Dad Rock Bi-Weekly: Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

By Jessica Jones, Staff Writer
[Trident Studios; 1973]
Original Release Date: Oct. 5, 1973

What do you get when you mix country and soul with flamboyant, experimental pop? Elton John, of course. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, his seventh studio album, is widely regarded as his best work that brings us bold and exciting hits while still allowing the listeners to see John’s softer side. His dedicated friend and writer of many, many songs, Bernie Taupin, is also credited for the success of this album. Selling well over 30 million records and spending nearly three months on the top of the charts, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is one of the most influential pop-rock albums to come out of the ’70s.

Read more: Dad Rock Bi-Weekly: Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run

Intending to record in Jamaica, hoping that it would provide the band with inspiration, their stay was cut rather short after learning of the disaster that was Dynamic Sounds. Seeing that the studio workers were on strike, the locals were reportedly less than hospitable, and creative morale was low. The decision was made to fly to France where they would write and record at Château d’Hérouville, the recording location of Elton’s previous two albums. Inspiration was found in abundance here, and the band produced a great deal of quality content in a short amount of time. After roughly 18 days, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was born.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is that no two songs sound the same. “Bennie and the Jets”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” were all released as singles in the United States and quickly became international favorites as well. John claims that he wasn’t in favor of releasing “Bennie and the Jets” as a single, but once he found out that it was the number one black record in Detroit, he was sold. Like most Elton John songs, “Bennie and the Jets” is well known for its piano-heavy melody and groovy baseline. Other wildly experimental tunes include “Jamaica Jerk-Off” which features a myriad of beachy-sounding instruments and “Funeral for a Friend/ Love Lies Bleeding”, an 11-minute piece that’s split into two movements; the first one is a rock ballad, and the second is a lyrical section written completely by Elton. “Dirty Little Girl” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” give us the classic energy you get when you listen to any Elton song: bold, risque and emphatic. Being a double album, there was room to include a handful of slower, more earnest songs, the most popular being “Candle In the Wind”. Originally written by Taupin about Marilyn Monroe, Elton eventually re-wrote and dedicated this song to Princess Diana after her death. The 1997 version peaked at number one in the United Kingdom, as well as several other countries. The title track, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was inspired by The Wizard of Oz, written by Taupin. Inspired by the film, this alluring song tells the story of a lover who wishes to go back to the simple life before the relationship.

Feeling every bit magical as it is intrepid, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is still well-loved today. Landing at number 91 in the 500 greatest albums of all time, the songs on this album prove to be just as influential today as they were nearly 50 years ago. Sir Elton John gave us some of his most outlandish songs, but he delivered them all with spectacular opulence, making this classic an essential Elton John album.

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