Tag Archives: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Rocks In The Attic #719: Elton John- ‘Greatest Hits’ (1974)

RITA#719Another year, another Christmas, and another Christmas advert from John Lewis. This year it’s a journey back through the life of Elton John. The montage of performances of Your Song goes further and further back we until we discover the source of his tantrums and tiaras was a Christmas present of an upright piano back in the 1950s.

In any other year, I would have quite enjoyed this. It looks great, and the message is as wholesome as the likes of John Lewis ads in prior years. But with the timing so close to the upcoming Elton John biopic starring Taron Egerton, and Elton’s own farewell tour, I wonder if he has more to gain from this than the department store he’s shilling.

The Guardian offered an alternative version of the commercial. As amusing as this warts-and-all version sounds, I would have also thrown in that moment from when he fell off his chair at the tennis and writhed around on his back like a shell-suited tortoise.

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I can take or leave Elton. He’s put out far more lead than gold, but his golden moments are very, very good. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, in particular, is a masterpiece, and his early Americana-tinged records (Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across The Water and Honky Château) are interesting. I’ve even started to warm to his ‘80s output – something I thought I’d never hear myself saying. I’m Still Standing is a banger for the ages.

This first greatest hits collection was released in 1974, after that wave of success following Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, of which it takes three songs, and its follow-up, Caribou. I expect it will be available at John Lewis this Christmas, on a special display stand next to the Christmas jumpers and party crackers.

Hit: Your Song

Hidden Gem: Border Song

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Rocks In The Attic #692: Elton John – ‘Caribou’ (1974)

RITA#692One of the highlights of last weekend’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – aside from watching Idris Elba accompany Oprah Winfrey through the doors of the chapel – was Elton John’s fabulous pink glasses. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think he might be one of those homosexuals that we’ve been hearing so much about.

You can always rely on Elton to look fabulous. The pink spectacles reminded me of his portrait on the inner sleeve to this, his eighth studio album. Coming off the back of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a step down after such a big seller, but there’s still a lot to love here. Opener The Bitch Is Back sounds like the tag-team partner of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, and Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me would be a moderate hit (#16 UK, #2 US) before being recorded as a duet with George Michael in 1991, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

I just love the outrageousness of Elton singing a love letter to Grimsby – Take me back you rustic town / I miss your magic charm / Just to smell your candy floss / Or drink in the Skinners Arms.

Hit: Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

Hidden Gem: Grimsby

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Rocks In The Attic #677: Billy Joel – ‘The Stranger’ (1977)

RITA#677There are some records that you hear so much about, they become part of the furniture. The front cover becomes so familiar, it becomes part of the wallpaper of life. You see it all the time, but you’ve never heard it. The part of your brain that reasons why it’s so ubiquitous is usually extinguished by some other factor – a dislike of the artist in question, or the fans of the artist in question.

Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was one of those records for me. When I first heard it about five years ago, it hit me like a sledgehammer. Hit after hit after hit. That’s the reason it used to sit in the record collection of my friend’s parents. “Yellow vinyl, that is!” they used to proclaim as though that might have swayed me. It didn’t. So I just remained ignorant to it for the next twenty years or so.

Billy Joel’s commercial break-through, The Stranger, is another one. His fifth studio album, it plays like a Greatest Hits record. Strangely, it stalled at #2 on the US Billboard – despite staying there for six consecutive weeks in late 1977. None of the singles did particularly well either. They all sound like number ones, but the closest to the top spot was Just The Way You Are, which peaked at #3.

Having just seen Ben Folds in concert (on his Paper Aeroplane tour), it’s lovely to listen to the piano break in Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, and hear in one ten second blast where Folds got much of his playing style from.

Maybe the reason I wrote Billy Joel off was Uptown Girl – his enduring ‘80s hit from An Innocent Man. I love Uptown Girl – it might have been overplayed to death when I was growing up, but there’s a good reason why. The melodies are so catchy, it’s one of those songs I find myself singing out of the blue without hearing it – particularly the backing vocals that kick the song off, and accompany the instrumental break later in the song.

Okay everybody, on three. One…two…three… “ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh-ohhhhh…

Hit: Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)

Hidden Gem: The Stranger

Rocks In The Attic #634: Elton John – ’21 At 33’ (1980)

RITA#634I have a newfound love for Elton John. He’s always been one of those artists I’m militantly apathetic towards. I like the melancholy of Rocket Man. I like the wistfulness of Tiny Dancer from Madman Across The Water, and Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters from Honky Château. I like most – if not all – of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, a double record that gets by on its energy as much as its songwriting. But I wouldn’t call myself a big fan.

I’ve written before about how his great 70’s output is overshadowed by his schlocky ‘80s output, and the fact that he’s become bigger than his music. Recently, I’ve started to re-evaluate him, and it’s come from an unlikely source – my five year old.

Olivia has been singing I’m Still Standing, as it features in a prominent scene in Garth Jennings’ animated film, Sing (2016). If you asked me what I considered to be bad Elton, I’d offer this song. To be honest, I’ve probably never considered the song on its own merits; I just have a deep dislike for the music video that always seemed to be consistently on TV when I was growing up.

The French Riviera portrayed in that film has put me off visiting France for life – it’s a camp wonderland where all the hotel bellboys are bare-chested studs, or body-painted extroverts. Elton, in his red suit and pith helmet, tips one of them with glitter – the forgotten French currency between the Franc and the Euro. After a quick costume change where he dons a straw boater, he then moves down to the beach where he takes a little too much satisfaction from pushing over some human dominoes before attempting to click his fingers, something he can’t do due to his piano-playing sausage fingers.

But when you hear your five year old singing the song by herself, it’s as cute as hell. It’s grown on me to such an extent that I regret giving away the studio album, Too Low For Zero, that it’s taken from.

21 At 33 is Elton’s twenty-first release (counting studio records, live albums, compilations, a soundtrack and an EP), and was released when he was thirty-three years old. It’s actually his fourteenth studio record, released in a commercial trough between 1979’s Victim Of Love and 1981’s The Fox. These were fallow years for Elton, eventually making a big comeback in 1983 with, you guessed it, I’m Still Standing.

Hit: Little Jeannie

Hidden Gem: Chasing The Crown

Rocks In The Attic #498: Elton John – ‘Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy’ (1975)

RITA#498I’d always assumed that the cover art for this record was done by the same guy who did the cover to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but apparently not. For that same reason, I’d always compared it to that earlier, more successful record and been quite disappointed with it as a result. It’s still leagues ahead of his ‘80s output though, primarily because it’s a band effort – his last recorded with the band until 1983’s Too Low For Zero.

It’s arguable – but probably very true – that Elton peaked with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and it’s been downhill ever since. I saw him the other week singing on the Graham Norton with Welsh popster Bright Light Bright Light. Without his piano in front of him, he looked very strange – like an Elton John lookalike in fact. It could only have looked weirder if he was a lookalike, and he was then joined by a Queen Elizabeth lookalike, dancing along to the song with her corgis.

As a record, Captain Fantastic seems to get overlooked, mainly because there are no hits on it. Elton has praised this aspect of it in interviews, regarding it as one of his finest because of its lack commerciality. It’s true that the concept of the album – an autobiographical tale of Elton and Bernie Taupin’s early years in the music business – isn’t disturbed by a big stupid hit single. We’re only twelve months before Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with Kiki Dee, which I love, but would have been so out of place here.

Hit: Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Hidden Gem: Tell Me When The Whistle Blows