Elton John’s masterpiece album ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ is turning 50 this year in October. Originally recorded in May 1973, the album saw major success and has since sold 20 million copies worldwide and stayed at number one in the Billboard album charts for eight consecutive weeks. Co-written by John himself and Bernie Taupin, this album has certainly stood the test of time and is his best-selling album. So to honour its legacy, Ellie-Mae has selected a few of her top song picks from the album.
Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
As the first song(s) on the album, Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding certainly draws the listener in with it being just over 11 minutes long! It is a medley of two songs that were put together, due to them both being written in the key of A. Another standout feature of the song is that Funeral For a Friend is purely instrumental, defying the expectation of a typical singer/songwriter album. I always feel fully immersed listening to this track first and think it is perfect as the first song on the album, so I would certainly recommend listening to the album in order.
Candle in the Wind
I have also chosen one of John’s classic piano ballads, Candle in the Wind. Written as an ode of remembrance to Marilyn Monroe, the lyrics describe how she lived her life – “it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind”. In 2004, the song was ranked number 347 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The gentle, textured instrumentation including piano, electric guitar, drums and John’s soft vocals perfectly honour her legacy.
Bennie and The Jets
Known for its distinct piano intro, Bennie and The Jets is one of John’s hits on the album. The lyrics describe an invented band ‘Bennie and the Jets’ performing live whilst specifically detailing the female lead ‘Bennie’. John’s vocal range transforms this story with the higher parts of the song. The song allows for a lot of musical interpretation as John himself constantly changes up the piano part during live performances, keeping it fresh whilst honouring the original. Also, despite the song sounding like it was recorded in a live setting, it was recorded in a studio and had live sound effects added in later. I’d highly recommend listening to this song because of its playful and uplifting nature.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
As the headline song of the album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is personally my favourite. It is one of John’s most popular songs and references The Wizard of Oz, lyrically detailing Taupin’s want to escape ‘Oz’ and return to his childhood farm. Ever since its release, it has been immensely popular and in March 2020, was certified 2x platinum. Its softer textured instrumentation, drums and electric guitar really complement the beautiful harmonised vocals, melodic piano riffs throughout the song as well as the incorporation of strings. The gorgeous instrumentation and vocals contrasting with the darker lyrics exemplify the 1970s popular technique.
This Song Has No Title
Track 5 on the album is This Song Has No Title, which is also the shortest song. I personally love this song because of the multiple harmony parts complimenting the staccato piano chords. Also, lyrically it simply encourages living life to the fullest and not putting a label on the path we must follow in life hence “This Song Has No Title”. This song is not one of his most popular on the album but I think it is the perfect uplifting tune diluting the typical John piano ballads on the album.
I’ve Seen That Movie Too
Like Bennie and The Jets, this song is certainly distinctive from its introductory jazzy piano riff that also appears throughout the song. The lyrics detail a breakup through the metaphor of a movie. The stripped-back, gentle instrumentation with John’s powerful voice emphasises the emotional lyrics and creates a flawless piano ballad with some extra elements of jazz. Like This Song Has No Title, it is not one of his most well-known songs but I think it is a perfect representation of the beautiful songwriting of John and Taupin.
Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
My final choice is Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), another one of John’s hits from the album. The song echoes back to classic rock and roll, a genre not featured much on the album. The lyrics describe a night out on the town in England, seen in John’s popular biopic ‘Rocketman’, matching the upbeat rock sound. I think it is one of John’s most well-known and catchiest songs released and highly recognisable for its outro, with the repetition of the word “Saturday” multiple times.
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