1976 Elton John – I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)
Elton John’s career began a long string of hit singles beginning with Your Song in 1970. Every single he released from Rocket Man to Island Girl reached the top forty on the UK chart, but after that, releases became less dependable.
Both sides of Elton’s first single in 1976 got some airplay. The Hot 100 combined the two sides for charts rather than tracking them individually. The a-side of Elton’s first single in 1976 was a remix of an album cut, Grow Some Funk Of You Own.
The b-side of the single was the ballad I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford). Robert Ford was a member of the Jesse James gang. He betrayed Jesse and shot him in the back and killed him, hoping to get a pardon and some reward money. Bernie’s lyrics in the song referenced that killing and reflected on the end of his marriage to Maxine Feibelman (the woman he had written about in the song Tiny Dancer).
The b-side of the record reached #21 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The a-side was too upbeat to reach that chart, so it’s likely that the record’s progress on the Hot 100 was primarily a result of airplay for the b-side. The two sides combined peaked at only #14 on the Hot 100, but the record failed to chart at all in the UK. It was the first single Elton had released in over five years that failed to chart in the UK.
The recording of the album the two songs came from may have had a positive impact on at least one artist’s career: Kiki Dee. She sang background vocals on some of Elton’s recordings beginning on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album and sang on seven of the songs on the Rock of the Westies album. A few months later, Dusty Springfield became ill and was unable to sing on a new song Elton and Bernie had written, and Kiki filled in for her. She shared the vocals and billing with Elton on Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, and the single topped the UK chart and the US Hot 100 in late 1976.
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