On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
We’re returning to the UK today, dear reader, and heading to Middlesex to check in on Elton John. He previously appeared in 1972 with Rocket Man. When we join John in 1973 he’s released his second album in less than 12 months, in the form of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. A huge seller, the album is also considered one of John’s masterpieces. Although the album features the likes of Candle in the Wind, 1001 Songs have lifted the title track for our consideration.
Written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road uses the famous path to the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz as a metaphor for the glitz and glamour of celebrity. To be on the yellow brick road is to follow the long path to success. Our narrator has had enough of this lifestyle though. Being in the public eye, the riches, the fame, it is all too much for them. They yearn for their past, when life was simple and when they were obscure, anonymous even. Though written by John and Taupin, the song is said to reflect Taupin’s own unease at celebrity status, as opposed to John who revelled in the limelight.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is another testament to the excellent songwriting relationship that Elton John and Bernie Taupin share. They have written songs together since the 1960s and it’s one of the most remarkable partnerships music has ever known. The contrast between the two men is interesting here with Elton John beautifully singing Taupin’s thoughts about the maladjustment that can be found with fame. It would become one of John’s most popular songs and is a worthy addition for our list.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
The Kinks – Days (1968)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Stevie Wonder – Living for the City (1973)