Elton John

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Composed by Bernie Taupin / Elton John

Song Review by

In the midst of the sprawling, genre-busting double album of the same title, Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is a small masterpiece of '70s soft rock, and a strong contender for the coveted title of John's finest song ever. Lyrically, the song is evocative of faded Hollywood glamour in the manner of Sunset Boulevard; it's a clear-eyed, somewhat bitter, but not vindictive kiss-off to a wealthy former paramour that John invests with soul and personal meaning even despite Bernie Taupin's absurd details. (It's not much of a stretch to imagine Elton as a rent boy, perhaps, but returning to a childhood on the farm, "going back to my plow," and "hunting the horny back toad"? Elton? Really?) The song is a vocal triumph; although the wordless melisma that decorates the bridge between the verse and chorus melodies is straight out of the Beach Boys playbook, John makes that keening wail his own, and it's very likely his single finest vocal moment, one that creates shivers every single time. The arrangement builds slowly, from piano and Dee Murray's subtle but perfectly placed bass at the beginning of each verse to a full orchestral climax at the end of each chorus that sounds dramatic without going over the top. Extravagant but not pretentious, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is a pinnacle of its style, and has quite rightly remained one of John's signature songs for decades.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1973 Def Jam / Island / Universal 3:07
Greatest Hits 1974 Rocket Group Pty LTD / Island/Def Jam / Motown / Polydor / Universal / Universal Music 3:14
No Image 1980 K-Tel Distribution
No Image 1981 Hallmark Recordings
No Image 1983 DJM Records
No Image 1985 Vestron
No Image 1989
Various Artists
Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits: 1973 1989
Various Artists
Rhino 3:15
To Be Continued... 1990 Geffen / Island / Universal 3:14
Breaking the Waves [Hollywood] 1996
Original Soundtrack
Hollywood 3:13
Golden Collection 2000 1999 Droppings 3:19
Perfect Love, Vol. 3 2000
Various Artists
Global TV 3:13
One Night Only: The Greatest Hits 2000 Mercury 3:21
Ultimate Singer-Songwriter Col 2000
Various Artists
Warner Elektra Atlantic Corp.
No Image 2001 Universal Distribution
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:15
The Greatest Hits 1970-2002 2002 Island / Universal Distribution 3:15
Greatest Hits Live: 1970 - 2002 2003 Mercury / Rocket
Greatest Hits Live @ Madison Square Garden 2003 Universal International
No Image 2003 Phantom Import Distribution
I Love 70's 2004
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:15
UK Music Hall of Fame 2004
Various Artists
Universal International 3:15
Legends: Gimme Some Lovin' 2004
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:17
Real Karaoke: Love Songs, Vol. 1 2007
The Singing Machine 3:24
Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits 2007 Mercury / Universal 3:13
Rocket Man: Number Ones 2007 Island / Mercury / Universal 3:15
No Image 2007 Universal Distribution 3:13
My Songs: 40 Feel Good Anthems 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:16
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:17
Elton 60: Live at Madison Square Garden 2007 Island/Mercury / Mercury
Rocket Man 2007 Mercury 3:15
Hope: Songs to Celebrate Life 2008
Various Artists
Hallmark Recordings 3:16
No Image 2010 Concert Live
Singers & Songwriters: Troubadours 2010
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:16
Singers & Songwriters [Time-Life Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:16
American Hustle [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 2013
Original Soundtrack
Legacy 3:15
No Image Rock
Jackie: The Annual 2010
Various Artists
EMI 3:14
No Image Imtrat
No Image Wild Street
Seventies Collected
Various Artists
Universal Music 3:15
Shades of Love
Various Artists
Strength: Songs For the Spirit
Various Artists
Universal 3:16
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