My 45 looked just like this. Right down to the MCA wrapper!

Hey everyone it’s late and I should be sleeping but I just wanted to talk about my next tune on Radio Freedom. It’s an old Elton John tune. I actually owned the 45 disc for it.

An interesting thing about 45s is they sound better than 33 records. Millennials probably don’t have a clue what I’m talking about but back in the day, we had two main formatsβ€”33 RPM and 45 RPM.

Before that, of course, people used 78 RPMs. I actually have tried 78s. My grandmother had an old wind-up record player and sure enough, music came out through a megaphone.

We also have some old cylinder records in the house. I’m not sure what speed they are but I’ve tried those too. They sort of look like soup cans with the ends cut off. I think these tube-shaped records came after 78s but I’m not sure.

Cylinder records and player

45s sound better than 33s because they spin faster so the amount of physical space used to etch a given vibrational groove is greater with a 45. There’s less compression than with a 33.

Think about it. Anytime we compress something, quality usually degrades. That truism also applies to the digital world.

That’s a huge digression but I’m testing out Google Voice typing so it’s making it a lot easier… and hopefully not more boring to read! πŸ˜†

I originally thought this song was just about the groovy Brotherly Love of Philadelphia when I listened to it as a boy on my very first record player. (That old secondhand stereo made a mechanical noise that went ‘wumpa wumpa’ so we called the record player, of course, Wumpa Wumpa).

When I became an adult I was infused with all the politically correct views and assumed, along with the fact that Elton John was by then openly gay, that “Philadelphia Freedom” was an LGBTQ type of tune. But it seems my first impression was the most correct one.Β 

Apparently, Elton John asked lyricist Bernie Taupin to come up with a song in honor of Billie Jean King the world-famous tennis star who played for the Philadelphia Freedoms tennis team. Elton and Billie Jean were great friends and Elton often cheered her on while watching her matches live or on tv.

There was one particular match where Billie Jean was taking on this older sexist guy who said something like “no woman can beat a man at tennis” so when she won the match Elton John apparently cheered so loudly that he became hoarse.

Chris Evert congratulates Billie Jean King after King’s win at Forest Hills.

Elton then asks Bernie Taupin to write a song about Billie Jean who was really huge back then. Apparently, Taupin wasn’t too enthusiastic at first, sort of being called “on-demand” to write a single for Elton. I think Bernie usually just got inspired and then gave his lyrics to Elton.

Anyhow Taupin came up with the lyrics, Elton wrote the music and it was a number one hit. In Canada, if I remember right, it was actually the eighth number one hit for Elton. Apparently, Elton and Billie Jean didn’t want a song just about tennis but more about the positive vibe of freedom.

The song sounds a bit dated today but back when I heard it with that great 45 RPM sound quality it really came off as super fresh. It combined the best of ‘Philly Soul’ and 70s ‘Cop Show’ strings and God knows what else.Β 

Daryl Hall and John Oates did a cover of the song on the tribute album Two Rooms. Listening to Hall & Oates’ version,Β  I wasn’t exactly blown away. I like Hall & Oats but not so much here. The Elton John version contains all the energy and exuberance of what this song is about.

The energy and the exuberance of FREEDOM!