Over the course of his long career in show business, Elton John has written a ton of great songs. Though—while tracks like “Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer,” and “Your Song” have enjoyed plenty of acclaim—his improvised tune about Richard E. Grant’s oven manual has never really caught on.
In case you, like so many, have missed out on hearing this deepest of deep Elton John cuts, let us provide a bit of background. During the 1997 special An Audience With Elton John, the musician took questions from a crowd of celebrities. When it was Richard E. Grant’s turn, the Gosford Park actor went for the typical audience Q&A move of basically just supplying a comment: “I’ve heard that you write your songs very, very quickly. And I’ve brought some words along and hope that you can put some music to it.”
Grant produces the instruction manual included with his oven and John, undaunted, sits down with it at the piano while muttering “Oh dear.” The first half of his impromptu composition meanders as he seeks to find the right melody to best accompany emotionally charged lyrics like “You and your new oven are capable of great things / but remember no two ovens are the same.” But it isn’t long before John figures out what’s needed is an instrumental part that bounces between jaunty, staccato chords (“We strongly recommend you take time to read this leaflet fully from cover to cover!”) and a slower, dramatic bridge about how the time needed to study the manual will “pay off in the long ruuuuuun.” Look at the smiles on Claudia Schiffer and David Copperfield’s faces as he plays! The ’90s top models and prime time sorcerers can recognize a hit when they hear one.
It’s a real shame that, as far as we know, John’s ode to the oven manual has never made its way onto any of his greatest hits collections, even with this kind of documented celebrity approval. But, hopefully, sharing the clip of his performance will inspire a sort of folk renaissance of the tune and, before long, we’ll hear people singing the praises of their oven instruction manuals all over the world.
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