|Single by Elton John|
|from the album Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player|
UK 27 October 1972|
US 20 November 1972
Château d'Hérouville, France
|Genre||Rock and roll, glam rock|
3:58 (album version, US 45 version)|
3:23 (single version)
MCA (US) |
|Songwriter(s)||Elton John, Bernie Taupin|
|Elton John singles chronology|
"Crocodile Rock" is a song written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and recorded in summer 1972 at the Château d'Hérouville studio in France (it was listed as "Strawberry Studios" in the album's credits), where John and his team had previously recorded the Honky Château album. It was released on 27 October 1972 in the UK and 20 November 1972 in the U.S., as a pre-release single from his forthcoming 1973 album Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, and became his first U.S. number-one single, reaching the top spot on 3 February 1973, and stayed there for three weeks. In the U.S., it was certified Gold on 5 February 1973 and Platinum on 13 September 1995 by the RIAA.
In Canada, it topped the chart as well, remaining at No.1 on the RPM 100 national singles chart for four weeks from 17 February – 10 March. It was the first song released as a single on the MCA label (catalogue #40000) after MCA dissolved its Uni, Decca, Kapp and Coral labels. (John had previously been with the Uni label.) "Crocodile Rock" is dominated by a Farfisa organ, played by John. The lyrics take a nostalgic look at early rock 'n' roll, dating and youthful independence of that era. Elton John band members, including Davey Johnstone on guitars, Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, were also performers on the song. Elton John, however, did all the vocals, including the falsetto backing vocals.
The song was inspired by John's discovery of leading Australian band Daddy Cool and their hit single "Eagle Rock", which was the most successful Australian single of the early 1970s (with 1,000,000 sold), remaining at No.1 for a record of 10 weeks. John heard the song and the group on his 1972 Australian tour and was greatly impressed by it. A photo included in the album packaging features John's lyricist, Bernie Taupin, wearing a "Daddy Who?" promotional badge. The song also appears to have been strongly influenced by songs from the late 50s-early 60s ("when Rock was young"), including Del Shannon's 1962 "Cry Myself to Sleep", and "Little Darlin'" (recorded in 1957 by The Diamonds and The Gladiolas), and lyrically by "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and his Comets ("While the other kids were rocking around the clock..."). The opening riff heavily resembles "Let's Dance" by Chris Montez, and the chorus resembles "Speedy Gonzales" by Pat Boone.
In a 1974 lawsuit filed in the US District Court of Los Angeles by Attorney Donald Barnett on behalf of "Speedy Gonzales"' composer Buddy Kaye, it was alleged that defendants Elton John and Bernie Taupin illegally incorporated chords from "Speedy Gonzales" which produced a falsetto tone into the Crocodile song co-written by defendants. The parties reached an amicable settlement between them and the case was then dismissed.
Bernie Taupin also stated in an interview with a magazine that "Crocodile Rock" was a funny song in that he didn't mind creating it, but it wouldn't be something he'd listen to; it was simply something fun at the time. Elton John has dismissed criticism of the song that it was "derivative", quoted in the booklet for the 1995 reissue of "Don't Shoot Me ..." as saying, "I wanted it to be a record about all the things I grew up with. Of course it's a rip-off, it's derivative in every sense of the word."
John has played the song numerous times in concert, including a ballad version he performed at the Greek Theater with Ray Cooper in 1994. Live versions released include an audio version from 1974 on the Here and There original LP and 1995 CD reissue, and a video concert version on the Elton 60 – Live at Madison Square Garden DVD release.
- Elton John – piano, Farfisa organ, vocals
- Davey Johnstone – electric guitar
- Dee Murray – bass
- Nigel Olsson – drums
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