Elton John released what is still considered his greatest album, Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road, on October 5, 1973 — but only now, six months after the actual anniversary date, the album is getting a special reissued edition to mark the 40th anniversary of the remarkable double LP, containing many of Elton John’s best-known songs.
Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin cranked out the 17 tunes on what was then two 12″ vinyl discs in an 18-day frenzy at a chateau in France, after an aborted attempt to record the album in Jamaica.
“We’d record about three or four tracks a day,” the legendary pop star, who more recently composed music for the long-running Broadway show The Lion King, recently recalled for Rolling Stone magazine. “They were mostly made up on the day they were recorded. We were a very tight band with a lot of touring experience. We’d capture more songs in two or three takes.”
The album contained such now-legendary tracks as “Candle In The Wind,” “Bennie And The Jets,” “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and the title track, “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.”
“Elton would come up with a tune during breakfast. I’d write my songs longhand. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a typewriter,” Bernie Taupin remembered. “One of the few things I remember very clearly, and this is easy to visualize now, is sitting on the side of my bed with a notepad, just writing. I’d just write stream-of-conscious lyrics.”
Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road was the seventh album released by Elton John in the first four years of his recording career, a pace simply unfathomable for today’s artists but not uncommon during the 1960s and 1970s, an era that saw a phenomenal outpouring of creativity from top talents, such as John and Taupin.
The landmark album was in fact the second Elton John release of 1973, preceded earlier that year by another LP considered classic today, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player.
The 40th anniversary reissue, which becomes available March 25, also includes, in some editions, newly recorded cover versions of songs from Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road. For example, Patrick Stump of the band Fall Out Boy, re-recorded “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” saying that Elton John was one of his top musical inspirations.
“Every time I sit down to the piano, I’m either trying to sound like Elton John or trying not to sound like Elton John,” said Stump. “Those are really my only two choices. He’s left that big a mark.”