Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is the seventh studio album by Elton John, released in 1973. It was extremely popular, selling over 30 million copies worldwide, and is regarded as one of his best. The album was recorded at the Château d'Hérouville in France after problems recording at the intended location of Jamaica. Among the 17 tracks, the album contains the hits "Candle in the Wind", "Bennie and the Jets", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" plus "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and "Harmony".
Originally intended as a regular single album, the experience in transferring from Jamaica to the château proved to be conducive to producing such quality material that it was released as a double album.
In 2003, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The album was ranked number 91 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and number 59 in Channel 4's 2009 list of 100 Greatest Albums.
Under the working titles of Vodka and Tonics and Silent Movies, Talking Pictures, Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics in two and a half weeks, with John composing most of the music in three days while staying at the Pink Flamingo Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica. He had wanted to go to Jamaica he has said, in part, because the Rolling Stones had just recorded Goats Head Soup there. Production on the album was started in Jamaica in January 1973, though after difficulties with the sound system and the studio piano, coupled with disturbance due to the Joe Frazier and George Foreman boxing match taking place in Kingston, and violent political tension due to the poor economic situation, the band decided to move before any productive work was done. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was recorded in two weeks at the Château d'Hérouville in France, where John had previously recorded Honky Château and Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player. While a version of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" was recorded in Jamaica, that recording was discarded, and the released version of the song came from the sessions at the château.
According to the album's producer, Gus Dudgeon, the album was not planned as a two-record collection. In total, John and Taupin composed 22 tracks for the album, of which 18 (counting "Funeral for a Friend" and "Love Lies Bleeding" as two discrete tracks) were used, enough that it was released as a double album, John's first (three more such albums followed up to 2011). Through the medium of cinematic metaphor, the album builds on nostalgia for a childhood and culture left in the past. Tracks include "Bennie and the Jets", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", the 11-minute "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding", and the Marilyn Monroe tribute "Candle in the Wind". "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" was inspired by memories of a Market Rasen pub Taupin frequented when younger. "Grey Seal", previously the B-side of the 1970 single "Rock n' Roll Madonna", was re-recorded for the album.
"Harmony", the album's final track, was considered as a fourth single, but was not issued at the time because the chart longevity of the album and its singles brought it too close to the upcoming releases of Caribou and its proposed accompanying singles. It was, however, used as the B-side of the American release of the "Bennie and the Jets" single, and was popular on FM playlists of the day, especially WBZ-FM in Boston, whose top 40 chart allowed for the inclusion of LP cuts and B-sides as voted for by listeners. "Harmony" spent three weeks at No. 1 on WBZ-FM's chart in June 1974 and ranked No. 6 for the year, with "Bennie and the Jets" at No. 1 and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" behind "Harmony" at No. 7. "Harmony" was released as a single in Britain in 1980 and failed to chart.
The original 1973 LP, when released on CD, was released on two discs, while the 1992 and 1995 CD remasters put the album on one disc as it was slightly less than 80 minutes.
The 30th anniversary edition followed the original format, splitting the album across two discs to allow the inclusion of the bonus tracks, while a DVD on the making of the album was also included. The album has also been released by Mobile Fidelity as a single disc 24 karat gold CD. The album (including all four bonus tracks) was released on SACD (2003), DVD-Audio (2004), and Blu-ray Audio (2014). These high resolution releases included the original stereo mixes, as well as 5.1 remixes produced and engineered by Greg Penny.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has come to be regarded as John's best and most popular album, and is his best selling studio album. Three singles were released in the US: "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "Bennie and the Jets" and "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting".
In the US it was certified gold in October 1973, 5× platinum in March 1993, and eventually 8× platinum in February 2014 by the RIAA.
The album was ranked No. 91 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was also placed at No. 59 in Channel 4's 2009 list of 100 Greatest Albums.
All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin except "Funeral for a Friend" written by Elton John.30th Anniversary deluxe edition (2003)
40th Anniversary deluxe edition (2014)
40th Anniversary super deluxe edition (2014)
Note: The version of "Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady Again)" appears to be taken directly from the 1980 compilation album "Lady Samantha" whereas it features the fade out of applause from the previous track on that album ("Rock 'n Roll Madonna") at the beginning of the track and the intro drum roll from "Bad Side of the Moon" at the end of the track. This is likely an error.
Note: The DVD version of this film edits about 10 minutes from the original 1973 documentary which ran for 56 minutes. Notable edits are all interview segments with John Reid, Dick James, and Elton's mother, as well as footage of Bernie Taupin with his then-girlfriend Maxine and two live clips of "All the Girls Love Alice" and "Crocodile Rock" at the Hollywood Bowl.
According to the album's liner notes: