Last year, Elton John surprised fans on Record Store Day with the premiere release of Regimental Sgt. Zippo, a complete studio album which he recorded prior to his first released LP, Empty Sky. Now, the once-lost psych-pop gem is seeing an even wider release. On July 8, Island/Mercury will debut the stereo version of Regimental Sgt. Zippo on 1CD and 1LP vinyl; the RSD vinyl edition was presented in mono. The CD version is promised to contain the full album in both mono and stereo.
The first official taste of Regimental Sgt. Zippo came in 2020 with Elton John's Jewel Box. Among its 8 CDs were three discs of rarities spanning 1965-1971. Perhaps the most intriguing tracks included were those intended for Regimental Sgt. Zippo, a full track listing for which was published in the Jewel Box liner notes. Recorded at Dick James Studios in London in late 1967 and early 1968, composer John and lyricist Bernie Taupin - in the early days of their still-enduring partnership - wrote its group of songs under the influence of The Beatles but in their own developing style. The sessions were produced by guitarist Caleb Quaye and engineered by Frank Owen, and the band featured John, Quaye, bassist Dee Murray and drummer Dave Hynes. Paul Fenoulhet's orchestra played the baroque-tinged arrangements by Zack Laurence. (Read more details about the sessions at EltonJohn.com!)
A total of twelve tunes were intended for the album and it was given its title with a nod to Elton's real name of Reginald, his father's military service, and once again, The Beatles. But for reasons lost to time, the album was shelved and the world would have to wait until 1969 to hear a full album of John and Taupin songs with Empty Sky. Though some of its evocative tracks leaked out on bootlegs, Regimental Sgt. Zippo was largely forgotten about in the ensuing decades as the duo's careers hit the stratosphere.
All of the songs from Regimental Sgt. Zippo save "You'll Be Sorry to See Me Go" were featured on Jewel Box (though not in album sequence). A number of them were presented in demo form - not in the versions that would have been heard on the final album - including "When I Was Tealby Abbey," "And the Clock Goes Round," "Angel Tree," and "A Dandelion Dies in the Wind." Still other songs were issued on Jewel Box in alternate mixes and/or versions. The only tracks which are presented in identical versions on Jewel Box and the final album are "Turn to Me," "Tartan Coloured Lady," and "Hourglass."
While Regimental Sgt. Zippo never got far enough in 1968 to see artwork designed, the cover of the new presentation is from the period. David Larkham made the pen-and-ink drawing seen on the cover in 1969 in connection with the release of Empty Sky; his original black-and-white illustration was transformed by art director Darren Evans (with Larkham's consent) into the full-color version seen now.
Regimental Sgt. Zippo is an enjoyable and essential addition to any Elton John CD library. We've got the tracklisting for the upcoming CD and LP below. If you would like to grab a copy of what would have been Elton John's first album, head to your local record store or online retailer on July 8.
Also on July 8, Elton's double platinum 1992 album The One (featuring "The One," "Runaway Train," "Simple Life," and "The Last Song") and rootsy 2004 set Peachtree Road (with "All That I'm Allowed (I'm Thankful)," "Turn the Lights Out When You Leave," and "Answer in the Sky") will be reissued on vinyl. Peachtree Road will include three bonus tracks performed by John from his Tony Award-nominated score to Broadway's Billy Elliot: "The Letter," "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher," and "Electricity." You'll also find pre-order links for those below.
Elton John, Regimental Sgt. Zippo (Island/Mercury, 2021)
- When I Was Tealby Abbey (Take 7 - rec. April 5, 1968)
- And the Clock Goes Round (Take 3 - rec. April 3, 1968)
- Sitting Doing Nothing (John/Quaye) (Take 4 - rec. March 7, 1968) (Alternate Mix to Jewel Box version)
- Turn to Me (Take 10 - March 10, 1968)
- Angel Tree (Take 3 - rec. January 11, 1968 - backgrounds added January 19)
- Regimental Sgt. Zippo (Take 2 - rec. May 20, 1968) (Complete Band Version/Alternate Mix to Jewel Box Band Version)
- A Dandelion Dies in the Wind (Take 2 - rec. March 10, 1968)
- You'll Be Sorry to See Me Go (Take 3 - rec. April 4, 1968)
- You're My Woman (a.k.a. Nina) (Take 7 - rec. November 15, 1967) (Arranged Band Version/Alternate Mix to Jewel Box Band Version)
- Tartan Coloured Lady (Take 11 - rec. February 16, 1968)
- Hourglass (Take 1 - rec. March 10, 1968)
- Watching the Planes Go By (Take 1 - rec. February 6, 1968) (Arranged Band Version/Alternate Mix to Jewel Box Band Version)
- Simple Life
- The One
- Sweat It Out
- Runaway Train
- Whitewash Country
- The North
- When A Woman Doesn't Want You
- On Dark Street
- Understanding Women
- The Last Song
- Weight Of The World
- Porch Swing In Tupelo
- Answer In The Sky
- Turn The Lights Out When You Leave
- My Elusive Drug
- They Call Her The Cat
- Freaks In Love
- All That I'm Allowed (I'm Thankful)
- I Stop And I Breathe
- Too Many Tears
- It's Getting Dark In Here
- I Can't Keep This From You
- The Letter
- Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher