Remember When: Elton John’s Classic Song “Bennie and the Jets” Became His Second No. 1 ‘Billboard’ Hot 100 Hit

Elton John scored his second No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Bennie and the Jets” 40 years ago, on April 13, 1974. John’s first Hot 100 chart-topper was “Crocodile Rock,” which spent three weeks at No. 1 in February 1973.

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“Bennie and the Jets” was the third single released in the U.S. from John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, which spent eight straight weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 chart at the end of 1973. The previous singles released from the double album, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and the title track, peaked at No. 12 and No. 2, respectively, on the Hot 100.

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“Bennie and the Jets” is a unique song that doesn’t sound like anything John had released before or has put out since. Coming in the wake of the U.K.’s glam-rock craze, Bernie Taupin’s lyrics sing the praises of a fictional futuristic band that he imagined were made up of androids and fronted by a beautiful androgynous woman. John’s music was his own homage to glam rock.

About the Recording of “Bennie and the Jets”

Although “Bennie and the Jets” is a studio recording, certain elements make it sound as if it were recorded live at a concert. During the recording of the song, John had played the piano chord that starts the song a bar early, and when producer Gus Dudgeon heard the playback, it reminded him of the way a band might kick off a song at a show. Dudgeon decided to create the illusion of a live track by adding real crowd noise and other effects.

The producer mixed in sounds taken from a 1972 John concert at Royal Festival Hall in London and Jimi Hendrix’s 1970 performance at the Isle of Wight Festival. He also added whistles from a live show in Vancouver, Canada.

“Bennie and the Jets” Also Was a Soul Hit

“Bennie and the Jets” also became John’s first Top-40 hit on Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles chart, reaching No. 15 on that tally. The song’s success on that chart led to John’s 1975 appearance on the TV show Soul Train.

According Songfacts, John was a big Soul Train fan and he asked to appear on the show. He became one of the first white artists to perform on the program. During his appearance, he played “Bennie and the Jets” and “Philadelphia Freedom.”

On the Enduring Popularity of “Bennie and the Jets”

“Bennie and the Jets” went on to be certified double platinum by the RIAA for equivalent sales of 2 million in the U.S. In 2024, the tune was ranked No. 371 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

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