Elton made the music. Bernie made the words. History made it a legend.
October 5, 2018 1:42 AM   Subscribe

45 years ago, October 5, 1973, Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was released. Possibly Elton John's/Bernie Taupin's best, but you also can't discount his band who contributed mightily. You probably know a bunch of songs off of it even if you never intended to. Nearly the entire release is worth chewing through; it's One Of Those. It's still a bold double album, 45 years later. Let's listen! Full Album Playlist, ~75m. Side One: Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Candle In The Wind, Bennie And The Jets posted by hippybear (61 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
Spent many family nights at a pizza place with GYBR and SNAFF on its jukebox. Formative years and bonding. Strong best memories.
posted by filtergik at 3:38 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


My very first slow dance was to Harmony. The song is tattooed on my brain, but oddly I can’t recall the girl.
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 4:06 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


He finishes with GYBR in his current "farewell" tour. We saw him in Philly in the cheapest seats possible; it was a fantastic show.
posted by sydnius at 4:32 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Spent many family nights at a pizza place with GYBR and SNAFF on its jukebox.

Huh, so my main memory of these songs is at *our* local pizza place, where we had the tableside juke boxes. I would always choose Bennie and the Jets, not only because it's a great song but I was pretty sure that Elton John was singing about "electric boobs" in the chorus.
posted by jeremias at 5:28 AM on October 5 [14 favorites]


I love this album but it makes me feel a little sad how little I like anything that he's done in the last 40 years since. I mean I could say the same about quite a few british rockers of that era but the drop-off in quality was pretty dramatic.
posted by octothorpe at 5:45 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


Great album! I saw him in 2015 when he was still doing the same songs as his Follow the Yellow Brick Road tour. Great show! And even if the quality of his work has been spotty since the mid to late 70s, the nine albums from Elton John to Rock of the Westies make up a body of work equaled by few musicians in any genre.
posted by TedW at 6:13 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Was I the only one who thought the song "Bennie and the jets" was actually about Benny Urquidez? OK, it WAS just me... I'll show myself out...
posted by greenhornet at 6:18 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


I was pretty sure that Elton John was singing about "electric boobs" in the chorus.

I used to wonder why he was singing "Saturday night's all right for fighting/Girl, I need a laxative"
posted by thelonius at 6:29 AM on October 5 [11 favorites]


IIRC, Benny Urquidez got his nickname from the song title, not the other way around.

I've never owned the entire album, but I love several of the cuts on it, and it still pains me that "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" isn't available on iTunes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:31 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Also too: Mary J. Blige's "Deep Inside", which samples "Benny and the Jets".
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:33 AM on October 5


(Correction: that's not really sampling, it's EJ himself playing the riff.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:35 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Prompted by this post, I listened the first half of the album (skipping past Candles in the Wind*) on the way to work just now and it is as good as I remember.

* Probably not the song's fault but I can't listen to that maudlin thing one more time.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Hmmm... seems like Benny Andajetz doesn't hang here much lately, which rather ruins my comment.
posted by pompomtom at 6:39 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


I'm going to agree with octothorpe. It was and is a great album, and thirteen year-old me thought Elton John was the greatest. Fourteen and fifteen year-old me, though, remembers being disappointed and then downright annoyed with Caribou and then Captain Fantastic, and now fifty-seven year-old me hasn't needed to listen to Elton John for forty years.
posted by yhbc at 6:44 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]




I was 10 in 1972. Oh, how I tortured my family with Elton's records. I know this entire album by heart, along with others. I do have to agree with others - after Rock of the Westies, forget it.
posted by corvikate at 6:58 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


This album was also part of the inspiration for Mystery Science Theater 3000. Joel Hodgson has cited the liner notes illustration for "I've Seen That Movie Too" as inspiring the Shadowrama for MST3k.
posted by SansPoint at 7:19 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


My first semester of college I had a modern music class where we'd listen to tons of experimental and atonal music. I hated it. The only song available was "Bennie and the Jets" so I'd listen to it over and over all class. It was a long time before I could listen to that song again.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:27 AM on October 5


