Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road


Let’s be honest, in the early 1970s I had a bit of an Elton John phase. It’s not something that I care to talk about much these days, but having bought the single ‘Your Song’ in 1970 and then prevaricated through the next few years, I finally took the plunge in 1973 and got myself a copy of ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ – no mean feat in those days as double albums were a considerable drain on my meagre income.


If truth be told I loved it and it was hardly off my turntable in those heady days of playing records from dawn to dusk (and beyond) but of late the classic fold-out album cover has been gathering dust. It wasn’t until I picked up a cheap CD copy that my love affair with it was re-kindled. No matter what you think of Elton these days, GYBR is a monster of an album. Comprising four sides of killer material with very little filler and covering a variety of styles that only the White Album can surpass, it remains Elton’s tour de force. If you only have one EJ album, make it this.

Generally, when you re-play old albums that once shared your life, there are two possible outcomes; utter disbelief that you once gave it house room or a warm glow of recognition and acknowledgement that you got it right. GYBR has nestled itself down into the latter category like an old pair of shoes – a bit old fashioned but fabulously comfy. What has struck me about it is the sheer energy and invention in both the music and lyric departments. The tunes and the playing are top notch and Bernie’s lyrics are some of his very best. The subject matter is as wide as the musical variety and it is difficult to remember what the 17 year-old me made of such themes as lesbianism, hookers and personal hygiene, but I did like the tunes so I probably didn’t take too much notice.

If I was going to be picky, I could’ve done without ‘Jamaica Jerk Off’ and possibly a couple of the cuts on the final side and to later cannibalise Bernie’s heart-felt peon to Marilyn Monroe in ‘Candle in the Wind’ for you-know-who is a hanging offence but the thing about all double albums is that they tend to benefit from being a sprawling mass, an outpouring of artistic endeavour so you have to take them or leave them. Personally, I’d take this one every time.

So what did happen to Elton? I remember buying ‘Captain Fantastic’ and a bit later, ‘Too Low for Zero’ but neither of these appears to be in my collection any more, so GYBR it is then. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer album.

6 comments:

Charlie said...

I never felt like you do about GBYBR. I do find some of the subject matter to be offputting and unnecessary. I thought Elton's vocal on "Bennie & The Jets" was his worst performance up to that point. However, the album is not junk. There is a lot of great stuff on there to counter the songs with creepy lyrics. I liked Captain Fantastic better.

Jeff said...

GYBR is an incredible album. No shame in loving it. Like you, the rest of his catalog doesn't amaze me, but GYBR is fantastic!

musicobsessive said...

Charlie - that's funny ,cos I feel the same way about Capt. Fantastic. I like bits of it alot but wouldn't put it in my favourite albums list. Just shows that there's lots of discussion to be had about music, even after 30+ years!

Jeff - Glad you agree but clearly the arguments continue (see above). For me this is a sort of rite of passage album that represents a time of life. Content doesn't really come into it but I'm just happy that it was made during a time of high creativity for Elton.

Adrian said...

Should this make any sense - for me, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is akin to Elton's Court and Spark, and Honky Chateau is more his Blue.

musicobsessive said...

Adrian - Yes, I can see that. Still waiting for Elton's 'Mingus' lol!

Adrian said...

hehe the Mingus is among us...