Elton John - Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player

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Elton John - 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 Elton John
Released 26 January 1973
Recorded Château d'Héroville, Hérouville, France, June 1972
  • Soft rock
  • rock
Length 42:45
Label MCA (US)
Producer Gus 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: 26 March 1973
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars
Robert Christgau C+
Rolling Stone (favourable)


  "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player" is the sixth studio album by Elton John. Released by DJM Records, it was John's sixth normal studio album release, and was his second straight No. 1 album in the US, yielding his first No. 1 single in both the US and Canada: "Crocodile Rock". "Daniel" was also a major hit from the album, giving him his second Canadian No. 1 single on the RPM Top Singles Chart and just missing the top slot south of the border, stalling at No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and reaching No. 4 in the UK, one place higher than achieved by "Crocodile Rock".



Once again, 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. The album featured horns arranged by producer Gus Dudgeon on "Elderberry Wine" (the B-side to "Crocodile Rock"), "Midnight Creeper" and "I'm Gonna 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, in fact, 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 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) 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 designed to sound like a Van Morrison record, and "Midnight Creeper" was a tip of the hat to the Rolling Stones.

John toured Australia during 1972 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." 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, also includes a movie poster of the Marx Brothers' film Go West. Whether this was an intentional tribute to Groucho, or merely a coincidence, is uncertain.


Track listing

All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Side one

  1. "Daniel" – 3:54
  2. "Teacher i Need You" – 4:10
  3. "Elderberry Wine" – 3:33
  4. "Blues for My Baby and Me" – 5:42
  5. "Midnight Creeper" – 3:55

Side two

  1. "Heve Mercy on the Criminal" – 5:57
  2. "I'm Gonna Be a Teenage Idol" – 3:55
  3. "Texan Love Song" – 3:33
  4. "Crocodile Rock" – 3:58
  5. "High Flying Bird" – 4:12



Song Format
"Skyline Pigeon" (Piano version) Daniel 7" (US/UK)



  • Elton John – vocals, acoustic piano, electric piano, Leslie piano (all tracks), Farfisa organ (track 9), harmonium (8), mellotron (1, 2)
  • Davey Johnstone – acoustic, electric, and Leslie guitars (All tracks); banjo (track 1), sitar (4), mandolin (8), backing vocals (2, 7, 10)
  • Dee Murray – bass guitar (All tracks), backing vocals (tracks 2, 7, 10)
  • Nigel Olsson – drums (All tracks), maracas (track 1), backing vocals (tracks 2, 7, 10)

Additional musicians

  • Ken Scott – ARP synthesizer (track 1)
  • Gus Dudgeon – brass arrangement (tracks 3, 5, 7)
  • Paul Buckmaster – orchestral arrangement (tracks 4, 6)
  • Jacques Bolognesi – trombone (tracks 3, 5, 7)
  • Ivan Jullien – trumpet (tracks 3, 5, 7)
  • Jean-Louis Chautemps, Alain Hatot – saxophones (tracks 3, 5, 7)
  • Prakesh Nanooshka – sitar (track 4)


Chart (1973) Position
Australian Albums Chart 4
Dutch Albums Chart 17
Italian Albums Chart 4
UK Chart Albums 1
U.S. Billboard Pop Albums 8
Chart (1974) Position
U.S. Billboard Pop Albums 67
Chart (1975) Position
Danish Album Charts 18





Elton John - Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player

UK DJM DJLPH 427 stereo (1972).

Album produced by Gus Dudgeon.

The vinyl record has remained in excellent condition.

Audio quality is very clear and strong throughout.

Both record centre labels are clean and unmarked.

The album's hinged laminated cover is in excellent condition, displaying only minor signs of wear.

The album cover has a strong hinge and spine, displaying very clear, printed script.

The album's original Marx Brothers movie poster is absent.

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