Having promoted multiple albums nearly each year since his 1970 breakthrough via ever-bigger tours, Elton was by mid-decade starting to seriously bug out. During “Elton Week” in Los Angeles 1975, he swallowed 60 Valium and jumped into a swimming pool; two days later he packed Dodger Stadium. Bernie Taupin had his own problems; his wife had hooked up with Elton’s new bassist, and was divorcing him while this 1976 double-album was being created.
Shortly before its release, Elton did an infamous Rolling Stone interview where, after having played the night before what he thought would be his last concert for a very long time, possibly forever, he blurts out that he’s bisexual. Some said this was the reason why Blue Moves didn’t sell as well as Elton’s previous blockbusters. More likely is the simple fact that much of it suggests a distinctly depressed Steely Dan album — not what the world was expecting on the heels of Elton’s giddy Kiki Dee duet, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
But for those willing to wade through jazz-fusion instrumentals, there’s plenty of compelling stuff. Aside from characteristic ballads like the hit “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” and the equally melodramatic “Tonight,” excursions like “One Horse Town” fuse prog and disco while “Boogie Pilgrim” conjures Little Feat. At the album’s core, tracks like “Between Seventeen and Twenty” bare an unmistakable elegiac tone, as if Taupin and John secretly yearned to kill off the old Elton. Right before the album’s release, John fired the band. He wouldn’t complete another full album with Bernie until 1983, or record with longtime producer Gus Dudgeon until 1985.