Elton John Plays, Explains ‘Tiny Dancer’ in 1970 – Rolling Stone
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Flashback: Elton John Plays an Early Version of ‘Tiny Dancer’ in 1970

In this incredible video, the singer walks a camera crew though the ‘Madman Across the Water’ classic right after he wrote it

Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour reached New York city this week with two shows at Madison Square Garden and two shows at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Wednesday’s Garden show was both his 70th time playing MSG and his 70th concert of the tour. The 24-song set hasn’t changed a single time since opening night in Allentown, Pennsylvania, back in September, but it’s a great balance of big hits and deeper cuts like “Indian Sunset” and “Believe, so few fans are complaining.

The fifth song of the night is “Tiny Dancer,” which is always met by roars of glee and an arena-wide singalong. The song stalled out at Number 41 on the Hot 100 in America when it came out in 1971, but thanks to movies like Almost Famous and constant play on classic-rock radio, it has become one of his most beloved tunes.

Check out this amazing archival video from 1970 when a camera crew caught up with Elton right after he wrote the song with his lyricist Bernie Taupin. “These are all lyrics and I just sift through them,” John says from behind a piano. “There’s one here I did just the other day called ‘Tiny Dancer,’ which is about Bernie’s girlfriend. I looked through all them and this is the one I fancied doing, mainly because I knew Bernie would like me to do this one.”

He then explains exactly how he transferred Bernie’s lyrics into a song. “Look at the words,” he says, reading off the first verse of the song straight from the original manuscript. “As soon as you get to the word ‘ballerina’ you know it’s not going to be fast. It’s going to be gentle and sort of quite slow.” At that point, he plays an early version of the tune and walks the camera crew through his thought process as he wrote it. It’s absolutely remarkable to watch.

Elton’s farewell tour is going to stay on the road for at least the next two years since he’s pledged to take it to every market on the planet. Ticket sales have been extremely brisk, and if the upcoming biopic Rocketman does anywhere near the business of Bohemian Rhapsody last year, they’ll be even harder to come by. There’s no word yet on where the final show will take place, but should he do it at the Troubadour in Los Angeles — the scene of his American debut in 1970 — it’ll be the toughest ticket to score since Guns N’ Roses launched their reunion tour there in 2016.

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