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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

by

Elton John



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

The Yellow Brick Road is an image taken from the movie The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, Dorothy and her friends follow the yellow brick road in search of the magical Wizard of Oz, only to find they had what they were looking for all along. It was rumored that the song was about Judy Garland, who starred in the film. See a photo and learn more in Song Images.
Elton and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin went to Jamaica to record the album, but the studio was so horrible that the project was abandoned there, with only a rough version of "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" actually being recorded. This, and the rest of the album, were recorded in France at Strawberry Studios (The Chateau d'Hierouville).
Bernie Taupin writes the lyrics to Elton's songs. He often seems to write about Elton, but this one appears to be about him. The lyrics are about giving up a life of opulence for one of simplicity in a rural setting. Elton has enjoyed a very extravagant lifestyle, while Taupin prefers to keep it low key.

Speaking about the song, Taupin said: "It's funny, but there are songs that I recall writing as if it was yesterday. And then there are those I have absolutely no recollection of, whatsoever. In fact, I'd have to say that for the most part, if someone was to say that the entire Yellow Brick Road album was actually written by someone else, I might be inclined to believe them. I remember being there, just not physically creating.

There was a period when I was going through that whole "got to get back to my roots" thing, which spawned a lot of like minded songs in the early days, this being one of them. I don't believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn't want it. I just I don't believe I was ever that naïve. I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting. My only naiveté, I guess, was believing I could do it so early on. I had to travel a long road and visit the school of hard knocks before I could come even close to achieving that goal. So, thank God I can say quite categorically that I am home."
Bernie's canine imagery, including the part about sniffing around on the ground, is a sly poke at Linda's two little dogs. Linda was a girlfriend of Elton John's.
In 2008, Ben & Jerry's created a flavor of ice cream in honor of Elton John called "Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road." Made of chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks, it was made to commemorate Elton's first concert in Vermont (home of the ice cream makers) on July 21, 2008 at the Essex Junction fairgrounds. Elton had played every other state before his Vermont show. He had some of the ice cream before the show.
Ben Folds told Rolling Stone magazine for their 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time issue: "He was mixing his falsetto and his chest voice to really fantastic effect in the '70s. There's that point in 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,' where he sings, 'on the grooound' - his voice is all over the shop. It's like jumping off a diving board when he did that." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
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Comments (43):

I agree that Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is about a boy from the country who finds a sugar daddy. He's become very disillusioned and resents being a present for the man's friends to open (casual sexual encounters which are not actually consensual on the boy's part, but which are necessary to be part of the lifestyle). A homosexual male is sometimes referred to discreetly as "a friend of Dorothy." So the Oz reference makes sense on that level as well.
- Suzanne, Long Beach, WA
This album was the very first cassette I ever bought, shortly after it first came out. It has been a favourite of mine through the lifetimes (x2) of many of the people who might read this article, which is pretty depressing in a sense.
One thing that hasn't really been covered is that the world in the early '70s was indeed a foreign country; such things as 'penthouses' were fabulously exotic things that few people in England had ever come across, especially in the provinces.
Elton John - like ALL singers or actors, was 'in the closet' - if it had comeout that he was gay (let alone the flamboyant queen he has since become) his career would have ended the next day,
& this news would have filled front pages of newspapers for weeks. (same thing with Freddy Mercury & dozens of other pretty famous people). SO the song is not gender-specific BUT every other song in the world WAS.,
Like the world-at-large I took it to be 'straight', but with the references & the 'older richer sophisticated/young naive attractive poor' relationship it could be seen an an archetypal gay scenario.
- neil, london, United Kingdom
When I first heard this song I was still in a frame of mind that popular bands and rock and roll were coming apart. So this sounded like Elton was leaving, too. Money and success no longer interested him and he was going back to a rural life, like the way Paul McCartney looked his first two albums jackets. The singer in the song feels that the music industry was abusing him, keeping him in a penthouse and lonely, to write blues songs. He's too young to be sing the blues, he says. He's found his true future and meaning to life is beyond the Yellow Brick Road of fame and fortune
and wants out. Maybe they'll find a replacement, there's plenty of writer like him to be found. He calls them mongrels, animals, who are penniless, or worthless, who sniff for tidbits, who just give him a vodka and a tonic, set him on his feet and push him to perform to make them money.
- Harry, Sunnyvale, CA
Contains one of the all-time misheard lines, thought by some to be 'I can't stand being your pen-pal.'
- esskayess, Dallas, TX
This song says"So long suckers; you can't use me; take advantage of me; make me or break me". I hear this song play in my head every time I leave a job I didn't like; when the book is closed on something temporary in my life; and when I've taught someone a lesson about who I am and I won't be pushed around. This song is my favorite song in the whole world! Elton John and I share the same birth date , March 25. His birth year is 47 and mine is 67. Gay or not; Elton John is the greatest singer that ever lived.
- Pamela, Farmington, MI
This song triggers a set of memories for me. I'm a good Texas girl, raised by honest hard working people, and yet somehow I found myself working in a modeling agency about 10 years ago doing and saying things that were "company policy" but that frankly I wasn't proud of. Long story short, the day I told them to "stuff it" and walked out, I got in my car and as I was leaving the garage, the CD I had put in on the way in began to play this song. (CD was a mix tape boyfriend had made for me) I laughed so hard I had to pull over. I listened to the rest of the song, went home and never looked back.
- Carrie, Houston, TX
YBR as a work has some of the most amazing background harmonies I've ever heard. I love many of the songs on that album. I used to play the title track on 45RPM as I went to bed every night as a kid.
- Bill, Gurnee, IL
It just occurred to me that the lyrics to this song may be directed from Bernie Taupin to Elton John himself. Bernie was at heart always a country boy, whereas Elton enjoyed the high life. Also during this time, Elton abused drugs and alcohol, and isolated himself from his former friends. After a while, Bernie may have felt out of place around Elton's social scene and unappreciated as a friend and equal co-worker. He wants to know when Elton "is going to come down" from both drugs and his ego, and feels resentful about being "planted in a penthouse" in the city, perhaps being showcased as someone whose talent revolved around Elton rather than having equal merit. This song is essentially a warning from the lyricist to the musician. He insinuates that if he is not appreciated more, Elton can go find a "replacement" out of a pool of "mongrels", i.e. shallow sycophants who would work with Elton as a way to selfishly advance their own career, seeing him opportunistically as a "tidbit on the ground".
- Marie, Elgin, SC
I've always thought about Truman Capote when I heard this song. And that really seems to gel with what most people on here have said. Truman was an exceptional writer, lived in New York, and many of his friends were high society matrons of the time. After he wrote "Breakfast at Tiffanys", many of his rich women friends began to snub him, believing that he revealed too many of their personal secrets. This is particularly interesting because of the character Mrs. Failenson, a rich, married, high-society woman who keeps a poor lover, Paul Varjak. Paul eventually leaves her because he realizes that she's only using him, and that he's fallen in love with Holly, who represents the simpler life.
- Pagette, Paris, France
I agree with the "boy toy" comment from William. That's eactly what I got from it. He doesn't fit in he doesn't want to be paraded around these vain, selfish, jaded people. He may have fallen into the homosexual life when he came to the big city by necessity of survival, as an alternative to struggling to make it and going nowhere. He's a mid west boy, corn fed handsome, like Brad Pitt and he can only use his looks but he'd rather live in simplicity than deal with this foolishness. But I could be wrong...
- Miz Lady, Oakland, CA
Good write up, Baron, and for the most part I agree with what you said. However, you also daid this:

