393. ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, by Elton John & Kiki Dee

And so, Sir Elton John belatedly takes the stage. Much like Bowie, who finally made #1 a few months before, we’ve already missed a lot of his best stuff. But hey – better late than never. Plus, this is still a pop classic.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, by Elton John (his 1st of eight #1s) & Kiki Dee (her 1st and only #1)

6 weeks, from 18th July – 29th August 1976

Don’t go breaking my heart… I couldn’t if I tried… It’s a proper duet, with the singers taking different lines. Finishing one another’s lines, in fact, like an irritatingly cute couple. Oh honey if I get restless… Baby you’re not that kind… It’s the first duet to top the charts since, um, Windsor Davies and Don Estelle. Or, if you’re looking for a non-novelty duet, you’ll have to go back to Serge and Jane, or Esther and Abi OfarimAhem. The point being – genuine duets like this don’t come along too often.

I’m surprised, to be honest, just how disco this record is. It’s usually background noise, a seventies ‘Best Of’ staple, and I’d have put it down as pure pop with a nod towards classic Motown. But listening properly, you can hear that the guitars, the drums and the strings are all set to ‘Disco’. Plus, it’s got the perfect rhythm for hand-jiving.

Woohooo… Nobody knows it…. That hook cements ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’s place as a gem. Is it as good as, say, ‘Rocket Man’? No, obviously not. Unlike David Bowie, Elton isn’t breaking his chart-topping duck with an all-time classic. (In fact, like Bowie, and Queen, who we’ve also met recently, Elton John is very poorly served by his #1 singles.) Still, it’s a fun record, and a karaoke classic, despite being much longer than it has any need to be, at four and a half minutes.

As for Elton’s partner in this… Who was Kiki Dee? Turns out she was the first British female to sign for Tamla Motown, which is pretty impressive. She had scored a few minor chart placings before this mega-hit, then she scored a few more minor ones in the years that followed, until she re-teamed with Elton in 1993, for #2 hit ‘True Love’. She’s still around, releasing albums and working in musical theatre. (Apparently her part in ‘Don’t Go Breaking…’ was written with Dusty Springfield in mind, but she was too sick to record it. No offence to Kiki, who sings it very well, but just imagine how darned iconic this would have been as Elton & Dusty…)

Then there’s the artist formerly known as Reg… Wonder what became of him? Well, amazingly, we won’t meet him again atop this countdown until 1990, when he will finally get a solo chart-topper! It’s not that he lacked hits – this record was his 10th Top 10 hit since breaking through with ‘Your Song’, and he would continue to have hits throughout the eighties – just that for whatever reason they rarely made it all the way to the top.

Till then, then, Elton. Before we go, though, it’s worth pausing to remembering that, as the follow-up to ‘True Love’, ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ returned to the charts, at #7, in a very ‘90s house version. Elton’s duetting partner on that occasion: RuPaul Charles.

12 thoughts on “393. ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, by Elton John & Kiki Dee

  1. Yes, compare Elton’s chart-toppers in the USA – Crocodile Rock 50’s pastiche, Soul Bennie & The Jets, Psychedelic Beatles remake Lucy In The Sky, Philly disco classic Philadelphia Freedom, rockpop Island Girl, and then this fab track to boot, that’s much more representative of Elton’s status. 4 of those, including this, topped my personal charts of the times, and that’s without even considering the wonder of Rocket Man, Border Song, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and others.

    The video was iconic, and Elt of course gave Kiki her first real taste of success with her gorgeous Amoureuse on his Rocket record label that also resurrected Neil Sedaka’s career. Bung in this, rockin’ Music In Me, poptastic Star, some of her Motown tracks, and it’s a nice collection of tracks. You’re right about Dusty, though, much as I love Kiki’s voice, there’s no-one better than Dusty, that would have been amazing and revived her career 10 years earlier than the Pet Shop Boys did.

  2. Yeah for Elton John this song is good but not among his all-time greatest. Ultimately, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is a song that as Stereogum’s Tom Breihan put in his review lives on in karaoke singalongs, and for good reason, since it’s the type of song that immediately makes you want to sing along when it comes on and with its non-complicated lyrics and easy singing style isn’t hard to do which explains its popular use for uses in TV, movies, and duet covers. But he does make a point at how the lyrics only really exist to fill space and Kiki Dee doesn’t have a lot of presence next to Elton John considering she sang her vocals the way John sang them on the demo so they both wound up sounding alike. But the music, for as down the middle it sounds, does give the song a bright upbeat bounce that helps in its fun singalong quality with the orchestration and piano being handled by current big-time film composer James Newton Howard. Ultimately, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” acts as an ending to the classic Elton John period after the massive American success he had in 1974 and 1975 as I’ve written about since soon after the song hit #1 he had his famous interview with Rolling Stone coming out as bisexual and wouldn’t be this big again for a long while. Much like the UK, it wouldn’t be until the massive Princess Diana tribute version of “Candle In The Wind” before he’d return to #1 with his biggest ever hit but he did hit #1 twice in between on the biggest hit of 1986 as one of the Friends on the Dionne Warwick led AIDS charity single “That’s What Friends Are For” and with George Michael in 1992 with a cover of his own “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” originally a #2 hit in ’74.

    • Yes, Elton, Bowie, Queen… they are all very poorly represented on the British singles chart, in terms of #1s. With all those acts I don’t think it was down to a drop in popularity, as the hits were there. I think it was often just luck. (Prince, though, is the ultimate bad-luck story… one number one with a pretty dreadful ballad.) As for ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, it is a perfectly fine pop song, as you say, and one that lives on at karaoke, as it is just so darn easy to sing!

  3. Hard to believe this was his first! In America he was having quite a few and you would think…I don’t know….being British would have helped! Hard to believe Tiny Dancer or Rocket Man didn’t go…
    I do like this song though…it’s hard not to sing along.

    • Yes, he was having hits but for whatever reason none of them made it to the top. It is catchy. As someone else pointed out, it’s also really easy to sing, so it lives on in karaoke nights…

      • Just seeing your post has it going through my head.
        Tiny Dancer remains my favorite of him…and it only went to like 43 here or something like that. His first number 1 here wasn’t great either…Crocodile Rock…but he started to roll after that.

      • Oh I like it but like this one…not one of his best. Yes I like Your Song also…but I will admit something…after this song…yea he had a lot of hits but nothing compared to his seventies stretch.

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