Elton John releases his ‘lost’ album 53 years later

Venture into a record shop on Saturday and you could pick up a debut album by a promising 19-year-old singer-songwriter. His name is Elton John.

After half a century of hits, the star has issued a surprise release of his ‘lost’ first record, Regimental Sgt Zippo.

John has described it as “the album that never was”.

In 1968, the unknown teenager had just signed to Dick James Music publishing and begun writing songs with Bernie Taupin.

Regimental Sgt Zippo represented the first fruits of the deal: an album that gave an obvious nod to the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had been released a year earlier.

The track listing includes songs called Tartan Coloured Lady and A Dandelion Dies In The Wind, in addition to the title track (below). It was recorded at Dick James Studios in central London from late 1967 to spring 1968.

But the publishing company was unimpressed and the album was shelved. John quickly produced more songs and within months was recording a new album, Empty Sky, to be released in 1969 as his official debut.

Regimental Sgt Zippo is being issued on vinyl in a strictly limited edition as part of Record Store Day, an annual event which sees special releases go on sale in some of the UK’s independent record shops.

However, perhaps only completists and diehard Elton John fans will relish its contents. John makes no reference to the Zippo album in his 2019 memoir, Me, except to say that a publishing company executive listened to songs he produced during this period and told him: “You need to stop this rubbish. You’re not very good at it. In fact, you’re hopeless.”