With repsect to EJ's later albums...10 years is all a mega successful band can hope for in the way of creative genius. U2 LZ Pearl Jam, The Beagles. All were out of gas and effectively coasting on their Laurels after a decade. Album sales might have remained strong but even the fanboy ear hears the diff once they fall over that line from inspired creativity into the era of the "401k tours."
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:36 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


The last track on an earlier album, Madman Across the Water, is a tiny melancholic gem entitled “Goodbye.” Decades later, it transpires that if you try to Google anything about that song, the mere existence of, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Goodbye Norma Jean,” and “Goodbye England’s Rose,” complicates things considerably. I have anger issues is I guess what I am saying.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:40 AM on October 5 [8 favorites]


Funeral for a Friend on repeat during late high school. I had all the feels.
posted by wellred at 7:40 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


While we're on the subject, is "hunting the horny back toad" a euphemism?
posted by sydnius at 7:41 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Enduringly great music. If you like EJ's early stuff I recommend the November 12 1970 Fillmore West concert recording available wherever multimedia content is distributed.
posted by Glomar response at 7:42 AM on October 5


My parents each had a huge stack of records from their high school and college days. There were only two albums that was present in each stack: Goodbye... and Dreamboat Annie. I figured that these must be the best, since both mom and dad liked them. I never got super-into Heart, but I fell in love with Elton around age five. The fact that he sang Bennie with the Muppets just made me love him more. He led me to Billy Joel and then Ben Folds (at whose concert I met my husband).

My parents saw him in Athens, GA for their first wedding anniversary and in Tallahassee for their 30th. And in December I’ll get to see him live for the first time.
posted by Fritzle at 8:07 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


The very first album I ever owned (and I still have it at 52 years of age) is Elton John's Greatest Hits. I had no clue who he was at the time, but am very glad my friend -- who had older siblings, unlike me -- gave it to me. I love the early EJ stuff.

Tonight this LP goes on the turntable for a spin.
posted by terrapin at 8:31 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Just reposting the link to the Bennie and the Jets music video (2017 joint project by Laura Brownhill, Jack Whiteley, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, and Youtube).

It's a spectacular project.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:33 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


I love this album but it makes me feel a little sad how little I like anything that he's done in the last 40 years since.

I don't know how many times I've said: "Some artists only have so much in them, and then it's gone. Like Elton John."

I'm pretty sure I saw a comedian say it first. I'm really thinking it was Robin Williams on The Alex Bennett Show circa 1981ish.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:34 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


And even if the quality of his work has been spotty since the mid to late 70s, the nine albums from Elton John to Rock of the Westies make up a body of work equaled by few musicians in any genre.

Yeah, this is what so fascinates me about Elton. He's been phoning it in for nearly 40 years now—and I guess I should admit that I haven't even heard most of that music so take that appraisal for whatever it's worth—and he has still produced more and better work than all but a few musicians working in a popular medium.

I have a dim memory of some TV station—WOR, maybe?—advertising The Benny Hill Show with "Benny And The Jets." Somehow that's still what comes to mind first whenever I hear it.

My fave Elton John trivia: the list of backup musicians on 1985's Ice On Fire is just absurd. Is there any other pop album that can tout, among others, Kiki Dee, Millie Jackson, Nik Kershaw, Katie Kissoon, George Michael, Dave Mattacks, Roger Taylor, and Sister Sledge—all on a single record? Even weirder, the "Nikita" video—which aired endlessly on late '80s MTV stars Anya Major as Elton's East German border guard crush—the same Anya Major best known as the athlete who kept 1984 from being 1984.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:07 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


My brother surprised me recently by saying that he always associated Grey Seal with me. And I replied that it's true that I always loved that song; I just didn't know he'd been paying attention. "No," he said, I meant that you're the Grey Seal." And I got very verklempt.
posted by carmicha at 9:12 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


(misty eyes)
GYBR is one of the great albums of all time. But recently a friend took me back to Captain Fantastic, which (like my apparent coeval yhbc) I had really disliked in my youth, but I now I think it's one of the most underappreciated albums of all time. Give it a listen to see if you agree...
posted by PhineasGage at 9:13 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


