Rahul Sharma (Editor)

I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues

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Vinyl record (7")

Soft rock

September 1982


"Choc-Ice Goes Mental" (UK) "The Retreat" (US)

April 1983 (UK) November 1983 (US)

"I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" is a song by British singer Elton John, with music by John and lyrics by Bernie Taupin and Davey Johnstone. In the US, it was one of John's biggest hits of the 1980s, holding at #2 for four weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart, and reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.


The song features Stevie Wonder on harmonica. The song received largely favorable reviews, with Bill Janovitz of AllMusic declaring the song "likely to stand the test of time as a standard."

Track listing

US 7" single
  1. "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues"
  2. "The Retreat"
UK 7" single
  1. "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues"
  2. "Choc Ice Goes Mental"

Song life

The song appeared on the album Too Low for Zero. Released as a single in April 1983, the song reached number five in the UK chart and number four in the US chart six months later. The song was also featured on the film soundtrack to Peter's Friends in 1992.

The original music video, one of twenty directed for John by Australian Russell Mulcahy, tells the story of two 1950s-era young lovers who are separated when the man is forced to leave for National Service, depicting the trials and tribulations he experiences there, and then are finally reunited at the end of the song. It was filmed in the Rivoli Ballroom in London and is marked as one of the few times John has been filmed or videotaped without wearing his trademark eyeglasses.

The song was later performed live by Mary J. Blige and Elton John, and this version of the song was part of the Mary J. Blige & Friends EP. A live version of the song with Mary J. Blige also appeared on John's One Night Only – The Greatest Hits live compilation, recorded in Madison Square Garden in October 2000. Another live version, this one featuring just Elton John and basic rhythm section, was recorded live in Verona in 1996 during John's appearance with Luciano Pavarotti as part of the master tenor's Pavarotti and Friends for War Child benefit concerts. Produced by Phil Ramone, this version of "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" was included as a B-side on the Rocket Records maxi CD single of "Live Like Horses", which also included Elton John's original studio version from 1997's The Big Picture album, and studio and live versions of a duet of "Horses" by John and Pavarotti.

A fan favourite, John has also performed the song live numerous times, occasionally playing it as part of a medley with his hit "Blue Eyes" (from the 1982 album Jump Up!).

The song was covered by James Blunt and released in the UK on the compilation album BBC Radio 2: Sounds of the 80s on 7 November 2014.


  • Elton John: piano, keyboards, vocals
  • Davey Johnstone: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
  • Dee Murray: bass, backing vocals
  • Nigel Olsson: drums, backing vocals
  • Stevie Wonder: harmonica
  • References

    I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues Wikipedia

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