Empty Sky

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Empty Sky
Studio album by
Released6 June 1969 (UK)
13 January 1975 (US)
RecordedNovember 1968 – April 1969
StudioDick James, London
GenreSoft rock[1]
Length41:11 (original release)
54:53 (1995 reissue)
ProducerSteve Brown
Elton John chronology
Empty Sky
Elton John
Alternative cover
A blue drawing of the Great Sphinx of Giza with a person standing on its paw
U.S. album cover

Empty Sky is the debut studio album by British singer-songwriter Elton John, released on 6 June 1969. It was not issued in the United States until January 1975 (on MCA), with different cover art, well after John's fame had been established internationally.


Recorded during the winter of 1968 and spring of 1969 in a DJM Records 8-track studio, Empty Sky is the only album in the early part of Elton John's career not produced by Gus Dudgeon, instead helmed by friend and DJM staffer Steve Brown. The album was released in the UK in both stereo and mono, the latter now being a rare collector's item.

John plays harpsichord on several tracks, including "Skyline Pigeon", which John has described as being "the first song Bernie and I ever got excited about that we ever wrote."[2]

John used musicians who were friends either of him or of Brown. Guitarist Caleb Quaye and drummer Roger Pope, both at the time members of the band Hookfoot, played on many of the tracks. (Quaye and Pope would rejoin John a few years later as part of his studio and touring band behind Rock of the Westies in 1975 and Blue Moves in 1976.) Tony Murray from The Troggs played bass. Empty Sky is the first appearance with John of then Plastic Penny and Spencer Davis Group member Nigel Olsson, who played drums on "Lady What's Tomorrow?" (Olsson and fellow Spencer Davis bandmate, bassist Dee Murray, would soon join John as his early 1970s touring band.) Also listed in the production credits is Clive Franks, who would later produce John's live sound in concert for a tremendous amount of his touring career, as well as occasionally co-produce with John on albums such as A Single Man and 21 at 33. The original sleeve design was done by David Larkham (billed as "Dave"), who would go on to create designs for John and other artists.

"Skyline Pigeon" is the most popular and best-known song on the album, and the only one which John, albeit infrequently, still performs as part of his live shows. The more definitive version of "Skyline Pigeon" featuring an orchestra and piano backing in place of harpsichord was recorded for 1973's Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, and initially appeared as the B-side of "Daniel" in 1973. Another appearance of the song was in 1974, when a version recorded in London was featured as the opening track on the Here and There live LP and its 1995 CD reissue. A version of the title track, "Empty Sky", was also included at various stops on John's 1975 tour.

Although John has since called the album naive, he does have fond memories of making the record. These include walking home from recording at 4 a.m. and lodging at the Salvation Army HQ in Oxford Street, which was run by Steve Brown's father. "I remember when we finished work on the title track – it just floored me. I thought it was the best thing I'd ever heard in my life," John recalled.[3] He later recalled that he was "unsure what style I was going to be ... [maybe what] Leonard Cohen sounds like."[4]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Disc & Music Echo

A contemporary review from Disc & Music Echo said, "Can't help feeling that the lyrics could still do with a little more intensity, a little less youthful pretension. But that's just carping because the music is so nice and pretty that you can't really put it down. Well worth a good, deep listen."[5] AllMusic's retrospective review showed a subdued reaction to the material, concluding "There aren't any forgotten gems on Empty Sky, but it does suggest John's potential."[1]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Side one
1."Empty Sky"8:29
3."Western Ford Gateway"3:15
4."Hymn 2000"4:29
Side two
1."Lady What's Tomorrow"3:09
3."The Scaffold"3:18
4."Skyline Pigeon"3:37
5."Gulliver / Hay Chewed / Reprise"6:58
Total length:41:11
Bonus tracks (1995 Mercury and 1996 Rocket reissue)
10."Lady Samantha"3:02
11."All Across the Havens"2:52
12."It's Me That You Need"4:04
13."Just Like Strange Rain"3:44
Total length:54:53
  • "Val-Hala" was titled "Valhalla" on the 1975 US reissue.
  • "Hay Chewed" was titled "It's Hay-Chewed" on the 1995 CD reissue.



  • Steve Brown – producer
  • Frank Owen – engineer
  • Clive Franks – tape operator, whistling
  • Dave Larkham – sleeve design, illustration
  • Jim Goff – sleeve production
  • Tony Brandon – original sleeve notes
  • David Symonds – original sleeve notes
  • Gus Dudgeon – liner notes
  • John Tobler – liner notes



  1. ^ a b c Empty Sky at AllMusic
  2. ^ "Skyline Pigeon" track from "Here And There", Disc 1, Track 1. Released 30 April 1976, MCA Records.
  3. ^ Liner notes from "Empty Sky". 1995 Rocket/Island CD Reissue.
  4. ^ "Elton John". Spectacle. Season 1. Episode 1. 2008.
  5. ^ "July Disc LP Guide". Disc & Music Echo. 12 July 1969. p. 13.
  6. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 3934a". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  7. ^ "Elton John Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 14 September 2022.

External links[edit]