1973 was a good year for Elton John. January found him releasing Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player. It sold millions of copies as it and its lead single, “Crocodile Rock,” both reached Number One on their respective American charts. It established him as a formidable creative and commercial presence.
Ten months later he returned with his grand opus.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road would ultimately become one of the best-selling studio albums in music history, confirming Elton John's status as one of pop music's leading superstars.
Elton John has issued close to forty albums but this may be his most famous. It was originally released as a double album and is a rare effort where the quality of music actually warrants two discs. As such it is a sprawling affair that ranges from tender, simple ballads to all-out rock ‘n’ roll. Many of its songs still receive radio play today and are among the most famous in pop history.
The album is fueled by three memorable songs that became successful singles. “Bennie and The Jets” marked his second release to top the singles charts. Its staccato rhythm and almost jazz-type vocal help it endure as one of his his signature songs. The title track is a grand ballad and seventies music at its best. “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” just rocks from beginning to end. I saw Elton John perform this song live a number of years ago and it was the highlight of the concert.
“Candle In The Wind” received a lot of airplay at the time of the album's release. This gentle and sensitive ballad was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, yet in 1997 it was re-worked as a tribute to Princess Diana and became one the biggest-selling worldwide singles in history.
The album contains a number of other strong tracks as well. “I’ve Seen That Movie Too” is bluesy, mellow, and brilliant soft rock. “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll)” is a nostalgic trip back to the days of sock hops. The opening track, “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” checks in at over eleven minutes and is one of the longer recordings of his career. The instrumental introduction segues into a song about the end of an affair. The song's length allows him to stretch and experiment as the music ebbs and flows. Finally, “Roy Rogers” is a cinematic tribute to old television heroes and movies.
Elton John’s career and music flow through this album. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road remains one of the classic releases in pop history and is still more than worth the price of admission.