As he reached his seventh studio album – and second of 1973 alone – Elton John’s phenomenal creativity was prepared to maneuver up one other gear. On 5 October, simply 9 months after the chart-topping achievements of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Solely The Piano Participant, he unveiled his first double-album, and one other profession excessive, Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway.
The album was made, like Don’t Shoot Me… and its predecessor, Honky Château, within the now acquainted environment of Château d’Hérouville, with its studio set in an 18th-century French nation home. Right here, Workforce Elton, that includes the well-established Johnstone/Murray/Olsson line-up below the steerage of producer Gus Dudgeon and the lyrical inspiration of Bernie Taupin, might create in consolation. No fewer than 21 songs have been recorded in only a dozen days, 17 of which fashioned the brand new, four-sided epic.
Hearken to Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway proper now.
Writing and recording classes: “There have been guys with machine weapons”
However Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway virtually had one other sound altogether. As Elton later remembered, he had entertained the thought of a wildly totally different working surroundings. “I stated, ‘The Rolling Stones have simply achieved Goats Head Soup in Jamaica, let’s go there,’” he famous. They usually did, beginning manufacturing on the brand new mission in Kingston, the place they arrived in January 1973, the day after the so-called Sunshine Showdown boxing face-off between George Foreman and Joe Frazier.
The Jamaican capital might have labored for the Stones, nevertheless it didn’t for Elton and co. They discovered the environment hostile and the recording gear substandard. “If I keep in mind rightly,” stated Taupin, “the studio was surrounded by barbed wire and there have been guys with machine weapons.” A solitary effort was dedicated to tape within the type of an early model of ‘Saturday Night time’s Alright For Preventing’, nevertheless it was shortly shelved and Elton and Bernie beat a hasty retreat to New York.
Excellent news awaited them. Earlier than the Kingston expertise, critical consideration had already been given to a return to the château, however a authorized dispute about its possession had closed its doorways. Fortunately, the contretemps proved short-term, and with an formidable and wide-ranging assortment of recent songs already written in Jamaica, Elton and his allies breezed by way of their recording.
“It by no means ceases to amaze me how shortly I can write”
“Lyrics are all the time first,” Elton advised Circus journal simply after Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway’s launch. “If I don’t have the lyrics I don’t write any songs. If Taupin is barren, that’s that. We haven’t written something now, like for eight or 9 months. We solely write when it’s time to do an album. I don’t write on the highway.
“But it surely by no means ceases to amaze me how shortly I can write. See, I’m going in spurts, songs are all achieved on the spur of the second. If I have been a guitarist, it might be totally different, however I can’t carry a piano round with me. Truly, I attempted it as soon as, and it bought stolen.
“I don’t write at dwelling anymore both, I write within the studio,” he continued. “They’ll be bringing the lyrics down from upstairs and typing them up, and the band will sit round and decide it up as I’m composing, and it occurs like that. It’s getting foolish, as a result of in Jamaica I wrote about 25 songs in three days.”
Singles: ‘Saturday Night time’s Alright For Preventing’
The perfected ‘Saturday Night time’s Alright For Preventing’ preceded the album as a summer time 1973 single. Its pugnacious, high-testosterone really feel matched a lyric based mostly on Taupin’s true experiences, from his days of under-age consuming on the Aston Arms, within the Lincolnshire city the place his secondary faculty was located, Market Rasen.
Davey Johnstone’s authoritative lead guitar was the proper foil for Elton’s frenetic piano, and the track rose to No.7 within the UK, backed by two songs from the Don’t Shoot Me… classes, ‘Jack Rabbit’ and ‘Every time You’re Prepared (We’ll Go Regular Once more)’, each of which have been included on subsequent reissues of that album.
‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway’
Simply after Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway was unleashed, the title monitor turned its second single, with Taupin calling on totally different features of his childhood within the nation, wrapped in Wizard Of Oz imagery. This basic Elton ballad turned, and stays, one other of his numerous requirements, topping the chart in Canada and on America’s Cashbox countdown; on the rival Billboard chart, it got here to relaxation at No.2 behind Carpenters’ ‘High Of The World’ after which Charlie Wealthy’s ‘The Most Stunning Lady’.
