Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

One of the songs that reminds me of childhood. This was Elton in his most fertile period of the seventies. Elton and Bernie had the Midas touch with songs.

Elton and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin went to Jamaica to record the album, but the studio wasn’t up to standard, so the project was abandoned there with only a rough version of “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” actually being recorded. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and the rest of the album were recorded in France at Strawberry Studios (The Chateau d’Hierouville).

The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, #6 in the UK, and #2 in New Zealand in 1973-74. This made the third Elton single to make number 1 in Canada in 1973.

The song’s B side was originally titled “Screw You”, although the US release re-titled the song “Young Man’s Blues” so that it would not offend American record buyers.

Bernie Taupin: “It’s funny, but there are songs that I recall writing as if it was yesterday. And then there are those I have absolutely no recollection of, whatsoever. In fact, I’d have to say that for the most part, if someone was to say that the entire Yellow Brick Road album was actually written by someone else, I might be inclined to believe them. I remember being there, just not physically creating.

There was a period when I was going through that whole ‘got to get back to my roots’ thing, which spawned a lot of like-minded songs in the early days, this being one of them. I don’t believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn’t want it. I just don’t believe I was ever that naïve. I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting. My only naiveté, I guess, was believing I could do it so early on. I had to travel a long road and visit the school of hard knocks before I could come even close to achieving that goal. So, thank God I can say quite categorically that I am home.”

From Songfacts

The Yellow Brick Road is an image taken from the movie The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, Dorothy and her friends follow the yellow brick road in search of the magical Wizard of Oz, only to find they had what they were looking for all along. It was rumored that the song was about Judy Garland, who starred in the film.

Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics to this and most of Elton’s other songs. He often seems to write about Elton, but this one appears to be about himself. The lyrics are about giving up a life of opulence for one of simplicity in a rural setting. Elton has enjoyed a very extravagant lifestyle, while Taupin prefers to keep it low key.

Bernie’s canine imagery, including the part about sniffing around on the ground, is a sly poke at Linda’s two little dogs. Linda was a girlfriend of Elton John’s.

In 2008, Ben & Jerry’s created a flavor of ice cream in honor of Elton John called “Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road.” Made of chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks, it was made to commemorate Elton’s first concert in Vermont (home of the ice cream makers) on July 21, 2008 at the Essex Junction fairgrounds. Elton had played every other state before his Vermont show. He had some of the ice cream before the show.

Ben Folds told Rolling Stone magazine for their 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time issue: “He was mixing his falsetto and his chest voice to really fantastic effect in the ’70s. There’s that point in ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,’ where he sings, ‘on the grooound’ – his voice is all over the shop. It’s like jumping off a diving board when he did that.” 

American rock group Queens Of The Stone Age covered the song for the 2018 Elton John tribute album Revamp. Their version was produced by Mark Ronson and features backing vocals with Jake Shears of The Scissor Sisters.

“It’s nice to pick something that may seem off kilter at first for us to do. But ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ really has the psychedelic carousel nature to it,” said QOTSA’s Josh Homme. “I think at first we thought we will tinker with the arrangement, but there’s so many beautiful chords- the chord progression is so wonderful- once you step on that carousel, it’s just this beautiful musical swirl and it’s really intoxicating to be on that carousel. And it seemed like there’s a psychedelic element that we could bring out, that it’s touching on, and that maybe the key for us to do it would be to accentuate the wispiness that is going on in the song.”

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

When are you gonna come down?
When are you going to land?
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man

You know you can’t hold me forever
I didn’t sign up with you
I’m not a present for your friends to open
This boy’s too young to be singing, the blues

So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can’t plant me in your penthouse
I’m going back to my plough

Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I’ve finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road

What do you think you’ll do then?
I bet that’ll shoot down your plane
It’ll take you a couple of vodka and tonics
To set you on your feet again

Maybe you’ll get a replacement
There’s plenty like me to be found
Mongrels who ain’t got a penny
Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground

So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can’t plant me in your penthouse
I’m going back to my plough

Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I’ve finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

48 thoughts on “Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

      1. Nope, probably not. He retired from performing a couple of years ago. We went to his final performance in Denver then. it was right around my birthday. he still sounded great and was magic at the piano, but he could barely walk.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I can’t believe this but no…he announced this: Elton John has announced the rescheduled North American dates for his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.” Following his recently announced dates in Europe, beginning September 1, 2021 in Berlin (tour dates here), the tour will kick off again in North America on January 19, 2022, in New Orleans

        Whether he does it or not…who knows?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Rod Stewart was messing with him saying this farewell tour has been forever. I guess when that is all you have done…it’s hard to stop.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I expect he will… he seems to still love playing live and I”m sure will be missing the stage by now. One of the oversights of my life that I never saw him in concert… bizarrely he played my home town – a suburb, not Toronto downtown – twice since I moved away from it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. One mystery solved Bruce! I think on a lot of songs they think of a great sounding title…and just write around it…that happens a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I love these songs Lisa…but I’m trying to find more unknown…if I could find them like yesterday’s song…that is all I would post…at least I would mix them more…tomorrow is more unknown!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL I’m checking them out! Oh on my top ten Beatle covers…I have one of your guys. I had to pick between them on the same song.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Elton at his peak, a classic single from a great album, and one which shows just what a amazing singer he was in his younger heyday – he could really reach those notes and sing with passion and emotion. I think he is still under-rated as a singer right up until his operation changed the tone to something much deeper and less emotive sometime in the 90’s.

    Like

  2. One of my favorite songs of the ’70s from arguably my favorite album of the decade. this, “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” are the co-winners of the Elton gold medal in his list of songs to me, but he’s had a lot of “silver” ones coming close.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everything him and Bernie touched until a time was golden…they could do no wrong. Did they have some clinkers yea…everyone does but what a ride they had

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Where the dogs of society howl…” I heard “And, your downtown society house…” 😆

        And he pronounces “toad” like “town.” No wonder this song never made sense. And, Taupin doesn’t remember writing it? Drugs…😁😎

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great song – although I don’t tend to enjoy a lot of his stuff, this is genuinely brilliant and I would agree with Josh Homme when he says that there’s a “psychedelic carousel nature to it”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree this song makes me reminisce my childhood a great deal. In fact one day as a kid I rang up the radio station and requested this song for my Dad. This album and Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ were the only two records I wrote out the complete lyrics and made minibooklets out of them. The album is a classic and in my top 10 albums of all time. Although I really like ‘Too Low 4 Zero’ as well. I enjoyed reading what Bernie said about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everything he touched in the early to mid 70s was just gold. I didn’t appreciate him until I got his second greatest hits…I was astonished

      Liked by 1 person

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