"Crocodile Rock" is a song written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and recorded in summer 1972 at the Château d'Hérouville studio in France (it was listed as "Strawberry Studios" in the album's credits), where John and his team had previously recorded the Honky Château album. It was released on 27 October 1972 in the UK and 20 November 1972 in the U.S., as a pre-release single from his forthcoming 1973 album Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, and became his first U.S. number-one single, reaching the top spot on 3 February 1973, and stayed there for three weeks. In the U.S., it was certified Gold on 5 February 1973 and Platinum on 13 September 1995 by the RIAA.
In Canada, it topped the chart as well, remaining at No.1 on the RPM 100 national singles chart for four weeks from 17 February – 10 March. It was the first song released as a single on the MCA label (catalogue #40000) after MCA dissolved its Uni, Decca, Kapp and Coral labels. (John had previously been with the Uni label.) "Crocodile Rock" is dominated by a Farfisa organ, played by John. The lyrics take a nostalgic look at early rock 'n' roll, and dating and youthful independence of that era. Elton John band members, including Davey Johnstone on guitars, Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, were also performers on the song. Elton John, however, did all the vocals, including the falsetto backing vocals.
The song was inspired by John's discovery of leading Australian band Daddy Cool and their hit single "Eagle Rock", which was the most successful Australian single of the early 1970s (with 1,000,000 sold), remaining at No.1 for a record of 10 weeks. John heard the song and the group on his 1972 Australian tour and was greatly impressed by it. A photo included in the album packaging features John's lyricist, Bernie Taupin, wearing a "Daddy Who?" promotional badge. The song also appears to have been strongly influenced by songs from the late 50s-early 60s ("when Rock was young"), including Del Shannon's 1962 "Cry Myself to Sleep", and "Little Darlin'" (recorded in 1957 by The Diamonds and The Gladiolas). The chorus resembles "Speedy Gonzales" by Pat Boone. While there was no actual "Crocodile Rock", there was a dance called The Alligator.
In a 1974 lawsuit filed in the US District Court of Los Angeles by Attorney Donald Barnett on behalf of "Speedy Gonzales"' composer Buddy Kaye, it was alleged that defendants Elton John and Bernie Taupin illegally incorporated chords from "Speedy Gonzales" which produced a falsetto tone into the Crocodile song co-written by defendants. The parties reached an amicable settlement between them and the case was then dismissed.
Bernie Taupin also stated in an interview with a magazine that "Crocodile Rock" was a funny song in that he didn't mind creating it, but it wouldn't be something he'd listen to; it was simply something fun at the time. Elton John has dismissed criticism of the song that it was "derivative", quoted in the booklet for the 1995 reissue of "Don’t Shoot Me ..." as saying, “I wanted it to be a record about all the things I grew up with. Of course it’s a rip-off, it’s derivative in every sense of the word.”
John has played the song numerous times in concert, including a ballad version he performed at the Greek Theater with Ray Cooper in 1994. Live versions released include an audio version from 1974 on theHere and There original LP and 1995 CD reissue, and a video concert version on the Elton 60 – Live at Madison Square Garden DVD release.
- Elton John – piano, Farfisa organ, vocals
- Davey Johnstone – electric guitar
- Dee Murray – bass
- Nigel Olsson – drums
Hong Kong singer Teddy Robin (泰迪羅賓) covered the song on his (c. 1971) LP album Melody Chain with Fontana Records.
Between 1972 and 1974, this song was covered by Singapore-based female singer Ervinna, backing music by The Stylers, on her LP album Top Hits with the local White Cloud Record.
Cliff Richard covered this song in his live shows in the early 1970s and can be heard as part of his Rock Medley on the live Japan Tour '74 album, originally only released in the Far East but given a CD release in the UK and Europe in 2008.
On the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin recorded in 1991 by a symposium of eminent performers as the soundtrack of the documentary film Two Rooms, the song is covered by The Beach Boys. Their interpretation emphasises the vocal reminiscence of the rock and roll era and tones down the honky tonk and cha-cha-cha ambiance of the original.
The song was featured in the 1994, critically acclaimed and box office hit Four Weddings and a Funeral where Elton John also provided the soundtrack.
The song was prominently featured in The Vicar of Dibley episode "Community Spirit".
The cast of VeggieTales performed this song in the album Bob and Larry Sing the 70's.
The song was featured in Bob the Builder: The Album.
"Crocodile Rock" is featured as one of the songs in the video game Lego Rock Band.
Nelly Furtado and John himself covered the song in 2010 redoing a few of the lyrics, i.e., "I remember when rock was young, Gnomeo and Juliet had so much fun.", instead of "Me and Susie had so much fun". It was recorded for the soundtrack of the 2011 film Gnomeo & Juliet.
- Dean, Maury (2003). Rock N' Roll Gold Rush. Algora. p. 46. ISBN 0-87586-207-1.
- "List of RPM number-one singles of 1973 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
- "Crocodile Rock". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
- Creswell, Toby; Samantha Trenoweth (2006). "Ross Wilson". 1001 Australians You Should Know. North Melbourne, Victoria: Pluto Press. pp. 242–243. ISBN 978-1-86403-361-8.
- "No. 1 Hits 1971". The Menzies Era. Retrieved 22 February 2009.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. NOTE: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1970 until ARIA created their own charts in mid-1988.
|Preceded by||US Billboard Hot 100 number one single (Elton John version)
3 February 1973 (three weeks)
|Preceded by||Canadian RPM 100 number-one single (Elton John version)
17 February 1973 (four weeks)
|Preceded by||Italian Singles Chart number-one single (Elton John version)
10 February 1973 (five weeks)
"Ich fange nie mehr was an einem Sonntag an" byMonica Morell
|Swiss Music Charts number-one single (Elton John version)
27 February 1973 (three weeks)
"Mama Loo" by Les Humphries Singers