Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player

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Don't Shoot Me
I'm Only the Piano Player
Elton John - Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player.jpg
Studio album by
Released22 January 1973 (1973-01-22) (UK)
26 January 1973 (US)
RecordedJune 1972
StudioChâteau d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France; mixed at Trident, London
GenrePop rock[1]
LabelMCA (US), DJM (UK)
ProducerGus Dudgeon
Elton John chronology
Honky Château
Don't Shoot Me
I'm Only the Piano Player

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Singles from Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
  1. "Crocodile Rock"/"Elderberry Wine"
    Released: 27 October 1972
  2. "Daniel"
    Released: 20 January 1973
Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideC+[3]
Rolling Stone(favourable)[4]
The Daily VaultB+[5]
Tom Hull – on the WebB[6]

Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player is the sixth studio album by English musician Elton John.[7] Released in January 1973 by DJM Records, it was the first of two studio albums he released in 1973 (the second was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, released nine months later), and was his second straight No. 1 album in the US and first No. 1 album in the UK.

The lead single "Crocodile Rock" yielded John his first No. 1 single in both the US and Canada.[8] "Daniel" was also a major hit from the album, giving him his second Canadian No. 1 single on the RPM Top Singles Chart[9] and No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and reaching No. 4 in the UK, one place higher than achieved by "Crocodile Rock".


The team returned to France to record at the Château d'Hérouville, also known at the time as "Strawberry Studios", which was how the studio was credited in the album's sleeve; Honky Château, the previous Elton John album, had been recorded there.[10] The album featured horns arranged by producer Gus Dudgeon on "Elderberry Wine" (the B-side to "Crocodile Rock"), "Midnight Creeper" and "I'm Going to Be a Teenage Idol", the latter of which was inspired by John's friend, T-Rex frontman Marc Bolan. The horn players were the same ones who were used on Honky Château. Paul Buckmaster returned to add strings on "Blues for Baby and Me" and "Have Mercy on the Criminal". During his Australian concerts with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1986, John lauded Buckmaster's work on songs such as "Have Mercy on the Criminal", calling the string arrangements "revolutionary".

The title of the album came from friend and actor/comedian Groucho Marx. Elton was playing the piano at a party at Groucho's home; Groucho, who referred to him as 'John Elton', held out his middle and index finger in the style of a pistol. Elton then raised his hands and said "Don't shoot me, I'm only the piano player" at Marx's gun imitation.

The album was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, topping the UK and US album charts. It is one of only three albums to feature just the core band of John on pianos and keyboards, Davey Johnstone on guitars, Dee Murray bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, without percussionist Ray Cooper. The other two are Honky Château (1972) (bar a performance by Cooper on congas on the song "Amy") and Breaking Hearts (1984).

An outtake of note was a re-recording of "Skyline Pigeon", which became the B-side to the single of "Daniel".

Critics at the time called some of the performances, especially "Crocodile Rock", derivative, which John freely acknowledged years later. In His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John by author Elizabeth Rosenthal, John said "Crocodile Rock" was written as an overt homage to '50s records, and his vocal intentionally mimicked singer Bobby Vee. "High Flying Bird" was intended to sound like a Van Morrison record, and "Midnight Creeper" was a tip of the hat to the Rolling Stones.

John toured Australia during 1971 and was so inspired by Daddy Cool's hit single "Eagle Rock" that, with Taupin, he wrote "Crocodile Rock". The cover of this album has a photo of lyricist Taupin wearing a "Daddy Who?" promotional badge.

Don't Shoot Me... was also, according to John, the first album during which he felt comfortable experimenting with his vocal performances and style.


The album's title comes from something Elton said during an evening spent with Groucho Marx. After an evening of constant ribbing from Marx, Elton's comeback was to hold his hands up and say, "Don't shoot me, I'm only the piano player."[11] The album's cover photograph, which shows a young couple outside a movie theatre whose marquee reads: Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player starring Elton John; on the wall is a movie poster advertising the Marx Brothers' 1940 film Go West as a tribute to Groucho Marx.

The title is also a play on the 1960 François Truffaut film Shoot the Piano Player and the original Oscar Wilde quote "Don't shoot the piano player, he's doing his best", which Wilde said he saw in a saloon on a visit to the U.S.[12]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Side one
2."Teacher I Need You"4:10
3."Elderberry Wine"3:34
4."Blues for Baby and Me"5:39
5."Midnight Creeper"3:52
Side two
6."Have Mercy on the Criminal"5:58
7."I'm Going to Be a Teenage Idol"3:56
8."Texan Love Song"3:33
9."Crocodile Rock"3:55
10."High Flying Bird"4:12
Total length:42:45
Bonus tracks (1995 Mercury and 1996 Rocket reissue)
11."Screw You (Young Man's Blues)"4:43
12."Jack Rabbit"1:50
13."Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady Again)"2:51
14."Skyline Pigeon" (Piano version)3:56
Total length:56:23


Track numbers refer to CD and digital releases of the album.


  • Producer – Gus Dudgeon
  • Engineer – Ken Scott
  • Remixed at Trident Studios (London, UK).
  • Coordinator – Steve Brown
  • Art Direction and Sleeve Design – David Larkham and Michael Ross
  • Cover Photo – Ed Caraeff
  • Booklet Photography – Ed Caraeff, Bryan Forbes, Maxine Taupin and Michael Ross.

Charts and certifications[edit]


  1. ^ "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player - Elton John - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic.
  2. ^ "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  3. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: J". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 27 February 2019 – via
  4. ^ Holden, S. (15 March 1973). "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  5. ^ Clutterbuck, Jeff (2019). "The Daily Vault Music Reviews : Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player". Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  6. ^ Hull, Tom (22 June 2021). "Music Week". Tom Hull – on the Web. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  7. ^ John Tobler (1995). "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player".
  8. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  9. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  10. ^ Willsher, Kim (4 August 2013). "For sale: 'honky château' where Elton and Bowie recorded classic hits". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  11. ^ Buckley, David (2007). Elton The Biography. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1556527135.
  12. ^ "Please Do Not Shoot the Pianist. He Is Doing His Best – Quote Investigator".
  13. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ Library and Archives Canada. Archived 21 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 29 October 2011
  15. ^ "".
  16. ^ " Elton John – Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player". Hung Medien (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Archived from the original (ASP) on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  17. ^ Billboard – 30 June – 1973. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  18. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1973" (in Italian). Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  19. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  20. ^ " Elton John – Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player". Hung Medien. VG-lista. Archived from the original (ASP) on 13 August 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  21. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  22. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 50 | Official Charts Company".
  23. ^ "allmusic (((Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums)))". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  24. ^ "Album Search: Elton John – Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player" (in German). Media Control. Archived from the original on 9 December 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  25. ^ "Dutch charts jaaroverzichten 1973" (in Dutch). Archived from the original (ASP) on 17 April 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  26. ^ "Top 100 Album-Jahrescharts" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. 1973. Archived from the original on 23 May 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  27. ^ "The Official UK Charts Company : ALBUM CHART HISTORY". Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
  28. ^ "".
  29. ^ "American album certifications – Elton John – Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player". Recording Industry Association of America.

External links[edit]