‘Candle In The Wind’
When it was time for a 3rd single from the set, DJM within the UK opted for the John-Taupin composition that mourned Marilyn Monroe. With appreciable prescience, the track noticed the starmaking machine that exploited her and would later virtually eat Elton himself. ‘Candle In The Wind’ surprisingly stalled at No.11, however has been recurrent ever since, as a No.5 hit from 1987’s Reside In Australia album after which as nothing lower than the bestselling single of all time, reconfigured to mark the dying of the Princess Of Wales in 1997.
‘Bennie And The Jets’
In America, nevertheless, MCA opted for ‘Bennie And The Jets’, regardless of Elton’s vehement objections. “It’s the strangest monitor on the entire album,” he advised Circus. “It’s a send-up of the glitter rock factor, and I sound like Frankie Valli of The 4 Seasons.” However after early AM radio help from CKLW in Windsor, Ontario, the monitor unfold throughout North America, topping the Sizzling 100 in April 1974 and even turning into his first hit on the R&B chart, the place, to the star’s nice satisfaction, it reached No.15.
Later that 12 months, John indulged his love of radio by sitting in for a day on CKLW, billed (as on future events, together with on BBC radio) as “EJ The DJ”. He performed songs by the likes of Cher and Rufus earlier than introducing ‘Bennie And The Jets’ with the phrases, “This file is a Deee-troit file. You made it! Thanks!”
Album launch and reception: “a musical in its personal proper”
As an album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway was a trove of various delights, additionally together with the majestic, slow-building opener ‘Funeral For A Buddy’/‘Love Lies Bleeding’, the light balladeering of ‘Candy Painted Woman’ and ‘Concord’, the reggaefied ‘Jamaica Jerk-Off’ and spirited upbeat items like ‘Gray Seal’ and ‘All The Women Love Alice’. Taupin’s Americana inspirations have been typically on show, as on the story of an ill-fated Kentucky bootlegger of the 30s, ‘The Ballad Of Danny Bailey (1909-1934)’.
The album was rapturously acquired. Chris Welch in Melody Maker referred to as it a “excellent new assortment of songs”, noting that John and Taupin had “surpassed themselves with a double-album that’s daring, adventurous and vastly entertaining”. He went on to explain it as “a musical in its personal proper, ranging over an entire gamut of concepts and ideas.
“Superbly produced by Gus Dudgeon,” Welch went on, “the sound of the Elton John band is sometimes blended with an orchestra, for particular results. However total it’s Elton’s intense, ceaselessly transferring vocals, Davey Johnstone’s guitar, Nigel Olsson’s virulent drums, and above all of the lyrics that create the best impression.”
Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway spent Christmas 1973 at No.1 within the UK, in a two-week keep, and surpassed itself with an eight-week reign within the US, from November into the brand new 12 months. Licensed gold there upon launch, it had soared to eight-times platinum by 2014, and now resides within the Grammy Corridor Of Fame. The album additionally ranked contained in the High 100 of Rolling Stone’s all-time High 500 itemizing of 2003.
“In the meanwhile I’m having a very good time”
For its 40th anniversary, in 2014, the deluxe Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway reissue included 9 covers of songs from the album, newly recorded by modern-day stars. Amongst them have been Ed Sheeran’s studying of ‘Candle In The Wind’, Zac Brown Band’s ‘Concord’, Emeli Sandé’s ‘All The Women Love Alice’ and a model of ‘Your Sister Can’t Twist (However She Can Rock’n’Roll)’ by Imelda Might.
In one other interview on the time of Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway’s launch, Elton made some fascinating and amusing feedback about his future plans. “I’d actually like to write down lyrics,” he advised Phonograph File. “I actually wish to do a solo album – I do know that sounds humorous, a solo album – and at some point I’m going to do it, and it’ll be so f__king doomy and depressing it’ll make Leonard Cohen sound like a jig.
“I’d love to do a movie. I’d love to do a comedy,” he continued. “However in the mean time there’s a lot to do so far as recording and issues go, and I’m actually getting concerned within the file firm [Rocket Records, launched by Elton earlier in the year]. I simply don’t assume that I’ve any time. All my time is taken up with touring. As quickly as I get fed up with touring I’ll cease, however in the mean time I’m actually having a superb time.”
Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway might be purchased right here.