Tonight (December 13th) on the world famous Classic Album at Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
The album is presented in full with no commercials or interruptions.
By 1973 Elton John was one of the biggest music stars on the planet. His previous two albums – Honky Chateau and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player – had both reached number one, kicking off what would become an unbroken streak of seven consecutive US number one albums.
Inspired by The Rolling Stones having recorded Goats Head Soup in Jamaica, Elton travelled to the island. There he wrote most of the music for his seventh album during a three day stay at the Pink Flamingo Hotel. Meanwhile, Bernie Taupin penned the lyrics over a two and a half week period.
The plan had been to record the album in Jamaica, but this was scuppered by technical issues with the studio and the political protests that were raging through the island.
Elton and his band instead relocated to France to record at Studio d’enregistrement Michel Magne, at the Château d’Hérouville near Pontoise, the studio where the singer had recorded his previous two albums.
Elton and Bernie had composed 22 tracks, eventually whittling the selection down to 18 for what would become Elton’s first double album. Lyrically, the album sees the pair mourning for lost childhoods and a changing cultural landscape. There are several nods to classic Hollywood, with references to Marilyn Monroe, West Side Story and The Wizard of Oz.
Musically, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road veers between ballads like Candle in the Wind and rockers like Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting). A flirtation with prog rock can be heard on the 11 minute long opener Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.
Elton’s backing band or the album includes his vocal protégé Kiki Dee, keyboardist David Hentschel, guitarist Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson.
In its original release, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road features 17 tracks. On Side A are Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding; Candle in the Wind; and Bennie and the Jets. On Side B are Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; This Song Has No Title; Grey Seal; Jamaica Jerk-Off; and I’ve Seen That Movie Too. Side C consists of Sweet Painted Lady; The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34); Dirty Little Girl; and All the Girls Love Alice. The album wraps up with Side D’s Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll); Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting); Roy Rogers; Social Disease; and Harmony.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was released on October 5th 1973. After debuting at number 17 on the US Billboard chart, it reached the topped four weeks later, becoming the best-selling album of 1974 in the US. It also reached number one in the UK and is still Elton John’s biggest selling studio album. Its four singles – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Candle in the Wind and Bennie and the Jets – were all Top 20 hits, with the latter topping the US chart.
The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003. Rolling Stone magazine currently ranks it at number 112 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Considered by many to be Elton John’s finest album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road can be heard in all its double album glory at midnight tonight on Radio Nova.