Also, regarding the uneven quality of Elton John's oeuvre over the past 30-40 years, I will always love I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues despite the sappy background vocals reprising the "laughing like children, living like lovers" line from the chorus.
posted by carmicha at 9:20 AM on October 5 [6 favorites]


"Rolling like thunder under the covers" is one of those lines that's so bad it's almost mystically good.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:33 AM on October 5 [12 favorites]


My dad and I listened to a lot of Elton John when we would go on our annual camping trip when I was a kid. As an adult, I've taken him to see Elton in concert twice (once was the dual concert with Billy Joel). Whatever else you say about him - the man can sing. He sounds the same live as he does on his studio albums.
posted by twilightlost at 9:38 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Never been a fan but my older cousin was super into EJ and made me listen to a LOT of him. I remember spending hours poring over the album art for GYBR and especially Captain Fantastic and getting more that a bit freaked out as a wee kiddie.

Kids these days with their digital downloads don't know about album art....

I haven't bought physical music media in years, the one time recently I had to buy a CD to get a track unavailable for digital purchase, I had to look up how to rip it...because I had forgotten....because I am old and forgetful...get off my lawn
posted by biscotti at 9:45 AM on October 5


Speaking for ones-self, one must proudly admit a complete lack of desire to contemplate even a single thought of disapproval in respect of the wondrous work, the marvellous musicality, nor the perfect popularity of Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE. Additionally I may report that that today I had occasion to visit the locality of Watford, and there I thought well of its association football franchise. I should therefore encourage you all to charge your teacups and voice a hearty hoo-rah in triplicate in honour of this terribly marvellous gentleperson.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:01 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Also, regarding the uneven quality of Elton John's oeuvre over the past 30-40 years, I will always love I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues despite the sappy background vocals reprising the "laughing like children, living like lovers" line from the chorus.

After my 1st semester of college I got a ride back from Missouri to Virginia with a guy who lived in Maryland. We were poor so we drove straight through, about 16 hours. We drank a lot of Jolt and took caffeine pills to stay awake. I was having hallucinations by the end of the trip. And "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" was a big hit, so we heard it dozens of times. I am very familiar with the song.

Despite a couple of unfortunate experiences with Elton John songs I still love his '70s stuff.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:37 AM on October 5


Sick Boy: It's certainly a phenomenon in all walks of life.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: What do you mean?
Sick Boy: Well, at one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever. All walks of life: George Best, for example. Had it, lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed...
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: Some of his solo stuff's not bad.
Sick Boy: No, it's not bad, but it's not great either. And in your heart you kind of know that although it sounds all right, it's actually just shite.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: So who else?
Sick Boy: Charlie Nicholas, David Niven, Malcolm McLaren, Elvis Presley...
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: OK, OK, so what's the point you're trying to make?
Sick Boy: All I'm trying to do is help you understand that The Name of The Rose is merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: What about The Untouchables?
Sick Boy: I don't rate that at all.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: Despite the Academy Award?
Sick Boy: That means fuck all. Its a sympathy vote.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: Right. So we all get old and then we can't hack it anymore. Is that it?
Sick Boy: Yeah.
Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: That's your theory?
Sick Boy: Yeah. Beautifully fucking illustrated.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:41 AM on October 5 [9 favorites]


Elton John's one of those artists—to me—that's hit-or-miss enough that I genuinely prefer compilations to help sort the wheat from the chaff. Having said that, when he does nail one, it's transcendent.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is just such a brutally melancholic song.  Maybe it was growing up a closeted queer kid, but so many of his songs that you'd hear on the radio were like lifelines of sanity thrown out to the drowning.  There was a polite fiction at the time that they weren't telling a queer story, but I knew better, and his songs were one of those things I held onto knowing I wasn't alone.  Even if they weren't supposed to be overtly gay, songs like Levon and Daniel were a man singing about another man, and that made them something special to a kid like me.  We weren't allowed any genuinely queer rôle models, we had to sift through the few allowed to be ambiguously straight.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 11:13 AM on October 5 [8 favorites]


