Too Low for Zero (stylised as 2 ↓ 4 0), released in 1983, is the seventeenth studio album release by Elton John. The album marked a comeback for John, whose previous four albums had failed to yield many enduring international hit singles, and had disappointing sales compared to his string of hit records released during the first half of the 1970s. It is his best selling album of the 1980s, earning Platinum certification by both the RIAA and the British Phonographic Industry. It produced several hit songs, each accompanied by successful MTV music videos, and it spent over a year on the Billboard album chart.

Too Low for Zero
Too low for zero.JPG
Studio album by
Released30 May 1983
RecordedSeptember 1982 – January 1983
StudioAIR Studios (Montserrat) and Sunset Sound Recorders (Hollywood, CA).
GenreRock, pop rock, new wave
LabelGeffen (US)
Rocket (UK)
ProducerChris Thomas
Elton John chronology
Jump Up!
Too Low for Zero
Breaking Hearts
Singles from Too Low for Zero
  1. "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues"
    Released: April 1983
  2. "I'm Still Standing"
    Released: 3 July 1983
  3. "Kiss the Bride"
    Released: 1983
  4. "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)"/"Crystal"
    Released: 1983
  5. "Too Low for Zero"
    Released: 1984


For the first time since Blue Moves in 1976, all lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin. At the insistence of Taupin, John decided to go back to basics and returned to working with Taupin full-time.[citation needed] John also reunited with the core of his backing band of the early '70s: Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone as well as Ray Cooper, Kiki Dee and Skaila Kanga (who played harp on John's self-titled album and Tumbleweed Connection).


The album was produced by Chris Thomas and recorded at AIR Studios in Montserrat (the same studio for Jump Up!) and Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood.

For the first time since A Single Man, John played synthesizers in addition to piano, since James Newton Howard left the band. John felt that synths allowed him to write better fast rock songs, having not been entirely happy with such compositions performed on piano.[1]

The album was written and recorded in approximately two weeks, with overdubs completed in a week.[2]


The original LP issue of the album featured a die-cut cover with a special inner sleeve. The four shapes shown on the cover were cut out, with the colours (shown as ink smears on the inner sleeve) showing through the holes. No CD release has duplicated these die-cuts.

All B-sides released on US singles from this time originate from his 1978 album A Single Man and the 21 at 33 sessions from 1980.[citation needed] They were also previously released on European singles.[citation needed] In the US, Too Low for Zero was certified gold in January 1984 and platinum in October 1995 by the RIAA.[citation needed]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [3]
Rolling Stone     [4]

Reviewing the album in Rolling Stone, Don Shewey commented, "Elton John and Bernie Taupin have written some great hit singles, but since the early Elton John LP, they have never produced an album of consistently first-rate material. And although Too Low for Zero is a big step up from losers like Blue Moves and A Single Man, it doesn't hang together, either." He praised the catchy energy of "I'm Still Standing", "Kiss the Bride", "Crystal", and "Too Low for Zero", and approved of the way those four songs synthesized the styles of popular artists such as The Pointer Sisters and Joe Jackson. However, he felt the rest of the album suffered from poor lyrics, finding the morbidity of "Cold as Christmas" and "One More Arrow" to be especially distasteful.[4]

Track listingEdit

All music composed by Elton John, except where noted; all lyrics written by Bernie Taupin.

Side oneEdit

  1. "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)" – 4:19
  2. "I'm Still Standing" – 3:02
  3. "Too Low for Zero" – 5:46
  4. "Religion" – 4:05
  5. "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" (Music: John, Davey Johnstone) – 4:41

Side twoEdit

  1. "Crystal" – 5:05
  2. "Kiss the Bride" – 4:22
  3. "Whipping Boy" – 3:43
  4. "Saint" – 5:17
  5. "One More Arrow" – 3:34
  • Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–10 on CD releases.

Bonus tracks (1998 Mercury reissue)Edit

  1. "Earn While You Learn" (Lord Choc Ice (John)) – 6:46
    • B-side of "I'm Still Standing" recorded in 1978 and withdrawn as a 12" picture disc-single.
  2. "Dreamboat" – 7:34
    • B-side also recorded in 1978. Music by Elton John and Tim Renwick. Lyrics by Gary Osborne though not credited.
  3. "The Retreat" – 4:46 (John, Taupin)
    • UK B-side from 1982 "Princess". Recorded in 1979 August during the sessions for 21 at 33.
Song Format
"Choc Ice Goes Mental" "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" 7" (UK)/"Kiss the Bride" 7" (US)
"The Retreat" "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" 7" (US)
"Love So Cold" "I'm Still Standing" 7" (US)
"Earn While You Learn" "I'm Still Standing" 7"/12" (UK)
"Dreamboat" "Kiss the Bride" 7" (Edited version)/12" (Full version) (UK)
"I'm Still Standing" (extended version) "I'm Still Standing" 12" (UK)
"Je Veux De La Tendresse" (French version of "Nobody Wins") "Cold as Christmas"/"Crystal" 12" (UK)
"Lonely Boy" "Too Low for Zero" 7" (Europe)
  • Though Chris Thomas was the album's original producer, Gus Dudgeon supervised the remastering for the 1998 Mercury re-release.


