Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

This was the only EJ record (from 1973) that I owned when I was younger– and I was kind of obsessed with it. I still think of it as a triple record (but it’s a double record)  because it folds out in three– there are drawings and illustrations inside with the lyrics for each song. I was especially fascinated with the pictures of the band– how effeminate they all looked (including Bernie Taupin, absurdly in a cemetery with a puppy!), except for Elton. To me he looked like the coolest guy ever. I especially loved this brown suit he’s wearing (along with platform shoes). I wanted a suit like that!

This is by far my favorite Elton John record. The first side is pretty over the top– “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”– that’s quite an opening. Then “Candle in the Wind” which is a very pretty song. I wrote a story called “Learning to Play the Piano” that is a version of this song– though I only realized later the subconscious connection between the piano reference (and homoerotic elements of the story) and Elton John. Then “Bennie and the Jets” which is one of those songs that I connect so strongly with a sense of time and place. I was 13, I suppose, and my friends and I would ride our bikes to the “T” Drive-In and order pizza, buy cigarettes (Larks) from the machine, and play this song on the jukebox (as well as “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”). I should probably hate this song, all that “B-B-B-Benny and the Jetsssssss” and “electric boots” (though we thought, for quite some time, he was singing “electric BOOBS”) and “I read it in a MAG-A-ZIYE-EEEN.” But I just still really love this song.

Side Two starts with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”– another song I should hate, with all that “back to that howling old owl in the woods, hunting the horny black TAWD” nonsense, and that city boy vs. country boy bullshit– but it’s a really pretty song, and still makes me kind of emotional. This is another song that sounds to me like a dialogue between EJ and Bernie Taupin– some kind of conflict in which something amorous is implied.

Other highlights on this album are “Dirty Little Girl” and “All the Girls Love Alice” which are pretty heavy songs, pretty sexy and dangerous sounding, and they kind of blew my mind as a 13 year old. Another nice pairing is “Your Sister Can’t Twist” (which is an all-out, fast Farfisa, old rock song) that goes directly into, and really enhances, “Saturday Night’s Alright…” That song was pretty much an anthem to me and my gang, with our cigarettes, and (pseudo) switchblades, and mini-bikes, and experiments with crime and drinking. And then “Social Disease” is a fun song about alcoholism– you could tell he didn’t take it too seriously yet– after all, EJ was still young at this time, too.

Even the lesser songs on this record are pretty good. I can and willingly do, still sit down and listen to it from beginning to end. It’s just one of those old records, for me, that I’ll always love. I guess that’s the power of nostalgia, once again. Or maybe it is really good– I don’t know.

2 Responses to “Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road””

  1. September 6, 2007 at 11:30 am

    This is one of the only two EJohn LPs that I actually know, but it’s been probably since I was in hi-skool, well over 25 years now, since I’ve actually listened to it, because my parents own it, and still have it at their house. I considered stealing it from there when I was at their house in Toledo this past weekend, but chickened out at the last minute, because I wasn’t sure I really wanted to listen to it again. Now I kind of wish I had. My favorite thing about it was all the separate little drawings/illustrations for each of the songs, I like stuff like that. That was back when they’d just do a drawing or snap a photo instead of making a million dollar video for each song. I don’t actually remember some of the songs you mention, but I have to agree that a lot of the songs I can remember seeming like ‘dangerous’ or like about things that I thought even then were probably not ‘age appropriate’ for me or something. Actually some of them probably aren’t ‘age appropriate’ for *anyone*. And yeh, I thought it was weird how ‘Social Disease’ seems to be saying that alcoholism is just a laff a minute. I’ll definitely have to at least borrow this next time I’m at my folks’ house..

  2. 2 Kiki
    October 6, 2007 at 5:07 am

    Needless to say, that one’s a keeper! It’s not nostalgia at work, you’ve got a great double album. My dad had Elton John’s greatest hits, and of course “Benny and the Jets” was on there. I heard “electric boobs” instead of “boots” as well. Regardless, that’s a great song. So is “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. The English were right to knight Sir John. Did you read the profile of Donatella Versace in the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago? Elton John spearheaded the family intervention, and they all convinced her to go into rehab for her cocaine addiction. I don’t know why I’m mentioning that; maybe just to highlight what a multi-faceted guy he has turned out to be.

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