Elton John - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

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Elton John - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Elton John - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.jpg
Studio album by Elton John
Released 19 May 1975
Recorded June–July 1974, Caribou Ranch, Nederland, Colorado
Genre Rock, pop
Length 46:54
Label MCA (US)
Producer Gus Dudgeon
Elton John chronology
Elton John Greatest Hits
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Rock of the Westies
Singles from Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
  1. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight"
    Released: 23 June 1975
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars
Robert Christgau B
Rolling Stone (favourable)


  "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy", the ninth formal studio album release for Elton John, is an autobiographical account of the early musical careers of Elton John (Captain Fantastic) and Bernie Taupin (the Brown Dirt Cowboy). It was released in May 1975 by MCA in America and DJM in the UK. It debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200, the first album to do so, and stayed top for seven weeks.

It was certified gold in May 1975 and was certified platinum and 3x platinum in March 1993 by the RIAA. In Canada, it also debuted at number 1 on the RPM national Top Albums chart and only broke a run of what would have been fifteen consecutive weeks at the top by falling one position to number 2 in the ninth week (31 May–6 September). On the UK Albums Chart, it peaked at number 2. In 2003, the album was ranked number 158 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. This was the last album until "Too Low For Zero" that Elton John and his classic band would play on together.



Written, according to lyricist Bernie Taupin, in chronological order, Captain Fantastic is a concept album that gives an autobiographical glimpse at the struggles John (Captain Fantastic) and Taupin (the Brown Dirt Cowboy) had in the early years of their musical careers in London (from 1967 to 1969), leading up to John's eventual breakthrough in 1970. The lyrics and accompanying photo booklet are infused with a specific sense of place and time that would otherwise be rare in John's music. John composed the music on a ship voyage from the UK to New York.

"Someone saved My Life Tonight", the only single released from the album (and a number 4 hit on the US Pop singles chart), is a semi-autobiographical story about John's disastrous engagement to Linda Woodrow, and his related 1969 suicide attempt. The "Someone" refers to Long John Baldry, who convinced him to break off the engagement rather than ruin his music career for an unhappy marriage. It was viewed by Rolling Stone writer Jon Landau as the best track on the album: "As long as Elton John can bring forth one performance per album on the order of 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight', the chance remains that he will become something more than the great entertainer he already is and go on to make a lasting contribution to rock."

In a 2006 interview with Cameron Crowe, John said, "I've always thought that Captain Fantastic was probably my finest album because it wasn't commercial in any way. We did have songs such as 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight,' which is one of the best songs that Bernie and I have ever written together, but whether a song like that could be a single these days, since it's [more than] six minutes long, is questionable. Captain Fantastic was written from start to finish in running order, as a kind of story about coming to terms with failure—or trying desperately not to be one. We lived that story."

John, Taupin and the band laboured harder and longer on the album than perhaps any previous record they'd ever done to that point. As opposed to the rather quick, almost factory-like process of writing and recording an album in a matter of a few days or at most a couple of weeks (as with "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"), the team spent the better part of a month off the road at Caribou Ranch Studios working on the recordings. Producer Gus Dudgeon was apparently also very satisfied with the results. The album's producer was quoted in Elizabeth Rosenthal's "His Song", an exhaustive detailed accounting of nearly all John's recorded work, as saying he thought "Captain Fantastic" was the best the band and Elton had ever played, lauded their vocal work, and soundly praised Elton and Bernie's songwriting. "There's not one song on it that's less than incredible," Dudgeon said.

Cover art

The cover art was designed by the pop art exponent Alan Aldridge. The original LP included a "Lyrics" booklet which included an uncompleted lyric for "Dogs in the Kitchen" that was not on the album's line-up, and another booklet called "Scraps," which collected snippets of reviews, diary entries and other personal memorabilia of John and Taupin during the years chronicled on the album. It also contained a poster of the album's cover. These were reproduced, in smaller versions, for the 2005 Deluxe Edition CD. Limited edition copies were pressed on brown vinyl.

In 1976, Bally released a Capt. Fantastic pinball machine with artwork by Dave Christensen of Elton John in his "pinball wizard" character from the movie Tommy. In 1977, Bally released a "home model" version with artwork by Alan Aldridge.


Track listing


All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, except where noted.

Side one
  1. "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" – 5:46
  2. "Tower of Babel" – 4:28
  3. "Bitter Fingers" – 4:35
  4. "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows" – 4:20
  5. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" – 6:45
Side two
  1. "(Gotta Get a) Meal Ticket" – 4:01
  2. "Better Off Dead" – 2:37
  3. "Writing" – 3:40
  4. "We All Fall in Love Sometimes" – 4:15
  5. "Curtains" – 6:15


  • Elton John – acoustic and electric pianos, clavinet, mellotron, ARP String Ensemble synthesizer, harpsichord
  • Davey Johnstone – acoustic, electric and Leslie guitars; mandolin, piano on "Writing", backing vocals
  • Dee Murray – bass, backing vocals
  • Nigel Olsson – drums, backing vocals
  • Ray Cooper – shaker, congas, gong, jawbone, tambourine, bells, bell tree, cymbals, triangle, bongos
Wembley Stadium, 21 June 1975
  • Elton John – piano
  • Davey Johnstone – electric guitar, backing vocals
  • Jeff "Skunk" Baxter – electric and steel guitars
  • Caleb Quaye – electric guitar
  • Jame Newton Howard – keyboards
  • Kenny Passarelli – bass
  • Roger Pope – drums
  • Ray Cooper – percussion
  • Donny Gerrard – backing vocals
  • Brian Russell – backing vocals
  • Brenda Russell – backing vocals
Additional musicians
  • David Hentschel – ARP synthesizer on tracks 9 and 10
  • Gene Page – orchestral arrangement on track 4
  • Producer: Gus Dudgeon
  • Engineer: Jeff Guercio
  • Assistant Engineer: Mark Guercio
  • Remixing: Gus Dudgeon, Phil Dunne
  • Remastering: Tony Cousins
  • Digital transfers: Ricky Graham
  • Orchestral arrangements: Gene Page
  • Art direction: David Larkham, Bernie Taupin
  • Graphic conception: David Larkham, Bernie Taupin
  • Cover design: Alan Aldridge
  • Package design: David Larkham
  • Illustrations: Alan Aldridge
  • Liner notes: John Tobler, Paul Gambaccini (Deluxe Edition)


Grammy Awards
Year Nominee/work Award Result
1976 Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy Album of the Year Nominated
Best Pop Vocal Performance - Male Nominated


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI) Gold 160,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)
United States (RIAA) 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone




Elton John - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

UK DJM DJLPX 1 stereo (1975).

Album produced by Gus Dudgeon.

The vinyl record attains a strong excellent grading, suggesting few plays.

Audio quality is very clear and strong throughout.

Both record centre labels are clean and unmarked.

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

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

The 2 x 16 page original colour/black and white promotional booklets ane perfectly presented.

The original large promotional poster is perfectly presented.

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