On This Day in 1975: Elton John’s ‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy’ Album Debuted Atop the ‘Billboard’ 200

By the time Elton John released his ninth studio album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, he’d already had four consecutive No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200—five if you count his 1974 Greatest Hits compilation. Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, however, achieved something that no other album had done up to that time.

Videos by American Songwriter

Released on June 7, 1975, the record became the very first album ever to debut at the top of the Billboard 200. It also was the first album to be certified gold by the RIAA before it was even released, based on pre-orders of more than 500,000 copies. The album sold 1.4 million copies in its first four days on the shelves. It eventually was certified triple platinum by the RIAA for sales of more than 3 million copies in the U.S.

[RELATED: On This Day in 1969: Elton John Released His Debut Album, Empty Sky]

John’s fans clearly were excited about the new record. In the months leading up to Captain Fantastic’s arrival, Elton’s Greatest Hits collection had spent 10 straight weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. albums chart from late 1974 to early ’75. John also had enjoyed two chart-topping singles on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975—his cover of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Philadelphia Freedom.”

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy knocked Earth, Wind & Fire’s That’s the Way of the World from the top spot of the Billboard 200. The album then spent six weeks at No. 1 on the chart before it was supplanted by Paul McCartney and Wings’ Venus and Mars.

Details About Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy is a concept album featuring songs that told the story of John and lyricist Bernie Taupin’s rise to fame. For the record’s title track, Taupin had created respective alter egos for Elton and himself.

The record included songs about Elton and Bernie’s financial struggles during their early music career (“[Gotta Get a] Meal Ticket”), their enjoyment of collaborating on songs (“Writing”), and the platonic affection they had for each other (“We All Fall in Love Sometimes”).

About the Hit Song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”

Only one single was released from the album, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” which peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100. Taupin wrote the song’s lyrics about Elton’s ill-fated engagement to a woman named Linda Woodrow. John, who wasn’t openly gay at the time, was preparing to wed Woodrow in 1970, but, not surprisingly, he was apprehensive.

Elton went out drinking with Taupin and his friend, blues artist Long John Baldry, and expressed his doubts about the marriage. Baldry encouraged Elton to break off his engagement, which he did. Taupin wrote of Baldry as the “someone” who saved Elton’s life.

Album Cover and Packaging

The cover of Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was a cartoonish painting by pop artist Alan Aldridge inspired by Renaissance painter Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. It depicts John and Taupin as their alter egos surrounded by grotesque and bizarre creatures.

The original LP was packaged in a gatefold sleeve, and came with a poster and two booklets. The booklets included song lyrics, photos, memorabilia, calendar entries, gig announcements, album reviews, and a comic strip offering a semi-autobiographical account of John and Taupin’s early music career.

The Captain & the Kid Album

In 2006, Elton John released The Captain & the Kid, a sequel to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The album told John and Taupin’s story from the time of Captain Fantastic’s release to the then-present day.

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy Track List:

Side One

  1. “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”
  2. “Tower of Babel”
  3. “Bitter Fingers”
  4. “Tell Me When the Whistle Blows”
  5. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”

Side Two

  1. “(Gotta Get a) Meal Ticket”
  2. “Better Off Dead”
  3. “Writing”
  4. “We All Fall in Love Sometimes”
  5. “Curtains”

Leave a Reply

Carly Pearce released a great new country album today

New Country and Americana Albums for June 7, 2024: New Music from Carly Pearce, Tracy Lawrence, and More

The Story and Meaning Behind “Junk,” a Paul McCartney Leftover with Staying Power