Count me another fan of the title track from that album. In addition to being wonderful on its own merits, it has a certain quality I love in a song - because of its specificity, it feels like it is telling a story that not many other songs are telling, in this case one about a complicated tug of war between desire and identity, who you might aspire to be and who you really are. Maybe this is part of why it lends itself to a queer reading for some.
posted by eirias at 11:29 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


My brother would've been around 8 or 9 when this came out. He wanted to be a radio DJ. The album had a gorgeous packaging with a full color book with all the lyrics. My brother took a stopwatch and next to each song wrote down how many seconds of instrumental intro there was so he could practice talking over songs as he sat in front of his stereo playing DJ.
posted by dnash at 11:39 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


How odd that I woke up this morning with "All the Young Girls Love Alice" running through my head.
posted by Clustercuss at 11:41 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Elton John's one of those artists—to me—that's hit-or-miss enough that I genuinely prefer compilations to help sort the wheat from the chaff. Having said that, when he does nail one, it's transcendent.

agreed ...

the nine albums from Elton John to Rock of the Westies make up a body of work equaled by few musicians in any genre.

the mixtape I'll eventually get around to will likely stop short of Westies at Captain Fantastic, and be scant on selections from the previous album Caribou, and in fact will feature more from Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water than anywhere else. Because I tend to prefer the earlier stuff, and I'm too old to be a hipster. I was there. Caught him live in 1975 at the theoretical peak of his fame and grandeur, but a lot of it bored the hell out of me having recently seen Jethro Tull and Yes in the same venue. Elton just wasn't on their level (though I suspect cocaine may have had something to do with it).
posted by philip-random at 11:44 AM on October 5


Elton's always had a first-rate band behind him. I chalk that up to Davey Johnstone, his guitarist (since Madman) and now musical director.
posted by tommasz at 11:47 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


A few months ago, a live version of Rocket Man from 1972 popped up. It was prior to release and felt like he had just come straight from studio — the performance sounding so close to the final cut. And the performance is luminescent. Down the rabbit hole we went — clawing through my record collection. I have Elton John (#2) straight through to Blue Moves (#11) which was disappointing even at the time.

10 albums. Spanning 6 years. Creativity of that caliber? GODS!

We now want to see him live and am so pleased to hear that he still can sing, twilightlost.

I can still remember sitting in the dark, headphones on, listening to GBYR and feeling ineffably sad, not knowing why. Then carefully lifting the needle and playing it again.
posted by lemon_icing at 11:58 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Elton's 80s output was definitely a mixed bag, and the hits seemed to have a more conventional song structure than his 70s output. But I think that his singing is better, generally; his voice seems to have settled into a nice baritone. And I have a soft spot for "Nikita." (Fun fact: the actress who plays the title character in the video, Anya Major, was also the hammer-thrower in Apple's "1984" ad.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:01 PM on October 5


I hear all your 70s folks in here, but growing up in the 1980s I was introduced to Elton John through his radio singles and, eventually, bought my first album Sleeping With The Past on cassette in 1989. I asked my parents to learn to play the piano at the age of 4 because of listening to him and Billy Joel. Such amazing musical influences to start out with, I think. I've had the privilege of seeing him in concert three times, twice with his full band and once just solo at the piano.

Because nobody's mentioned it yet, here's one of my favorite B-sides off The One and featuring a duet with Eric Clapton: "Runaway Train".
posted by Servo5678 at 12:06 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I feel like such a doofus because I read the post and thought, "Wait, wasn't 'Candle in the Wind' released years later?" And then kicked myself in the head.
posted by straight at 12:10 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Did you know Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote a #1 song for Billie Jean King? It's true!
posted by droplet at 12:16 PM on October 5


Saw Elton about 20+ years ago at MSG. Ate some mushrooms then fell asleep. Do you know how hard it is to fall asleep a half an hour after eating a gram of 'schrooms. He is a great entertainer, this album is terrific, but his show to me was BORING!
posted by AugustWest at 12:19 PM on October 5


So, I was born in 72. I grew up listening to this album, but wasn’t adult enough to process it. What did people think GYBR (the song) was about back then? Because my homophobic brother loved it. And to me, now, it seems it couldn’t possibly have been interpreted as anything but a queer right of passage song. How the hell did it get so popular with the straights?
(I get that uptempo music can get massively popular even when people don’t understand what’s being said. - ie The Macarena. But it seems harder with a soft ballad like this.)
posted by greermahoney at 2:48 PM on October 5


With repsect to EJ's later albums

Yes. If you create one piece of art people are still enjoying and talking about 45 years later you are a rare success. If you create several you are one of the greatest of all time. You don't have to keep doing it your whole life.

