Elderberry Wine (song)

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"Elderberry Wine"
Elton John - Elderberry Wine.jpg
Single by Elton John
from the album Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
A-side"Crocodile Rock"
Released UK 27 October 1972
 US 20 November 1972
RecordedJune 1972,
Château d'Hérouville, France
LabelMCA (US)
Songwriter(s)Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s)Gus Dudgeon
Elton John singles chronology
"Honky Cat"
"Crocodile Rock" / "Elderberry Wine"

"Elderberry Wine" is a song written by Bernie Taupin and Elton John that was first released on John's 1973 album Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player. It was also released as the B-side of John's #1 hit "Crocodile Rock" in October 1972. It was also popular on album-oriented rock radio stations. John played it live during his 1973 tour. It was covered by Irish-Scots singer Mae McKenna.

Music and lyrics[edit]

"Elderberry Wine"'s music evokes nostalgia, and it has been described as a "retro rocker."[1][2] Allmusic critic Stewart Mason describes it as a "straight-ahead piano-pounding rocker with gruff vocals and funky sax breaks," although Mason states that the song lacks the "retro trappings" of "Crocodile Rock."[3] The instrumentation includes a brass instrument parts arranged by producer Gus Dudgeon and played by the horn players who also appeared on John's prior album Honky Chateau.[1] Author Joseph Murrells suggests that the song has "a new rhythmic sound."[4]

The lyrics are told by a man whose wife has left him.[1][3] He misses her and recalls his happy days with her, but he mostly misses the fact that she was the one who could make the elderberry wine he used to enjoy with her.[1][3] Mason suggests that the lyrics are "tongue in cheek silliness," and he considers the couplet:[3]

You aimed to please me
Cooked black-eyed peas me

the worst of Taupin's career.[3] Author Elizabeth Rosenthal points out the irony in the fact that the happy music is juxtaposed against lyrics about loneliness.[1] She notes that this method of using music that sounds the opposite of the meaning of the words is a technique John used often on his prior album Honky Chateau.[1] She also sees in this song a development in this technique from earlier songs that would continue through "All the Girls Love Alice" to the fully mature "Love Lies Bleeding."[1]


Although never released as an A-side, "Elderberry Wine" was popular on album-oriented rock radio stations.[5] Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls "Elderberry Wine" "as strong as anything John had recorded."[6] Allmusic's Mason comments on the song's ongoing popularity.[3] Elton John biographer David Buckley picks it out as a "strong cut."[7] Mary Anne Cassata describes it as an "overlooked gem."[2]

Other appearances[edit]

"Elderberry Wine" was released as the B-side of "Crocodile Rock" in October 1972, prior to its appearance on Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player.[1][8] John played it live during his 1973 tour, and was the show opener at John's performance at the Royal Command Performance Variety Show on September 7, 1973, as well as his Madison Square Garden concert that same year.[1][5][7][9] Subsequent to its initial release on Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, "Elderberry Wine" was released on several Elton John compilation albums, including Candle in the Wind in the UK 1978 and Your Songs in the US in 1986.[1][3] An extended live jam of the song is a highlight in the much-bootlegged Christmas 1973 BBC performance from Hammersmith Odeon (released officially in 2014 as part of the 40th anniversary version of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album).

Celtic folk singer Mae McKenna recorded a cover version of "Elderberry Wine" on her self-titled album in 1975.[5][10][11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Rosenthal, E.J. (2001). His song: the musical journey of Elton John. Random House. pp. 54, 60, 70, 74, 516, 520. ISBN 9780823088935.
  2. ^ a b Cassata, M.A. (2002). The Elton John Scrapbook. Citadel. p. 96. ISBN 9780806523224.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Mason, S. "Elderberry Wine". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  4. ^ Murrells, J. (1984). Million selling records from the 1900s to the 1980s. Batsford. p. 365. ISBN 9780713438437.
  5. ^ a b c Bernardin, C.; Stanton, T. (1996). Rocket man: Elton John from A-Z. Greenwood Publishing. pp. 122, 154, 200, 2006. ISBN 9780275956981.
  6. ^ Erlewine, S.T. "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  7. ^ a b Buckley, D. (2007). Elton: The Biography. Chicago Review Press. pp. 147, 152. ISBN 9781556527135.
  8. ^ Norman, P. (1993). Elton John. Simon & Schuster. p. 501. ISBN 9780671797294.
  9. ^ Sutherland, S. (October 13, 1973). "Talent in Action". Billboard Magazine. p. 16. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  10. ^ "Mae McKenna". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  11. ^ "Mae McKenna". Discogs. Retrieved 2012-03-23.

External links[edit]