#694: Friends/Honey Roll by Elton John

Peak Month: May 1971
8 weeks on Vancouver’s CKVN’s chart
Friends Peak Position #5
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #34
Honey Roll:
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG’s chart
Honey Roll Peak Position #8
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com link: “Friends
Lyrics: “Friends
YouTube.com link: “Honey Roll
Lyrics: “Honey Roll”

Reginald Kenneth Dwight was born in 1947. When he was three years old he astounded his family when he was able to play The Skater’s Waltz by Émile Waldteufel by ear at the piano. When he was eleven years old he won a scholarship as a Junior Exhibitor at the Royal Academy of Music. Between the ages of 11 and 15  he attended the Academy on Saturday mornings. In 1962, by the age of 15, he was performing with his group, The Corvettes, at the Northwood Hills Hotel (now the Northwood Hills Public House) in a northern borough of London. While he was playing with a band called Bluesology in the mid-60s he adopted the stage name Elton John. His stage name, which became his legal name in 1967, was taken from Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean, and their lead singer, Long John Baldry.

In 1967 John met Bernie Taupin, a songwriter. Since they teamed up they’ve worked together  on 32 studio albums between 1969 and 2016. In the same five-decade span Elton John has released 128 singles. Of these 42 reached the Top Ten in Canada on the RPM singles chart, 29 made Top Ten on the UK charts and 26 singles made Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100. Elton John holds the distinction of having the most successful single release in the rock ‘n roll era ~ 1955 to the present ~ with his 1997 version of “Candle in the Wind” which has sold over 33 million copies. The biggest selling single remains “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby which has sold  50 million copies.

In 1969, Elton John released his debut album, Empty Sky. He received critical acclaim for his musicianship and heralded as a great new singer-songwriter. John didn’t disappoint his critics, as his next album, the self-titled, Elton John, included “Your Song” and “Border Song,” two of his most enduring contributions to pop music. “Your Song” climbed to #1 on CKVN in Vancouver and peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, failing to make the Year-End Top 100 singles of the year in America.

After “Your Song”, Elton John’s next release was from the 1971 teen-romance film, Friends.

Friends/Honey Roll by Elton John

The film concerns a neglected 15-year-old English boy named Paul Harrison, living in Paris with his wealthy businessman father. Paul befriends an orphaned 14-year-old French girl named Michelle Latour. She is recently arrived in Paris to live with her cousin but soon finds the situation in her cousin’s Montmartre apartment to be disturbingly unwholesome. Paul and Michelle decide to run away. They travel to the idyllic marshlands of the Camargue where Michelle has in her keeping a very small cottage. She and her recently deceased artist father periodically escaped to the cottage from their home in Arles. At the Camargue cottage, Paul and Michelle set up house, become lovers, have a baby, and try to have an adult relationship. There are lots of bedroom scenes and a bathing scene, where they scrub each other and smile a lot. Along the way, both Paul and Michelle discover many of the troubles that can be involved in family life. Ultimately, however, police searching for Paul find the two. Elton John’s score for Friends was nominated for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture at the 1972 Grammy Awards.

“Friends” lyrics invite a beginners mind open to the possibility of friendship and innocence. Although, the song begins “I hope the day will be a lighter highway,” reflecting the grim circumstances of isolation of the two teens we meet in the opening of the film. In Friends, the adults are variously disappointments and obstacles to joy and happiness of the young couple. Consequently, the line “It seems to me a crime that we should age,” reflects the view that older people are an impediment to those who together enjoy watching their “childhood fly.”

“Friends” peaked at #5 in Vancouver. Elsewhere, “Friends” climbed to #3 in Boise, Idaho, #4 in Dallas, #6 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, #8 in St. Louis and #9 in Columbus, Ohio.

Friends/Honey Roll by Elton John

“Honey Roll” is featured early in Friends as the demands of unfulfilling adult relationships grind them down. The guy in the lyrics needs his ex-wife to “loosen up his tie” instead of always ask him to pay alimony. The ex doesn’t like him singing his songs ’cause it only “takes up” her “time.” The unhealthy setting of adult conflict is a catalyst for the two teenagers to seek sanctuary in their countryside cottage. “Honey Roll” was the B-side to “Friends” and didn’t chart anywhere else in the USA. “Honey Roll” made the Top 20 on CHWK in Chilliwack, BC.

