Elton John – Regimental Sgt. Zippo (Deluxe Edition)

It was thought that the early years of Elton John’s career were well know. Born Reginald Dwight in 1947, he showed aptitude for the piano by being able to play back classical pieces after only hearing them once. He gained a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music but quit before taking his final exams. By 1962, he had formed the Bluesology and backed musicians such as The Isley Brothers and Long John Baldry. The band released three singles before disbanding. Dwight, taking the John from Long John Baldry and Elton from bandmate Elton Dean, created the stage name he would be known as from now on. 

Now know as Elton John, he answered an advert in the New Musical Express placed by Ray Williams,  the A&R man at Liberty Records, looking for talent in the shape of artists, composers, singers and musicians. John was happy in his ability to write melodies and tunes, but was not happy with his lyric writing. Explaining this to Williams, John was handed a bunch of lyrics that had been sent to Liberty by someone else who had seen the advert, a chap called Bernie Taupin. They started off collaborating by post before meeting in late 1967 when Taupin moved to London. 

Through Williams, John was put back in touch with his old Bluesology band mate, Caleb Quayle who was the studio manager of Dick James Music on New Oxford Street. Quayle snuck John into the studio after hours to record demos until they were rumbled. Quayle was able to pursued his boss, Dick James (who had set up Northern Songs to administer the publishing of The Beatles music) that John was a talent that would be of benefit to the company. James listened to the songs and agreed, signing John and Taupin to a publishing and management contract. The first fruits of this contract was the single, ‘I’ve Been Loving You’ which came out in March of 1968 and is listed as being written by John and Bernie Taupin, but was a actually written by John alone. John had given Taupin the co-credit so that his collaborator might have a bit of bit of extra income from the royalties.. The single was not a chart smash, but undaunted, John continued to record and write. They placed songs with Roger Cook and a Eurovision entry for Lulu, which came last out of the 1969 UK entries. John released two more singles in 1969 as well as his debut album, ‘Empty Sky’. It was with his 1970 single, ‘Your Song’ that John scored his first major hit and the rest the say is history. 

However, this turns out not to be the complete story. In 2020, John released a rather fine box set called ‘Jewel Box’. Containing deep cuts and B-sides, it also contained a number of demo recordings from 1965 -1975. This was a treasure trove of songs showing how the songwriting team of John and Taupin developed. The sleeve notes also mentioned an unreleased album called ‘Regimental Sgt. Zippo’. A track listing was included and even though some of the ones had been released before on bootlegs, no one realised that they were meant for an otherwise unreleased LP. One song had been given a legitimate release on a very rare Portuguese EP version of the ‘Thank You For All Your Loving’ single called‘Angle Tree’. 

‘Jewel Box’ contained demos for most of the songs but what was a bigger surprise was that the album existed in a fully realised form. A mono edition was given a limited release as part of Record Store Day in 2021, and then a stereo version came out the following year. Why this album didn’t come out is anyone’s guess. No one really seems to know but it could’t have been that the title track was just a little too similar in name to the behemoth that was ‘Sgt Pepper’ that had come out the year before. It could have been that those involved just felt it wasn’t commercial enough with the record company were struggling to find a single out of the songs that had been recorded. What is nice is that it came out at all, if belatedly. 

But what if the record had come out in 1968? Well, it could have ended up like his true debut, ‘Empty Sky’ as a forgotten part of his career, only really known to his most committed of fans. If it had been released, what would a deluxe edition of this record would have looked like? To answer this, I have taken more traditional route for deluxe edition of records by making this CD based. All songs were originally recorded between 1967 and 1968. Any song recorded later has not been included as these should go in an ‘Empty Sky’ set. A demo of ‘Skyline Pigeon’ was recorded in 1968 but i have not included this also due to a full band recordings appearance on the aforementioned ‘Empty Sky’ LP. 

Disc 1

This would include the stereo mix of the album. It also includes his first single release (which came out in 1968). 

  1. When I Saw Teaby Abbey
  2. And The Clock Goes Round
  3. Sitting Doing Nothing
  4. Turn To Me
  5. Angel Tree
  6. A Dandelion Dies In The Wind
  7. Reginmental Sgt. Zippo
  8. You’ll Be Sorry To See Me Go
  9. Nina
  10. Tartan Coloured Lady
  11. Hourglass
  12. Watching The Planes Go By
  13. I’ve Been Loving You (Single A-Side)
  14. Here’s To The Next Time (Single B-Side)

Disc 2

This includes the mono mix of the album, along with any demos of these songs. ‘Nina’ sounds like the album version but is 10 seconds shorter than both the mono and stereo mix so has been included for completeness. This disc also includes John’s first demos recorded after he had been introduced to the lyrics of Bernie Taupin, some of which were recorded before the two men had even met. 

  1. When I Saw Teaby Abbey
  2. And The Clock Goes Round
  3. Sitting Doing Nothing
  4. Turn To Me
  5. Angel Tree
  6. A Dandelion Dies In The Wind
  7. Reginmental Sgt. Zippo
  8. You’ll Be Sorry To See Me Go
  9. Nina
  10. Tartan Coloured Lady
  11. Hourglass
  12. Watching The Planes Go By
  13. When I Saw Tealby Abbey (Piano Demo)
  14. And The Clock Goes Round (Piano Demo)
  15. Angel Tree (Piano/Guitar/Tambourine Demo)
  16. A Dandelion Dies In The Wind (Piano Demo)
  17. Nina (Band Version)
  18. Scarecrow (Piano/Tambourine Demo)
  19. Velvet Fountain (Piano Demo)
  20. A Little Love Goes A Long Way (Piano Demo)
  21. If You Could See Me Now (Piano Demo)
  22. Mr. Lightning Strikerman (Piano Demo)

Disc 3

A collection of period demos, including ‘Here’s To The Next Time’ which was the B-Side of his debut solo single.

  1. Countryside Love Affair (Piano Demo)
  2. I Could Never Fall In Love With Anybody Else (Piano Demo)
  3. I Get A Little Bit Lonely (Piano Demo)
  4. The Witch’s House (Piano Demo)
  5. Year Of The Teddy Bear (Piano Demo)
  6. Where It’s At (Piano/Percussion Demo)
  7. Who’s Gonna Love You (Piano/Percussion Demo)
  8. Get Out Of This Town (Piano/Tambourine Demo)
  9. Here’s To The Next Time (Piano/Tambourine Demo)
  10. Thank You For Your Loving (Band Demo)
  11. Where The First Tear Shows (Band Demo)
  12. 71-75 New Oxford Street (Band Demo)
  13. Reminds Me Of You (Piano Demo)
  14. I Can’t Go On Living Without You (BAnd Demo)
  15. I’ll Stop Living When You Stop Loving Me (Piano Demo)
  16. Trying To Hold On To A Love That’s Dying (Piano Demo)
  17. Cry Willow Cry (Band Demo)
  18. There Is Still A Little Love (Band Demo)
  19. If I Asked You (Band Demo)
  20. Two Of A Kind (Band Demo)
  21. The Girl On Angle Pavement (Band Demo)
  22. Smokestack Children (Band Demo)
  23. Baby I Miss You (Band Demo)
  24. Bonnie’s Gone Away (Piano/Guitar Demo)
  25. Just An Ordinary Man (Piano Demo)
  26. There’s Still Time For Me (Piano/Guitar/Tambourine Demo)
  27. The Tide Will Turn For Rebecca (Piano Demo)

The sleeve is the same as the one used for the 2021 release but with the deluxe edition banner added. 

Disc 2 could not be reproduced on Spotify

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