"Bennie and the Jets" (also titled as "Benny & the Jets") is a song composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The song first appeared on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in 1973. "Bennie and the Jets" has been one of John's most popular songs and was performed during John's appearance at Live Aid. The track is spelled Benny on the sleeve of the single and in the track listing of the album, but Bennie on the album vinyl disc label.
"Bennie and the Jets" was featured on side one of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, and Elton John was set against releasing it as a single, believing it would fail. CKLW in Windsor, Ontario, began heavy airplay of the song and it became the #1 song in the Detroit market. This attention caused other American and Canadian Top 40 stations to add it to their playlists as well and as a result, the song peaked at #1 on the US singles chart in 1974. In the US, it was certified Gold on 8 April 1974 and Platinum on 13 September 1995 by the RIAA, and had sold 2.8 million copies by August 1976.
"Bennie and the Jets" was also John's first Top 40 hit on what at the time was called the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, where it peaked at #15, the highest position out of the three of his singles which reached that chart. The acceptance of "Bennie" on R&B radio helped land John, a huge soul music fan, a guest appearance on the 17 May 1975 edition of Soul Train, where he played "Bennie and the Jets" and "Philadelphia Freedom". In Canada, it held the #1 spot on the RPM national singles chart for two weeks (13-20 April), becoming his first #1 single of 1974 and his fourth overall.
The song tells of "Bennie and the Jets", a fictional band of whom the song's narrator is a fan. The song is written in the key of G major. In interviews, Taupin has said that the song's lyrics are a satire on the music industry of the 1970s. The greed and glitz of the early 1970s music scene is portrayed by Taupin's words:
- We'll kill the fatted calf tonight, so stick around,
- you're gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound.
Taupin also goes on to describe the flashy wardrobe of "Bennie", the leader of the band:
- She's got electric boots, a mohair suit
- You know I read it in a magazine Ohh...
Produced by Gus Dudgeon, the song was recorded during the "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" sessions in France at Château d'Hérouville's Strawberry Studios, where John and Taupin had recorded their previous two albums, Honky Château and Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player.
After recording the song in the studio, John and the band worried that it was too plain and unoriginal. In the Eagle Vision documentary on the making of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, John recalled, "I fought tooth and nail against 'Bennie' coming out as a single." According to guitarist Davey Johnstone, "'Bennie and the Jets' was one of the oddest songs we ever recorded. We just sat back and said, 'This is really odd.'" While mixing the album, Dudgeon came up with the idea of creating a "live from Playhouse Theatre" sound for the track. He added reverb effects, applause and other audience sounds from John's previous concerts and a loop from the Jimi Hendrix live album Isle of Wight, plus whistles, giving it the "live concert recording" feel that has since become a sort of trademark.
John rarely plays the song verbatim to the studio version, and often makes subtle or even drastic changes. Live, the piano solo in the middle of the song has been played in all sorts of variations, from very close to the original to wildly improvised and extended versions, such as the elaborate version during a Central Park concert in 1980 and another memorable take on it during the "Elton and his band" part of the show recorded for what would become Live in Australia in December 1986. (It can be seen on various Laserdisc releases of the show.) He has also been known to end the song in a wide range of styles, including classical, swing, boogie-woogie and even using the signature five-note phrase from John Williams' score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In May 2017, an official music video for "Bennie and the Jets" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as a winner of Elton John: The Cut, a competition organized in partnership with AKQA, Pulse Films, and YouTube in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of his songwriting relationship with Bernie Taupin. The competition called upon independent filmmakers to submit treatments for music videos for one of three Elton John songs from the 1970s, with each song falling within a specific concept category. "Bennie and the Jets" was designated for the choreography category, and was directed by Jack Whiteley and Laura Brownhill. The video was influenced by early cinema and the work of Busby Berkeley, portraying characters as participants on a talent show auditioning for Bennie.
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- In 1991 CKBE-FM David Tyler.
- Pyotr Mamonov and Vasily Shumov recorded a cover of this song on their Russkie poyut (Russians are Singing) album (1994).
- The NFL's New York Jets used a parody of the song called "Vinny and the Jets" during quarterback Vinny Testaverde's first run with the team from 1998 to 2003.
- Parodies relating to New York Mets players Lenny Dykstra and later Benny Agbayani were mainstays on New York City radio stations.
