Album Profile: Too Low For Zero (1983)


September 25, 2015 by tworoomsejbt

Released Date:  May 30, 1983

Chart Positions:

US Billboard Top 200 Album Chart Peak Position: #25
UK Album Charts Peak Position: #7

US & UK Singles:
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues (US #4/UK #5)
I’m Still Standing (US #12/UK #4)
Kiss The Bride (US #25/UK #20)
Crystal (UK Only – did not chart)
Cold As Christmas (In The Middle Of The Year) (UK Only – #33)
Too Low For Zero (UK Only – did not chart)

About Too Low For Zero:

Too Low for Zero, released in 1983, was the twenty-second official album release for Elton John. It was his most critically acclaimed disc of the 1980’s, earning Platinum certification by the RIAA. It produced several huge international singles, each accompanied by successful MTV music videos, and it spent over a year on the Billboard album chart.

For the first time since Blue Moves in 1976, all lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin, who has continued in this role to the present day. At the insistence of Taupin, John decided to go back to basics and returned to working with Taupin full-time. John also reunited with the core of his backing band of the early ’70s: Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone as well as Ray Cooper, Kiki Dee and Skaila Kanga (who played harp on John’s self-titled album and Tumbleweed Connection) – two other musicians were intended to join the line-up, but dropped out.

The album was produced by Chris Thomas and recorded at AIR Studios in Montserrat (the same studio for Jump Up!) and Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood.

For the first time since A Single Man, John played synthesizers in addition to piano, since James Newton-Howard left the band. John felt that synths allowed him to write better fast rock songs, having not been entirely happy with such compositions performed on piano.

The album was written and recorded in approximately two weeks, with overdubs completed in a week.

The original LP issue of the album featured a die-cut cover with a special inner sleeve. The four shapes shown on the cover were cut out, with the colours (shown as ink smears on the inner sleeve) showing through the holes. No CD release to date has duplicated these die-cuts.

All B-sides released on US singles from this time originate from his 1978 album A Single Man and the 21 at 33 sessions from 1980. They were also previously released on European singles. In the US, Too Low for Zero was certified gold in January 1984 and platinum in October 1995 by the RIAA.

Track Listing On Original 1983 Release:

All music composed by Elton John, except where noted; all lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. Click on the song title to read the lyrics.

Side One
Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year) 4:19
I’m Still Standing 3:02
Too Low for Zero 5:46
Religion 4:05
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues (John, Davey Johnstone) 4:41

Side Two
Crystal 5:05
Kiss The Bride 4:22
Whipping Boy 3:43
Saint 5:17
One More Arrow 3:34

Recording Personnel and Musicians:

Chris Thomas – Producer
Bill Price – Recording Engineer

Elton John – keyboards, lead and backing vocals
Davey Johnstone – guitars, backing vocals
Dee Murray – bass guitar, backing vocals
Nigel Olsson – drums, backing vocals
Ray Cooper – percussion on “Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)”
Skaila Kanga – harp on “Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)”
Kiki Dee – backing vocals on “Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)”
Stevie Wonder – harmonica on “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”
James Newton-Howard – string arrangements on “One More Arrow”

Recorded at Air Studios, Montserrat

Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For discography of related album issues, singles, reissues and more, visit David Bodoh’s site: Eltonography

Sheet Music Covers:

Music Videos and TV Performances To Support The Album:

Official Music Videos:

Official Video: I’m Still Standing

Official Video: I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

Kiss The Bride

TV Appearances:

UK? (show name unknown): I’m Still Standing

Germany ‘Peter’s Pop Show’: I’m Still Standing

UK? (show name unknown): I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

UK ‘Top Of The Pops’: I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

Italy ‘Fantastic’: I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

UK ‘Top Of The Pops’: Kiss The Bride

Australia ‘Countdown’: Kiss The Bride


Australia ‘Good Morning Parkinson’: April 25, 1983

UK ‘David Frost Show’: May 21, 1983 (w/Rod Stewart)

USA ‘Today Show’: June 1, 1983

Note: please report any links that do not work or were removed so I may update this page. Thanks!

Album Reviews (3):

Rolling Stone (June 9, 1983)
By Don Shewey

Elton John and Bernie Taupin have written some great hit singles, but since the early Elton John LP, they have never produced an album of consistently first-rate material. And although Too Low for Zero is a big step up from losers like Blue Moves and A Single Man, it doesn’t hang together, either.

