Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 28

Chart Week: July 24, 1976
Song: “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Elton John and Kiki Dee
Chart Position: #8, 4th week on the chart. Peaked at #1 for four weeks in August.

What a song. I could stop right there, throw up the video, and that would be enough. A quarter-century after its release it was a Saturday night staple at a bar many of my friends and I frequented, a song that brought a smile to the face of everyone in the house as people sang along with those “OHHH-OH! Nobody knows it,” lines.

The summer of 1976 was a big one in my life. That was the summer my family packed up and moved from a small college town in western Kansas to a small college town in southeast Missouri as my dad began his teaching career. I was used to moving. I believe my parents moved every year the first five years I was alive as they completed their educations and began their careers, bouncing around from yearly rental to yearly rental. This move was more exciting, though, as it took us two days of driving to get to our new home. And it was in a whole new state! 1

My memories of that summer are about as hazy as you would expect, the actual events being 43 years in the past. Everything comes back to me with a Kodachrome tint to it. I remember the heat and humidity of southeast Missouri in the summer. I remember hearing cans of soda, which failed in the boiling heat, exploding in the cooler in the car trunk that my parents forgot to remove. I want to say I remember watching a presidential debate while at a hotel somewhere in southern Missouri.2 I thought the hotel was the coolest because A) I had never stayed in a hotel before and B) they had a pool I got to swim in. I can only imagine what a dump it was, being 1976, located on the side of a highway, and my parents not having much money. Motel is probably the better word here.

I also remember the music of that summer. “Afternoon Delight.” “Shop Around.” “You’re My Best Friend.” “Turn the Beat Around.” “Let ‘Em In.” “A Fifth of Beethoven.” “Sara Smile.” All these tunes playing over-and-over as my mom and I drove in our car with my dad driving the moving van behind us.

Force me to pick one song from that summer, though, and it would have to be “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” As I would do with friends in a bar three decades later, my mom and I would sing it loudly as we travelled over the hot asphalt. We had to sing loudly; we had no air conditioning and rolled the windows down to get some relief from the heat. I’m sure my sweaty skin stuck to the vinyl seats and it was uncomfortable as hell. But Elton and Kiki made it tolerable for a few moments. And then I waited to hear it again an hour or so later, when one station faded out and we searched for another down the dial.

As a bonus, Craig Finn joined Frightened Rabbit for a messy and delightful cover of this for a 2010 FR B-side. They performed it once live, as far as I know, and, happily, there is video of that wonderful night.


  1. A few more miles east and we would have been two states away! 
  2. I have no idea if this happened. I mostly recall a couple guys on screen and the sign language interpreter in the little box in the corner. We were a better country when there were sign language interpreters on screen.