7 Cool Things About “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

elton john

Christmas Day, 1973: unwrapping Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road gave me a high that I only get these days from a combination of mashed potatoes, a shot of Patron and a Hostess cupcake (it’s an old family recipe. OK, so it’s my own. Sue me). I couldn’t wait to get past our traditional family breakfast, race up to my room and drop the needle on that cherished piece of new vinyl.

And then….the solemn opening notes to “Funeral For A Friend “ (the sound of the wind, those clanging bells….) For the next few hours, my bedroom door was shut and I was deep into the music, the liner notes, the artwork, and everything else that was absolutely overwhelming about this landmark album. I wasn’t alone: Rolling Stone ranks it at #91 on the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” The album has also been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Related: “After Elton John Reached the Top, He Aimed Even Higher”

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was also the backdrop for Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour which kicked off in 2018 and recently ended after Covid interruptions. Here are seven cool things about “GYBR.”

1) Considering how huge Elton was at this time, here’s a stat for you: at one point, he was responsible for 3 percent of ALL the records sold…across the entire planet. GYBR topped the charts for eight weeks and sold over 30 million copies.

2)Working titles for the album included Vodka and Tonics and Silent Movies, Talking Pictures.

3) “GYBR” features more than a few mentions of dogs in the lyrics. This was not an accident. Elton was dating a woman named “Linda” at the time – and the mentions of sniffing around on the ground, etc. were a reference to her own pooches.

4) The recording for the album began in Jamaica (partly because the Stones had recorded Goat’s Head Soup at the same place). However, a boxing match between Joe Frazier and George Foreman had created tensions in the area. So the crew moved back to a familiar recording facility in France where the album was completed.

5) Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics for this double album in just two and a half weeks; it took Elton only three days to write the music.

6) Elton is the first solo rock artist to have a wax portrait done by Madame Tussaud. His came in 1976, unveiled in London; the Beatles (as a group) came before.

7) About “Candle In the Wind,” one of the most iconic tracks on the album (and one re-done for the 1997 funeral of Princess Diana), songwriter Bernie Taupin has said: “I wrote ‘Candle In The Wind’ about Marilyn Monroe, but she is absolutely not someone I admired a lot as a kid or anything. She was just a metaphor for fame and dying young, and people sort of overdoing the indulgence, and those that do die young. The song could have easily have been about Montgomery Clift or James Dean or even Jim Morrison…”

Personally, I loved the songs  “Love Lies Bleeding,” “Grey Seal” and “Your Sister Can’t Dance (But She Can Rock and Roll).” What are your fave tracks off of this amazing album?  (And if you’ve sniffed out any additional “fun facts” about the album, feel free to share ’em!)

-Cindy Grogan

Photo Credit:  Elton John performed songs from his new album “Wonderful Crazy Night” at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Island Records)






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5 comments on “7 Cool Things About “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

  1. “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” were great rockers, embraced by my fellow 11 and 12-year-olds and I. “Bennie and the Jets,” being about loving a cool rock group, also spoke to us. I also sang “Harmony” in the shower. Those and the title song were the ones that most grabbed middle-school me.

    But at that age I had no idea what to make of “All the Girls Love Alice.” At first I thought it was a shout-out to Alice Cooper. A look at the lyrics disabused me:

    She couldn’t get it on with the boys on the scene
    But what do you expect from a chick who’s just sixteen?
    And hey, hey, hey (hey, hey, hey) you know what I mean

    All the young girls love Alice / Tender young Alice, they say
    Come over and see me / Come over and please me
    Alice, it’s my turn today

    All the young girls love Alice / Tender young Alice, they say
    If I give you my number / Will you promise to call me?
    Wait till my husband’s away

    Poor little darling with a chip out of her heart
    It’s like acting in a movie when you got the wrong part
    Getting your kicks in another girl’s bed
    And it was only last Tuesday they found you in the subway dead

    And who could you call your friends down in Soho?
    One or two middle-aged dykes in a Go-Go […]

    That was mind-bending stuff to find on a pop album in 1973.

  2. Lisa Arata

    Gray Seal inspired me.

  3. Andy Geisel

    Roy Rogers and Ballad of Danny Bailey, both great tracks! Love the strings on Danny Bailey and the marriage of lyric and music on Roy Rogers is just perfect.

  4. what’s so cool about Elton is that his music is multigenerational, GENDER AND CLASS. WE ALL LOVED HIM DOWN AT THE DISCO IN NYC.

  5. #6 is not about GYBR. You owe us one more cool thing.

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