On October 5, 1973 — 50 years ago — Elton John released Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Featuring future classics “Candle in the Wind,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Bennie and the Jets” and the title track, it would become Elton’s bestselling studio album to date — even though he was a bit baffled by his success.
“It took off in a way that none of us expected,” Elton wrote in his autobiography, Me!. “It’s quite a dark record in a lot of ways. Songs about sadness and disillusion, songs about alcoholics and prostitutes and murderers, a song about a 16-year-old lesbian who ends up dead in a subway. But it just kept selling and selling and selling, until I couldn’t work out who was buying it.”
While several critics have suggested over the years that the 17-track album would’ve worked better as a single LP, Elton’s musical partner Bernie Taupin, who co-wrote all the songs, disagrees.
“I think it’s a terrific record. I mean, I know people revere it,” Taupin tells ABC Audio. “I’m not sure that I think it could be a better single album. I think it’s one of the cases of an album where there’s not really a lot of filler on it.”
“When you go in to make a record, you don’t go in and say, ‘Well, we’re going to make a double album,'” he says. “The fact was … we just wrote a lot of songs, and they all happened to be really good songs, so it just ended up being a really good double album.”
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road debuted at #17 on the Billboard chart, but rose to #1 a month later and stayed there for eight weeks. It’s since gone on to sell 20 million copies.
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