- Ray Castoldi, the longtime organist for the NBA's New York Knicks, is often heard playing this song at Knicks home games. The song has also been played on the organ at Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings home games.
- The Beastie Boys released a cover of this song on their The Sounds of Science album in 1999. The song, titled "Benny and the Jets", was sung by frequent Beastie Boys collaborator Biz Markie. This recording was first released in 1995 as a flexi disc inside of issue two of the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal magazine.
- Biz Markie performed his own humorous rendition of "Bennie and the Jets" on The Chris Rock Show in 2000.
- Katherine Heigl and James Marsden sing along with the song, karaoke-style, while dancing on a bar in the 2008 film 27 Dresses. Both of them make many mistakes in the lyrics.
- Mary J. Blige sampled the melody for her song "Deep Inside". When Blige asked Elton John for permission to sample the piano line, he ended up agreeing to actually play the line on the track instead.
- Ashanti's 2008 single "Good Good" also sampled the melody.
- Mister G included a recording of himself playing Elton John's "Benny and the Jets" at the age of nine as the last track on his album BUGS
- Cher performed the song in a duet on The Cher Show with Elton John on piano in 1975.
- In 2006 Christina Aguilera with Elton John performed this song at Fashion Rocks.
- American Idol Season 10 finalist Haley Reinhart performed a cover of "Bennie and the Jets" during the Top 11 (2nd Week) finalist performances on 30 March 2011. She performed it again after her elimination during the Top 3 Results Show, on 19 May.
- It was covered by The Hickoids on Kicking It With the Twits, a 2011 mini LP of British Invasion era covers.
- Covered by Victoria Vox on her 2012 Under the Covers CD.
- In 2013 Brandy Moss-Scott released a cover of "Bennie and the Jets".
- In 2013 James Sayer announced a cover of "Bennie and the Jets" would be released in December.
- In 2013 Lady Gaga with Elton John performed this song on Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular.
- In 2014 Miguel with Wale performed this song on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: 40th Anniversary Celebration.
- Indie Pop artist BØRNS performs his own cover of "Bennie and The Jets" during live shows. At times he adds a verse from Frank Ocean's "Super Rich Kids" towards the end, as "Super Rich Kids" has samples of "Bennie and The Jets" within it.
- The song was sampled by rap group A Tribe Called Quest for the song "Solid Wall of Sound" on their 2016 album, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service.
- In 2016, Australian comedy band The Axis of Awesome included a short skit on their album Viva La Vida Loca Las Vegas called "Benny and the $*#!s", which sings the song's chorus as "B-B-Benny's got Tourette's", interspersed with random cursing.
- Pink and Logic covered the song alongside John on the 2018 tribute album Revamp: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin.
Mondegreens in the song
The song contains the line "She's got electric boots, a mohair suit", which is often misheard as "She's got electric boobs, and mohair shoes". A scene in the film 27 Dresses shows that this is but one of many mondegreens that listeners have invented for this song.
References in popular culture
- The original Winnipeg Jets NHL team's mascot was named Benny, partially in reference to this song, but primarily after the original owner of the (WHA) team, Ben Hatskin.
- The band TV Girl released an EP on 25 July 2011, entitled "Benny and the Jetts". It features four songs, the first of which is also titled "Benny and the Jetts", which describes a girl that the singer once knew who was always listening to the song.
- In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which also stars John as himself, the main antagonist, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) owns two robot dogs named Bennie and Jet and also has taken John as a hostage.
- Axl Rose cited it as a song that meant a lot to him as a teenager: "Early Elton John is the baddest!"
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- ^ "WATCH: Elton John and Bernie Taupin's 'Tiny Dancer,' 'Rocket Man' and 'Bennie and the Jets' Just Got New Music Videos". People.com. Retrieved 2017.
- ^ "Elton John Premieres Three Music Videos for His '70s Classics". Out Magazine. Retrieved 2017.
- ^ "Lescharts.com - Elton John - Bennie and the Jets" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
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- ^ Kris Norton (30 May 2014). "Top 12 Most Hilarious Misheard Lyrics".
- ^ "Photo of Benny, Winnipeg Jets mascot". Winnipegjetsonline.com. Retrieved 2011.
- ^ "TV Girl Bandcamp Site for 'Benny and the Jetts'". Tvgirl.bandcamp.com. Retrieved 2014.
- ^ Wall, Mick (January 2002). "Eve of destruction". Classic Rock #36. p. 95.