On April 23, 1971, Elton John made his first concert debut in Vancouver (BC), performing at the Agrodome.

His third album was Tumbleweed Connection, released in the fall of 1970. The album peaked in the Top 5 of the Billboard 200 Album chart. One of the tracks from the album is “Love Song.” The tune did not appear on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. However, in 1976, Vancouver record buyers liked the song and took it to #10 on CKLG five years after its release on Tumbleweed Connection. In the early years, Elton John typically enjoyed higher chart runs in Vancouver compared to the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. “Your Song” stalled at #8 in the USA, but climbed to #1 on CKVN in Vancouver. “Levon”, from Madman Across The Water, climbed to #3 in Vancouver, but stalled at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Border Song” only made it to #92 on the Hot 100, but peaked at #21 in Vancouver. “Tiny Dancer” also made it into the Top 20 in Vancouver, while stalling at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Though Elton John is from the UK, his first #1 single was “Crocodile Rock”, a song that went to #1 in America, Switzerland, New Zealand and Canada in early 1973. It stalled at #5 on the UK singles chart. Later in 1973, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” topped the charts in New Zealand and Canada. 1974 was one of the singers best years with “Bennie And The Jets” topping the charts on the Billboard Hot 100 and “The Bitch Is Back” climbing to #1 in Vancouver. In 1975, John had #1 hits in the USA with “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Island Girl”. In Vancouver, “Pinball Wizard” also climbed to the top spot. In 1976, Elton John finally had a #1 hit in the UK in a duet with Kiki Dee titled “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. The single also made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA, CKLG in Vancouver (and many other radio markets in Canada), Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Reflecting on his outlandish stage presence, Elton John told W magazine “I wasn’t a sex symbol like Bowie, Marc Bolan or Freddie Mercury, so I dressed more on the humorous side, because if I was going to be stuck at the piano for two hours, I was going to make people look at me.” Between the Top Ten entry of “Your Song” on CKVN in Vancouver during January 1971, and the chart run of “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” in November 1976, Elton John charted 23 songs onto the Top Ten of Vancouver radio stations, including seven #1 hits here on the West Coast. Only “Tiny dancer” which stalled at #11 prevented him from having 24 consecutive Top Ten hits in a row in Vancouver in the 1970’s. While in the USA on the Billboard Hot 100, Elton John managed to chart fifteen songs into the Top Ten in the same time frame.

But after 1976 the hits came infrequently. Between 1977 and 1991 Elton John released 57 singles. Of these only “Mama Can’t Buy You Love”, “Little Jeannie” “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”, “Sad Songs (Say So Much)”, “Nikita”, “Candle In The Wind” from 1987 and “I Don’t Want To Go On With You Like That” made the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100. And only a couple more made the Top 40. The singer had a #1 hit in 1985, a duet with Dionne Warwick titled “That’s What Friends Are For”.

In August 1990 Elton John released a single called “You Gotta Love Someone”.

For many years Elton John was an addict to alcohol and drugs. His frequent use of cocaine is said to have been a catalyst for debilitating epileptic seizures. Facing up the the grim state of his health, Elton John went into rehab in 1990. He emerged with a focus on helping others and founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992. The foundation has raised has brought in more than $225 million to support HIV/AIDS programs around the world.

Elton John also experienced a resurgence in his chart-topping ways that resembled the 1973-76 period. He had a #1 duet of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” with George Michael  in 1992. “The One”, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, “Believe” and “Something About The Way You Look Tonight/Candle In The Wind” all climbed to #1 in Canada on the RPM singles chart. “Blessed”, “Simplest Life” and “Circle Of Life” all charted into the Top 5 positions.

In 1994 Elton John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1998 he became Sir Elton John when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his “services to music and charitable services.” Among the many performances he has given include the funeral for Princess Diana at Westminster Abbey in 1997, and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace in 2012.

On September 8, 2018, Elton John began his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. An ambitious tour, it includes over 300 concert performances across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, South America and Australasia. The final concerts on the tour are in 2021.

February 17, 2019
Ray McGinnis

Howard Thompson, “Friends’ at the Paris,” New York Times, March 25, 1971.
Elton John bio, Rolling Stone, New York
Elton John bio, Elton John.com
Tumbleweed Connection, Rolling Stone, New York.
CKLG Top 30,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, May 25, 1976.

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