The best tracks on the new album demonstrate John and Taupin’s canny ability to synthesize hit pop tunes. The bracing, uptempo kickers “I’m Still Standing” and “Kiss the Bride” prove that John has faithfully kept up with hits by the Pointer Sisters; he blends their brisk energy with Beatles-esque “yeah yeah yeahs” on the former song and with some sloppy guitar work reminiscent of the Faces on the latter. And “Crystal” and “Too Low for Zero” are catchy numbers that mix acoustic instruments with synthesizers or drum machines in a way that recalls Joe Jackson’s recent work.

The rest of the album exposes Bernie Taupin’s fondness for building entire lyrics around such well-worn catch phrases as “time on my hands” or “heaven can wait.” Even worse are the sentimental story songs: “Cold as Christmas” depicts the unhappy senescence of a retired couple in Florida (or, in Taupin’s words, “a love burned out by silence in a marriage minus heart”), and “One More Arrow” is an icky recollection of a dead father who never showed his pain and now rests in “the soft, brown earth that holds him forever always young.” Sorta makes ya wanna munch budgies with Ozzy Osbourne, know what I mean?

Source: Rolling Stone         

All Music Review
By Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Elton John began inching back into the mainstream with Jump Up, an uneven but strong record highlighted by “Empty Garden.” Its success set the stage for Too Low for Zero, a full-fledged reunion with his best collaborator, Bernie Taupin, and his classic touring band.

Happily, this is a reunion that works like gangbusters, capturing everybody at a near-peak of their form. That means there aren’t just hit singles, but there are album tracks, like the opener, “Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year),” that strongly (and favorably) recall Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. John hadn’t been this engaging in years, not since Gerald Ford was in office.

Why does this work so well? Well, the question isn’t just consistency, since records like A Single Man were strong, but it’s because each cut here showcases John at a peak. He’s rocking with a vengeance on “I’m Still Standing” and “Kiss the Bride,” crafting a gorgeous romantic standard with “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” while knocking songs as immaculately crafted as “Religion” — songs that anchor this album, giving the hits context.

While this may not be as rich as his classic early period, it’s a terrific record, an exemplary illustration of what a veteran artist could achieve in the early ’80s. [The 1998 reissue — which didn’t appear in the U.S. until 2001 — contains one bonus track, full artwork, extensive liner notes, and remastered sound.]

Source: All Music Review

People (June 27, 1983)

In recent years he has seemed to be running his career like a production of Elton in Wonderland. First he was the honky-tonk Cheshire Cat, all smiles and no substance. Then came the Mad Hatter superstar trip. After that he was the temperamental Queen of Hearts, mincing for the public. Then he teamed with a series of undistinguished partners who made him sound like Tweedledum and Tweedledummer.

With this album, John has found his way out of the rabbit’s hole he wandered into in the late ’70s. He has teamed up with his old composing collaborator, Bernie Taupin, and reunited his band, including guitarist Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson. Under the direction of producer Chris Thomas, this gang has helped Elton fashion his best album since Madman Across the Water.

The 10 songs are pop-ish but don’t sound as if they were tossed off in a pre-breakfast session. Particularly notable is a love ballad, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, that is tender without being mawkish. Religion contains some of the Brown Dirt Cowboy’s cleverest lyrics, concerning drunks finding Jesus in a parking lot (“When he thought he heard/A choir of angels/Singing in the Tiki Lounge”) and hookers having mystical experiences with a car stereo (“And that’s when she got religion/In the front of a compact Ford”).

The songs show how impressive John can be when he isn’t singing himself into the netherworld.

Source: People

Please feel free to leave your comments about Too Low For Zero below!


2 thoughts on “Album Profile: Too Low For Zero (1983)

  1. Manny Sousa says:

    Did not know this was the album Elton John reunited with the original band members Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone . Very interesting and good move for sure. Thanks Dave for this informative posting and review.

    • tworoomsejbt says:

      Agree! Too Low For Zero is in my Top 10 fave albums by Elton and its mainly because of the fact the original band got back together. I hope to do something like this for each album so folks have a place to come to for reference of his career! Thanks for commenting.

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