Blues For Baby And Me
Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player
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Studio Version
Key: G Structure: A-B-A-B

This album is just chock full of quality music. But by 1972, Elton had so many hits from several albums dominating the radio at the same time, I think Don’t Shoot Me was largely overlooked except for its huge 2 singles: Daniel and Crocodile Rock. It’s not overlooked by serious Elton fans however who rank this one up there among perhaps the top 5 of Elton’s albums. I know its about number 5 in my book.

Blues for Baby shows just how sophisticated Elton's songwriting and Paul Buckmaster's orchestral arrangements had become since their earlier collaborations. At 5:47, it is too long by pop standards, a standard that Elton had frequently begun to ignore. And although it uses a classic A-B-A-B structure, the entire song is built around a 5-bar riff, giving it a uniquely different feel from most songs.

The song opens with solo piano playing the motif that is the basis for the song. I honestly had difficulty deciding what meter to use in notating the song: Was it 5 4-beat bars or 4 bars with 5 beats? I don’t know the right answer, but I decided to stay with a standard 4/4 meter because the song breaks into 4/4 a little later.

The song is in the key of G major. The verse however stays largely in the sub-dominant key of C, which builds a very strong sense of anticipation. It works beautifully, keeping us harmonically suspended until the chorus when it finally resolves to G. Elton uses a slash chord in the main riff, D/C, a chord which is relatively common to keyboardists. Slash chords work real well when they're used with a pedal tone in an alternating triad pattern. Here's the 5-bar riff from the intro.

The intro is 10 bars in length. This is repeated for the beginning of the verse and then it shifts up to a pedal tone F for another 10 bars.

Elton then shifts us into a standard 8-bar 4/4 pattern that leads to the chorus. He repeats an abbreviated version of his motif however within the 8-bar pattern, providing a beautiful transition both structurally and harmonically to the chorus. The verse ends up being 35 bars in length.

With its strong 8-bar feel and its strong basis in the root key of G, the chorus takes us on another harmonic journey. I-IIIm-IV-I is followed by I-V-IIIm-VIm. The last section of the chorus, rather than resolving back to G, cuts back to the intro after 6 bars.

With its off-beat meter, its extended length, trademark melodicism and harmonies, this song encapsulates much of Elton John's genius.

Let me add a few words about the arrangement. In their early days, I felt Buckmaster sometimes overwhelmed the very simple, simple little tunes Elton was constructing. But by the time we get to Madman and Don’t Shoot Me, Elton’s music had grown much more sophisticated, and Buckmaster’s orchestral arrangements became a more complimentary part rather than a dominating part of the songs.

The strings, flutes and french horns are used to great effect in Blues For Baby, building to a dense and exciting climax. Davey Johnstone’s wah-wah guitar work is also a really great touch to this tune. MY ONLY complaint today is the sitar. Sounded great in its day, but the sitar is an instrument that will be forever associated with the 60’s. Just the sound of it kind of time-warps you back to hippies and flower children. Fortunately, it’s used to a minimum and therefore doesn’t date Blues for Baby too badly.