Elton John

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Composed by Elton John / Bernie Taupin

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 / Rocket Group Pty LTD / Universal 3:13
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 0:00
No Image 1989
Various Artists
Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits: 1973 1989
Various Artists
Rhino 3:15
To Be Continued... 1990 MCA 3:14
Breaking the Waves [Hollywood] 1996
Original Soundtrack
Hollywood 3:13
Perfect Love, Vol. 3 2000
Various Artists
Global TV 3:13
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:15
The Greatest Hits 1970-2002 2002 Island / Universal 3:16
Legends: Gimme Some Lovin' 2004
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:17
Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits 2007 UMVD / Universal Distribution 3:14
Rocket Man: Number Ones 2007 Island / Mercury 3:16
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:17
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
Diamonds 2017 Island / Mercury / Universal 3:15
No Image Rock
Jackie: The Annual 2010
Various Artists
EMI 3:14
Seventies Collected
Various Artists
Universal Music 3:15