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 Ofarim… Ahem. 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.