The 1996 reissue of
DON'T SHOOT ME I'M ONLY THE PIANO PLAYER was the first of two 1973 albums that sealed Elton John's superstardom. It included his first U.S. #1 single, the nostalgic "Crocodile Rock," along with one of his most enduring ballads, "Daniel," a veiled salute to a Vietnam vet. By now, John was at ease in almost any musical setting. While lyricist Bernie Taupin continued to feed him the usual mix of road songs, homages to the American West, and offbeat love ballads, John was flying ahead with an ambitious, try-anything agenda that effectively blurred the lines between AM pop and FM rock.
"Crocodile Rock"'s whimsicality, with its vintage Farfisa organ, and "Daniel," a seductive studio concoction of keyboards and acoustic guitar, leaned toward the former. "Elderberry Wine" approached the latter, with its hard guitar sound and blues-rock horn-riffing, as did "Have Mercy On The Criminal," whose central riff echoes "Layla." "I'm Gonna Be A Teenage Idol," a tribute to Marc Bolan of T-Rex, lies tantalizingly across the center of the pop-rock line, sounding like a cabaret version of glitter-rock. By now, Elton John's place in history was assured; months later, his domination of his era would come to full fruition with the release of GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD.