"Bennie and the Jets" is a song composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The song is written in the key of G major and first appeared on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in 1973. "Bennie and the Jets" has been one of John's most popular songs and was performed during John's appearance at Live Aid.
- 2 Song composition
- 3 Influence
- 4 Covers
- 5 Mondegreens in the Song
- 6 References in popular culture
- 7 Notes
"Bennie and the Jets" was featured on side one of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, and Elton John was set against releasing it as a single, believing it would fail. Radio station CKLWin Windsor, Ontario began heavy airplay of the song and it became the number one song in Detroit. This attention caused other American and Canadian Top 40 stations to add it to their playlists as well and as a result, the song peaked at number one on the US singles charts in 1974. In the U.S., it was certified Gold on 8 April 1974 and Platinum on 13 September 1975 by the RIAA. for the same shipment of 1 million copies and had sold 2.8 million copies by August 1976.
"Bennie and the Jets" was also John's first Top 40 hit on what at the time was called the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, where it peaked at number 15, the highest position out of the three of his singles which reached that chart. The acceptance of "Bennie" on R&B radio helped land John, a huge soul music fan, a guest appearance on the 17 May 1975, edition of Soul Train, during which he played "Bennie and the Jets" and "Philadelphia Freedom." In Canada, it held the #1 spot on the RPM national singles charts for two weeks (13–20 April), becoming his first number one single of 1974 and his fourth overall.
Produced by Gus Dudgeon, the song was recorded during the "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" sessions in France at Château d'Hérouville's Strawberry Studios, where John and Taupin had recorded their previous two albums, Honky Chateau and Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player.
After recording the song in the studio, John and the band worried that it was too plain and unoriginal. In the Eagle Vision documentary on the making of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," John himself recalled, "I fought tooth and nail against 'Bennie' coming out as a single." According to guitarist Davey Johnstone, "'Bennie and the Jets' was one of the oddest songs we ever recorded. We just sat back and said, 'This is really odd.'" While mixing the album, Dudgeon came up with the idea of creating a "live from Playhouse Theatre" sound for the track. He added reverb effects, applause and other audience sounds from John's previous concerts and a loop from the Jimi Hendrix live album Isle of Wight, plus whistles, giving it the "live concert recording" feel that has since become a sort of trademark.
John rarely plays the song verbatim to the studio version, and often makes subtle or even drastic changes. Live, the piano solo in the middle of the song has been played in all sorts of variations, from very close to the original to wildly improvised and extended versions, such as the elaborate version during a Central Park concert in 1980 and another memorable take on it during the "Elton and his band" part of the show recorded for what would become "Live in Australia" in December 1986. (It can be seen on various Laserdisc releases of the show.) He's also been known to end the song in a wide range of styles, including classical, swing, boogie-woogie and even using the signature five-note phrase from John Williams' score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The song tells of "Bennie and the Jets", a fictional band of whom the song's narrator is a fan. In interviews, Taupin has said that the song's lyrics are a satire on the music industry of the 1970s. The greed and glitz of the early '70s music scene is portrayed by Taupin's words:
- We'll kill the fatted calf tonight, so stick around,
- you're gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound.
Taupin also goes on to describe the flashy wardrobe of "Bennie," the leader of the band:
- She's got electric boots, a mohair suit
- You know I read it in a magazine Ohh...
Axl Rose, of Guns N' Roses, has stated it was listening to "Bennie and the Jets" that inspired him to become a singer. He would later perform alongside Elton John at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.
- In 1991 CKBE-FM David Tyler.
- Pyotr Mamonov and Vasily Shumov recorded a cover of this song on their Russkie poyut (Russians are Singing) album (1994).
- The NFL's New York Jets used a parody of the song called "Vinny and the Jets" during quarterback Vinny Testaverde's first run with the team from 1998 to 2003.
- Parodies relating to New York Mets players Lenny Dykstra and later Benny Agbayani were mainstays on New York City radio stations.
- Ray Castoldi, the longtime organist for the NBA's New York Knicks, is often heard playing this song at Knicks home games. The song has also been played on the organ at Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings home games.
- The Beastie Boys released a cover of this song on their The Sounds of Science album in 1999. The song, titled "Benny and the Jets", was sung by frequent Beastie Boys collaborator Biz Markie. This recording was first released in 1995 as a flexi disc inside of issue two of the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal magazine.
- Biz Markie performed his own humorous rendition of "Bennie and the Jets" on The Chris Rock Show in 2000.
- Katherine Heigl and James Marsden sing along with the song, karaoke-style, while dancing on a bar in the 2008 film 27 Dresses. Both of them make many mistakes in the lyrics.
- Mary J. Blige sampled the melody for her song "Deep Inside". When Blige asked Elton John for permission to sample the piano line, he ended up agreeing to actually play the line on the track instead.
- Ashanti's 2008 single "Good Good" also sampled the melody.
- Mister G included a recording of himself playing Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” at the age of nine as the last track on his album BUGS
- Cher performed the song in a duet on The Cher Show with Elton John on piano in 1975.
- In 2006 Christina Aguilera with Elton John performed this song at Fashion Rocks.
- American Idol Season 10 finalist Haley Reinhart performed a cover of "Bennie and the Jets" during the Top 11 (2nd Week) finalist performances on March 30, 2011. She performed it again after her elimination during the Top 3 Results Show, on May 19.
- It was covered by The Hickoids on Kicking It With the Twits, a 2011 mini LP of British Invasion era covers.
- Covered by Victoria Vox on her 2012 Under the Covers CD.
- In 2013 Brandy Moss-Scott released a cover of "Bennie and the Jets".
The song contains the line "She's got electric boots, a mohair suit", which is often misheard as "She's got electric boobs, and mohair shoes". A scene in the film 27 Dresses shows that this is but one of many mondegreens that listeners have invented for this song.
- The original Winnipeg Jets NHL team's mascot was named Benny, partially in reference to this song.
- The mascot of Australian association football (soccer) club Newcastle United Jets FC is named Benny, again, as a reference to the song.
- Kickboxing champion Benny Urquidez is nicknamed "Benny the Jet."
- In the movie 27 Dresses, the two main characters sing "Bennie and the Jets" at a bar, partially incorrectly in jest. They also continue to mention the song after that scene.
- On the show The Office, Andy Bernard sings "Andy and the Tuna" to the tune of "Bennie and the Jets".
- The title and slow, vamping style of the Ben Folds song "Hiroshima (B-B-B-Benny Hit His Head)" are a homage to "Bennie and the Jets".
- In an episode of The Simpsons, the character Lenny remarks that he thought their gang's name would be "Lenny and the Jets".
- The song also features in the movies Sliding Doors and Running with Scissors, both starring actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
- The song is in the film My Girl 2, when Anna Chlumsky (Vada) and Austin O'Brien (Nick) go out for a walk at night in Los Angeles. The scene occurs about 59 minutes into the movie.
- The song is also parodied in an episode of Futurama (as 'Pharaoh And His Pets') in which Bender becomes a pharaoh.
- The song was used in the opening credits of the 1975 film Aloha, Bobby and Rose, written and directed by Floyd Mutrux. It is reprised later in the film.
- In the film Mystery Team, a disguised Jason refers to his "sons" as "Benny" and "The Jets".
- In the film The Sandlot, the skilled young baseball player, later shown as a star player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is named Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez.
- In the show Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope mentions that her favourite song by the pasta-themed children's performer Freddie Spaghetti is "Penne and the Jets".
- In several broadcasts of NASCAR on TNT, there was a weekly segment call Benny in the Pits featuring Benny Parsons, a former NASCAR driver, interviewing multiple pit-road mechanics.
- In a season six episode of Desperate Housewives, Tom Scavo calls Lynette's "boob implants" Bennie and the Jets.