown vinyl.

In 1976, Bally released a Capt. Fantastic pinball machine with artwork by Dave Christensen of Elton John in his "pinball wizard" character from the movie Tommy. In 1977, Bally released a "home model" version with artwork by Alan Aldridge.

Later releases[edit]

Both "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Philadelphia Freedom" were originally released as non-album singles, but years later both songs, along with "Lucy"'s B-Side, the John Lennon-penned "One Day at a Time", were included as bonus tracks on the remastered Captain Fantastic CD reissue (although the version of "Philadelphia Freedom" used is the edit from 1990's The Very Best of Elton John).

A deluxe 30th anniversary edition CD was released September 2005, containing the complete album and the bonus tracks included on prior reissues and adding "House of Cards", the original B-side to the 7" single of "Someone Saved My Life Tonight", which had previously only appeared on CD on the 1992 Rare Masters collection. Also included is a second disc containing the complete album performed live at Wembley Stadium on 21 June 1975.

In September 2005, Elton John and his band again performed the entire album (minus "Tower of Babel" and "Writing") in a series of sold-out concerts in Boston, New York City and the tour's final stop, Atlanta, in October. These "Captain Fantastic Concerts" were a part of the Peachtree Road Tour and were the longest concerts in Elton's career, many lasting at least three and a half hours. The songs from Captain Fantastic were aired by Capital Gold Radio in a broadcast taken from 16 September 2005 performance in Boston.

"Curtains", among other songs from the album, was sampled in Pnau's 2012 album Good Morning to the Night.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, except where noted.

Side one
  1. "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" – 5:46
  2. "Tower of Babel" – 4:28
  3. "Bitter Fingers" – 4:35
  4. "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows" – 4:20
  5. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" – 6:45
Side two
  1. "(Gotta Get a) Meal Ticket" – 4:01
  2. "Better Off Dead" – 2:37
  3. "Writing" – 3:40
  4. "We All Fall in Love Sometimes" – 4:15
  5. "Curtains" – 6:15

Bonus tracks (1995 Mercury and 1996 Rocket reissue)[edit]

  1. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 6:18
  2. "One Day at a Time" (Lennon) – 3:49
  3. "Philadelphia Freedom" – 5:22

Bonus tracks (2005 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)[edit]

Disc one (Follows original album + bonus tracks)
  1. "House of Cards" – 3:12
Disc two (Live from "Midsummer Music" at Wembley Stadium, 21 June 1975)
  1. "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" – 7:02
  2. "Tower of Babel" – 4:38
  3. "Bitter Fingers" – 5:06
  4. "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows" – 4:39
  5. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" – 7:17
  6. "(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket" – 7:19
  7. "Better Off Dead" – 3:01
  8. "Writing" – 5:30
  9. "We All Fall in Love Sometimes" – 3:57
  10. "Curtains" – 8:48
  11. "Pinball Wizard" (Pete Townshend) – 6:31
  12. "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" – 7:40


Song Format
"House of Cards" "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" 7" (US/UK)


Wembley Stadium, 21 June 1975
Additional musicians
  • Producer: Gus Dudgeon
  • Engineer: Jeff Guercio
  • Assistant Engineer: Mark Guercio
  • Remixing: Gus Dudgeon, Phil Dunne
  • Remastering: Tony Cousins
  • Digital transfers: Ricky Graham
  • Orchestral arrangements: Gene Page
  • Art direction: David Larkham, Bernie Taupin
  • Graphic conception: David Larkham, Bernie Taupin
  • Cover design: Alan Aldridge
  • Package design: David Larkham
  • Illustrations: Alan Aldridge
  • Liner notes: John Tobler, Paul Gambaccini (Deluxe Edition)


Grammy Awards
Year Nominee/work Award Result
1976 Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy Album of the Year[6] Nominated
Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male[7] Nominated


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[8] Gold 160,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[8]
United States (RIAA)[9] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone



  1. ^
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (16 June 1975). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Landau, Jon (17 July 1975). "Elton John: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 29 January 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "Elton Expands 'Captain Fantastic' With Live Tracks". Billboard. Retrieved 3 December 2014
  5. ^ Library and Archives Canada.
  6. ^ "GRAMMYs' Best Albums 1970–1979". Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  7. ^ "Grammy Awards: Best Pop Vocal Performance - Male". Retrieved 13 July 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "British album certifications – Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "United_KingdomElton_JohnCaptain_Fantastic_and_the_Brown_Dirt_CowboyalbumCertRef" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  9. ^ "American album certifications – Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  10. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  11. ^ " Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy". Hung Medien (in German). Archived from the original (ASP) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 29 October 2011
  13. ^
  14. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin - levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 263. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5. 
  15. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste : Elton John" (in French). Archived from the original on 10 September 2013. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1975" (in Italian). Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  17. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9. 
  18. ^ " Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy". Hung Medien. Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Archived from the original (ASP) on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  19. ^ " Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy". Hung Medien. VG-lista. Archived from the original (ASP) on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  20. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  21. ^ "Chart Stats – Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" (PHP). UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  22. ^ "allmusic ((( Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  23. ^ "Album Search: Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  24. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1975". RPM. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  25. ^ "Les Albums (CD) de 1975 par InfoDisc" (PHP) (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  26. ^ "The Official UK Charts Company : ALBUM CHART HISTORY". Archived from the original on 16 December 2007. Retrieved 16 December 2007. 
  27. ^ "Top Pop Albums of 1975". Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  28. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1976". RPM. Archived from the original on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
Preceded by
An Evening with John Denver
by John Denver
Canadian RPM number-one album
31 May – 19 July 1975 (8 weeks)
2 August – 6 September 1975 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
Venus and Mars by Wings
(both runs)
Preceded by
That's the Way of the World (soundtrack)
by Earth, Wind & Fire
US Billboard 200 number-one album
17 May – 18 July 1975
30 August – 5 September 1975
Succeeded by
Venus and Mars by Wings
Preceded by
Living in the Seventies by Skyhooks
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
16 June – 20 July 1975
Succeeded by
Ego is not a Dirty Word by Skyhooks
Preceded by
An Evening with John Denver
by John Denver
New Zealand Chart number-one album
4 July – 1 August 1975
Succeeded by
Venus and Mars by Wings