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Our Empty Sky Was Filled With Laughter

Elton John's First Album 'Empty Sky'

In December 1968, Elton and Producer Steve Brown went to Dick James Studios in London to record Elton’s first album Empty Sky. Sessions for the album lasted until April of 1969. The album was released in the United Kingdom in June 1969 where it performed modestly but was not a huge success. It was not released in the United States until 1975 thus explaining why many American record-buyers have no memory of it.

'Empty Sky'

The album’s title track which lasts a whopping 8 minutes, 28 seconds. The song begins with the sound of Conga Drums (Performed by early Elton associate Caleb Quaye) then Elton’s piano joins in with the Drums (played by Roger Pope), Bass (played by Tony Murray) and Guitars (also played by Quaye) joining in. Bernie’s lyrics reflect a yearning to escape from the downtrodden life holding one back and fly into the Empty Sky. Bernie would later explore this theme from the opposite perspective in Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.


This song Bernie’s lyrics are full of nautical and mythological imagery. In Norse Mythology, Val-Hala is the great hall to which the spirits of the dead travel to in the afterlife. The lyrics also reference Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. The song is driven by Elton’s piano and accented by harpsichord and you can almost picture the boats carrying the spirits of fallen soldiers sailing to the great hall where they will enjoy eternal bliss.

'Western Ford Gateway'

This song is a preview of Bernie’s lyrical obsession with the American West, which would fully blossom on Tumbleweed Connection two albums later. The track is mostly driven by Caleb Quaye’s Guitar with Elton’s Piano supporting the melody with organ notes complimenting it.

'Hymn 2000'

Don Fay’s Flute along with Elton’s Piano with a tambourine providing a lively backbeat. The lyrics of the final verse feature heavy biblical imagery referencing Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot, two key players in the Passion.

'Lady What’s Tomorrow'

This track is notable for being the first Elton John track to feature Elton’s longtime Drummer Nigel Olsson. It is difficult to interpret the lyrics to this song for any deeper meaning and may be an example of Bernie using words that just felt right.


This song features Electric Piano, Electric Guitars, and a basic 2/4 beat on the drums while the lyrics are rich with nautical imagery.

'The Scaffold'

The melody is driven by an electric piano. This is another song where the meaning of the lyrics are relatively vague but Bernie’s abilities as a lyrical storyteller would soon blossom.

'Skyline Pigeon'

The first song in the collaboration between Elton and Bernie that Elton thought was really good. The song can be interpreted as a wish to be free of the shackles of pain and suffering that tie us and find the freedom of the release of the spirit. This version features Elton’s Harpsichord as it’s only instrumental component, A few years later during the recording of “Don’t Shoot Me I’m only the Piano Player” Elton would re-record this song on piano with his band and lush orchestral arrangements by Paul Buckmaster. It was released as the B-Side of Daniel.

Gulliver/It’s Hay Chewed/Reprise

Arguably the strangest song on any Elton John Album. It starts plainly enough with a rather straight-forward lyric that seems to be seen through the eyes of a farmhand probably a reference to Bernie’s Lincolnshire upbringing, years later on the song “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” Taupin yearns to return to the farm after experiencing the “Yellow Brick Road” of Rock and roll stardom. The second part of this track is a jazzy piano interlude followed by a reprise of all the previous songs on the albums via sequenced audio snippets.

While by no means a successful debut, “Empty Sky” was an important point in the lives of Elton and Bernie and was a preview of the greatness to come in the next decade.

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Our Empty Sky Was Filled With Laughter
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