I don't know how many times I've said: "Some artists only have so much in them, and then it's gone. Like Elton John."

I'm pretty sure I saw a comedian say it first. I'm really thinking it was Robin Williams on The Alex Bennett Show circa 1981ish.


Robin Williams? Time is cruel.
posted by bongo_x at 3:39 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I was born in ‘86 but my parents made GYBR the soundtrack of my childhood. I listened to it recently and realized it’s the greatest album about nostalgia I’ve ever heard. Nostalgic love, nostalgic friends, places, experiences, icons, heroes. It’s the gold standard for a “back in my day...” conversation on any topic.
posted by Glibpaxman at 3:46 PM on October 5


It's interesting to see people feeling so strongly that Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is clearly a gay work of art--along with several of Elton's other songs--when the lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin, who I am pretty sure is straight. I'm not saying that to revert the interpretation, because "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," told in the first person, is apparently about one gay man (Long John Baldry) telling another gay man (Elton John) to break off his engagement with a woman. And it, likewise, is collaboration with music by Elton and words by Bernie.
posted by layceepee at 4:01 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


And to me, now, it seems it couldn’t possibly have been interpreted as anything but a queer right of passage song. How the hell did it get so popular with the straights?

written by Bernie Taupin, who I am pretty sure is straight.


Taupin's been married four times, all to women. So I'm with you there.

because "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," told in the first person, is apparently about one gay man (Long John Baldry) telling another gay man (Elton John) to break off his engagement with a woman.

I met Mr. Baldry once and this was more or less confirmed, though not in so many words (ie: I was mostly listening in on a conversation that in part touched on his past relationship with young Reginald Dwight). So yeah, I think the John/Taupin team is one of pop culture's magic pairings. As I've heard it, they wouldn't really discuss it that much. Taupin would deliver some words and Elton would find the music for them.

In fact ...

The 1991 film documentary, Two Rooms, described the John/Taupin writing style, which involves Taupin writing the lyrics on his own and John then putting them to music, with no further interaction between the two. The process is still fundamentally the same, with John composing to Taupin's words
posted by philip-random at 4:22 PM on October 5


A Timeless Classic! Well, disc one is classic, I didn't listen to disc two as much except for the 2 hard rock songs..

Funeral/Love Lies Bleeding is producer Gus Dudgeon's foray into creating a mini rock symphony in the style of George Martin, and he succeeded. Killer band, everyone is at the peak of their creative abilities.

Nice album sleeve design. (Back in school grade 5, we were all admiring the album, and the mean kid pointed out Elton's red shoes and said: "he's a fag!" I replied: "no way man!" We were young then..)
posted by ovvl at 6:20 PM on October 5


I was in high school when this album came out. Huge, huge album, my gosh. Spent many hours sprawled on my back on the living room floor with giant head phones on listening to this over and over. “Funeral” and “This Song’s Got No Title” were my favourites. Thanks for posting this!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:12 PM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Just listened to “Funeral” again. My god what a great piece of music. And “This Song’s Got No Title” still makes me want to learn to play piano just so I can play it in particular.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:42 PM on October 5


It's alright. It's no Quadrophenia.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 8:30 PM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Just to say “Burn Down the Mission” is an f’ing great song. And fits my mood today perfectly.
posted by spitbull at 4:35 AM on October 6 [4 favorites]


I bet it's hard mixing sound for rock, in a stadium or other large venue, where piano is the main instrument
posted by thelonius at 5:33 AM on October 7


I'm just going to say - if you have never heard his first album, Empty Sky, you should probably listen to it - it's a treat.
posted by Sparx at 3:34 AM on October 16


« Older Drops of water   |   So that's what would've happened if I invented the... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments