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Blue Moves

"By 1976, Elton John was the best-selling recording artist and the highest-grossing touring act in the world. With seven #1 albums in a row and a reputation as a riveting piano-pounding performer, the former Reggie Dwight had gone with dazzling speed from the London suburbs to the pinnacles of rock stardom, his songs never leaving the charts, his sold-out shows packed with adoring fans. Then he released Blue Moves, and it all came crashing down.

Was the commercially disappointing and poorly reviewed double album to blame? Can one album shoot down a star? No, argues Matthew Restall; Blue Moves is a four-sided masterpiece, as fantastic as Captain Fantastic, as colorful as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, a showcase for the three elements—piano-playing troubadour, full orchestra, rock band—with which Elton John and his collaborators redirected the evolution of popular music. Instead, both album and career were derailed by a perfect storm of circumstances: Elton’s decisions to stop touring and start his own label; the turbulent shiftings of popular culture in the punk era; the minefield of attitudes towards celebrity and sexuality. The closer we get to Blue Moves, the better we understand the world into which it was born—and vice versa. Might that be true of all albums?"

- From the Publisher


Get up! With Michael Causey, Takoma radio, featuring tracks from the album

"...anyone wishing to dive deeper into the Elton John discography will inevitably be faced with Blue Moves, and Restall's Blue Moves will be an eye-opening companion on that musical journey. Those of us who have always had the album playing somewhere in the deep recesses of our musical memories will appreciate Restall's call to revisit Blue Moves" - Rich Wilhelm, PopMatters

Also featured on 333Sound

In Praise of Blue Moves

Dear Professor Restall ,


I have recently had the great pleasure of reading your book Blue Moves. Thank you for writing it! Such a magnificent contribution to the 33 1/3 series.


For me, your book fulfills the highest aspirations of that series, including providing multiple contexts for understanding an album that WAS a real challenge to understand/appreciate.  That you address the cultural, historical, music business, creative collaborations (the supporting musicians as well John/Taupin) and creative trajectories of these artists made your book a deeply enriching read.  Thank you!! So much more satisfying and illuminating than just a track-by-track unpacking or analysis, though I thoroughly enjoyed your observations on individual tracks and specific performances. So much fun to read.


When Misters John and Taupin were in the midst of that period of prolific creativity (Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water) I was in high school and a huge fan.  Those albums still have great meaning to me.  Sadly, I steadily lost my feeling of connection (reverence) for the work of John/Taupin. I kept trying to keep the connection through Captain Fantastic.


The last Elton John album I purchased or listened to was Blue Moves.  I distinctly remember the unarticulated but persistent feeling of "What is this?"  Some of the songs, particularly the opening instrumental, were awe-inspiring.  But life and music moved on and I totally stopped listening to Elton John.  It felt like a loss. It still feels like a loss.


Over the decades, the only "reconnection" I experienced was via the great scene in the movie Almost Famous where a bunch of folks on a tour bus are singing Tiny Dancer. Magic.


And now, your book.  With your book I now have the answer to my unarticulated but persistent question about Blue Moves: Thanks to you, I have a deeply satisfying and erudite explanation of the uniqueness of that album. 


At the age of 64 (and a 1986/PhD PSU alum) I did not know that the question and the answer still would have this much resonance. I feel like you have given me an understanding of the art of John/Taupin that has contributed to my nascent understanding of the meaning of art in general.


Thank you.  [Name withheld]

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