Track numbering refers to CD and digital releases of the album.

  • Elton John – piano (tracks 1-5, 8, 10), Fender Rhodes (Track 1), synthesiser (Tracks 1-7, 9), clavinet (Track 9), lead vocals, backing vocals
  • Davey Johnstone – acoustic guitar (Tracks 1, 4, 5, 6, 9), electric guitar (Tracks 2-10) backing vocals
  • Dee Murray – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Nigel Olsson – drums, tambourine on "Whipping Boy", backing vocals
  • Ray Cooper – percussion on "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)"
  • Skaila Kangaharp on "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)"
  • Kiki Dee – backing vocals on "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)"
  • Stevie Wonder – harmonica on "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues"
  • James Newton Howardstring arrangement on "One More Arrow"

On bonus tracksEdit

  • Produced by Elton John and Clive Franks
  • Elton John – piano on "Earn While You Learn" and "The Retreat", Hammond organ on "Earn While You Learn" and "Dreamboat", Fender Rhodes on "Dreamboat", mellotron on "Earn While You Learn", vocals on "Dreamboat and "The Retreat"
  • Tim Renwick – guitar on "Earn While You Learn" and "Dreamboat"
  • Steve Holley – drums on "Earn While You Learn" and "Dreamboat"
  • Clive Franks – bass guitar on "Earn While You Learn" and "Dreamboat"
  • Ray Cooper – tambourine on "Earn While You Learn" and "Dreamboat", triangle on "Earn While You Learn"
  • Paul Buckmaster – orchestra arrangement on "Dreamboat"
  • Steve Lukather – guitar on "The Retreat"
  • Reggie McBride – bass guitar on "The Retreat"
  • Alvin Taylor – drums on "The Retreat"
  • David Paich – Hammond organ on "The Retreat"
  • James Newton-Howard – synthesizer on "The Retreat"




Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[21] 5× Platinum 350,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[22] Platinum 100,000^
France (SNEP)[24] Gold 318,600[23]
Germany (BVMI)[25] Gold 250,000^
Latvia (LaMPA)[26] Platinum 8,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[27] Platinum 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[28] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[29] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ The Other Side of the Tracks (documentary)
  2. ^ 1984/01 Interview with Paul Gambaccini, Retrieved 5 July 2017
  3. ^ "Too Low for Zero". Allmusic. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b Shewey, Don (9 June 1983). "Too Low for Zero". Rolling Stone (397): 57. Archived from the original on 4 November 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  6. ^ Library and Archives Canada. Archived 15 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2011-10-29
  7. ^ " Elton John – Too Low for Zero" (ASP). Hung Medien (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  8. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (in French). Archived from the original (PHP) on 10 September 2013. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  9. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  10. ^ " Elton John – Too Low for Zero" (ASP). Hung Medien. Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  11. ^ " Elton John – Too Low for Zero" (ASP). Hung Medien. VG-lista. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  12. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  13. ^ " Elton John – Too Low for Zero" (ASP) (in Swedish). Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  14. ^ "Elton John – Too Low for Zero –" (ASP). Hung Medien (in German). Swiss Music Charts. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  15. ^ "The Official Charts Company – Elton John – Too Low for Zero" (PHP). Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  16. ^ "allmusic ((( Too Low for Zero > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  17. ^ "Album Search: Elton John – Too Low for Zero" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  18. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1989". RPM. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  19. ^ "Les Albums (CD) de 1983 par InfoDisc" (in French). Archived from the original (PHP) on 11 July 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  20. ^ a b "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  21. ^ "Men At Play" (PDF). Cash Box. Vol. 46 no. 48. 5 May 1984. p. 27. Retrieved 30 January 2020 – via American Radio History.
  22. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Elton John – Too Low for Zero". Music Canada.
  23. ^ "Les Albums Or". SNEP. Archived from the original on 18 October 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  24. ^ "French album certifications – Elton John – Too Low for Zero" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique.
  25. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Elton John; 'Too Low for Zero')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
  26. ^ "International Latvian Certification Awards from 1998 to 2001". Latvian Music Producers Association. 1999. Retrieved 12 July 2019 – via Directupload.
  27. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Elton John – Too Low for Zero". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  28. ^ "British album certifications – Elton John – Too Low for Zero". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Too Low for Zero in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  29. ^ "American album certifications – Elton John – Too Low for Zero". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.