Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

goodbye_yellow_brick_road_coverOkay, let us talk about my most favorite album of all time. I am telling you right now that Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has been my favorite album for years and I do not see that changing any time soon. So, I felt that today would be a good day to cover this album. Some days you just need to listen to a favorite over and over and over… In fact, if anyone here wants to get me a fantastic present, it would be Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on vinyl. Yeppers. Amazing.

So, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was the seventh album released under Elton John’s name. It was released in 1973 as a double album (his first). In 2003, this album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It is ranked No. 91 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It is also ranked No. 59 in Channel 4’s 2009 list of 100 Greatest Albums.

As everyone should know (I know I’m assuming a lot because I love Elton John), Bernie Taupin is Elton’s long-time lyricist. He wrote the lyrics for the working titles of Vodka and Tonics and Silent Movies, Talking Pictures in just two and a half weeks. Elton John composed the majority of the music in just three days while staying in Jamaica.

Production on this album was started in Jamaica in January 1973. There were problems with recording in Jamaica, particularly difficulties with the sound system and studio piano, along with disturbance because of the Joe Frazier and George Foreman boxing match being held in Kingston. So, the band finished recording the album in France at Château d’Hérouville. It was recorded in a mere two weeks. The versions of the songs that we know come from the recordings from France. In total, there were 22 tracks composed for the album and only 18 were used.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is often regarded as Elton John’s best album and is often considered to be one of the most influential albums in music.

So, I know that you’re asking yourself, “What tracks are The Mad Pianist’s favorite?” Oh, this is like me asking you to choose a favorite child (assuming you are a parent). So, maybe we should just start at the beginning. I am going to talk just about a few of my favorites. If I miss a favorite track of yours, feel free to shout out in the comments.

“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” numbers among my most favorite pieces of music of all time. There are times when my stress is so high (a lot of time) and I just feel so anxious about things. I put this piece of music on and I feel it in my soul. I know that most likely does not make sense but I respond to this piece of music more than I do to many others. You feel the rhythm building. You feel the climb of the melodic line. You just want to shout for more and then it bursts into the second half and does not disappoint. I am officially requesting that this piece of music be played at my funeral. It is, to me, glorious and beautiful and soul-wrenching.

“Bennie and the Jets” – How can you not love this song? The rhythm. The words. The misheard lyrics! I play this one on my piano all the time and have so much fun. This is a song that begs to be sung along with, a song for moving to the beat. “B-B-B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets.” So great.

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – This is another one that I play quite often on the piano. I love the harmonies in this song and the way that the chords progress so linearly. The words also get me right to my core. “I’ve finally decided my future lies beyond the yellow brick road.” How can someone be unmoved by this plea about disillusionment and the way it encroaches upon our lives? As an artist, I feel this message deeply as a warning about who and what surrounds me.

“Grey Seal” – This song just makes me want to sing along. You know you want to join me in my singing. “Tell me grey seal how does it feel to be so wise? To see through eyes that only see what’s real. Tell me grey seal.” This track was actually rerecorded from an earlier B-track. I recently heard the piano demo version of this song from the early 1970s and it was absolutely amazing.

“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” – I did not always enjoy this song as much as I do now. It grew on me and it can grow on you too! This is an anthem song for the young if there ever was one. You just want to shout Saturday along with Elton. I do, I admit. Come join the cool kids and shout it with us. SATURDAY x9!

“Harmony” – This is just a beautiful track and I am a little surprised that Elton ends the [original] album here. This is a very calm song in contrast to a majority of the others on the album. It is a nice refreshing end to have it end so beautifully.

I’m skipping so many tracks that I love but I cannot talk about them all! I love “All the Girls Love Alice,” “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)”, and pretty much all of them. Sheesh. Super fan girl right here.

The 30th Anniversary edition has four bonus tracks. So, there is more Elton John to enjoy! More Elton is always a good thing. Remember, super fan girl.

The 40th Anniversary deluxe edition was released in 2014 and includes recordings of the tracks done by musicians that are currently popular. This edition also includes live performances by Elton John for some of the tracks.

I would feel super bad if I didn’t acknowledge the presence on this album of some of my favorite musicians: Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson, and Ray Cooper. They are super fantastic musicians and I am so glad that they worked with Elton back in the day and have worked with him on and off ever since. Kudos guys. You are amazing.

Elton John is my favorite. Period. End of story. Again, super fan girl. Sigh.

Main Musical Personnel

  • Elton John: vocals, piano, electric piano, organ, Farfisa organ, mellotron, Leslie piano
  • Dee Murray: bass, backing vocals
  • Davey Johnstone: acoustic, electric, Leslie, slide and steel guitars, banjo, backing vocals
  • Nigel Olsson: drums, congas, tambourine, backing vocals
  • Ray Cooper: tambourine

Additional Musicians

  • Del Newman: orchestral arrangement
  • Leroy Gomez: saxophone solo on “Social Disease”
  • David Hentschel: ARP synthesizer
  • Kiki Dee: backing vocals on “”All the Girls Love Alice”

 

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