Writers: Elton John and Bernie Taupin
Producer: Gus Dudgeon
Recorded: June 1972 at Strawberry Studios, France
Released: January 12, 1973
|Players:||Elton John–vocals, piano, mellotron
Davey Johnstone–acoustic guitar, banjo
|Album:||Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player (MCA, 1973)|
The second single from Elton John‘s Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player album (following “Crocodile Rock”), “Daniel” hit Number Two in the U.S. and Number Four in the U.K.
Don’t Shoot Me… was John’s first Number One album in the U.K. and his second chart-topper in the U.S.
Don’t Shoot Me… marks guitarist Davey Johnstone‘s arrival as a full-time member of John’s band.
According to lyricist Bernie Taupin, “Daniel” was inspired by an article he read in Newsweek magazine about Vietnam veterans: “I wanted to write something that was sympathetic to the people that came home…It was about this guy who’d been wounded in the Vietnam War and had gone back to his hometown, just wanting to forget it all and get on with his life. But the people there wanted him to be a hero, and wouldn’t leave him alone. In the end, this guy had become so disillusioned, he’d decided the only way out was to leave America altogether.”
The song was intended to be a narrative about a veteran fleeing America (for Spain) following the war, but much of the song’s detail was contained in a final verse that John decided to cut out while they were writing the song.
Taupin also calls it “the most misinterpreted song we’ve ever written. It’s been interpreted as a gay anthem, a family-feud song–there’s no end to it.”
The song was done very quickly, Taupin added: “I got out of bed one morning at the chateau and wrote this thing, called ‘Daniel,’ in about half an hour, and took it down to Elton. Elton got up from the breakfast table, went over to the piano, and finished it in about 15 or 20 minutes, then said to the band, ‘Hey, guys, let’s cut this.’ We’d done the track by the end of the day.”
John’s publisher and record company did not want to release “Daniel” as a single, which led to a public dispute between the companies and John. John even began playing the song to friends in the music press, openly campaigning for its release. When the song was released, the publisher refused to pay to have it promoted.
John performed the song on Michael Parkinson‘s BBC1 talk show a few days after its release. For the occasion he wore a one-piece silver outfit and shoes with stilt-height heels.