"Elton John sings the song does not make the song a reference to a homosexual or a man. "

I think the song does indeed reference that it's about a male with the lines "This BOY'S too young to be singing the blues", and "I should have listened to my old man". The first line is obvious why it's referencing a male lol...the second line is a phrase sons use about their fathers, not daughters. If a woman back in the 70s called someone her "old man" she meant her husband or boyfriend. The protagonist in the song is clearly referring to their father.
- Chris, San Bernardino, CA
Reading these comments makes me think people have no comprehension. How can anyone think this song is about being gay or being somebody's boy toy or something?

It's very obviously about a guy living a simple life on a farm, heading to the big city for a life as a musician, deciding that life was not for him and returning to his simple life in the country on his farm.

Some songs have obscure lyrics that can be interpreted in many ways. This song is not one of them.
- B, somewhere, AZ
My all time favourite Elton ditty. A flawless pop tune!
- Edwin, Vancouver, BC
This song is simply about a wide eyed person discovering the big city - only to become disenchanted with its darkness and lack of emotion.

Vocalist Lana Lane does a gorgeous interpretation of this on her album "The Ballad Collection"!

http://www.lanalane.com
- Harry, Myrtle Beach, SC
This song is absolutely amazing and I don't really care what it's about as long as I get to listen to it over and over again. If I ever get so upset that Elton John's voice can't calm me down I will probably have a heart attack and die.
- Marissa, Akron, OH
i second the "l00 %" agree another reader had for the opinion of planetdrum of santa cruz PERFECT!
- christian, boca raton, FL
Gee, thanks Baron. That really helped me understand the song. I've always loved it and known it means something deep but I've never been able to decipher it. I think that you are spot on in your interpretation. Thanks again! :)
- Runnawaygrrl, Sydney, Australia
100% agree w planetdrum of santa cruz, ca
- nikki, ny, FL
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an awesome song with deep lyrics. The lyrics in my opinion have nothing to do with a wannabe newbie rockstar being taken under the wing of a bigwig and not getting where he wants to fast enough because he does not want to go through the process.Just because Elton John sings the song does not make the song a reference to a homosexual or a man.
I think this form of thinking is small minded.
as this scenario happens to either man or woman.
Gay/straight or bisexual.
The song is possibly about a young attractive person. Man or Woman who is befriended by a wealthy person for the sole sake of having a pretty face around.The have and have not syndrome.
This is often done in high society and the good looking person is entertainment for them. They are kept around for a while. As long as they keep up to what the wealthy persons expectations are for them otherwise they are tossed out asked to leave. It is just how it is. The attractive person usually has a need that is for survival and the wealthy person has a need to give to feel important. Once all is said and done the
attractive person realizes they are being objectified. And only around for amusement.
Their need for survival overtook them and now
they must continue to live under the guise of
the wealthy or leave. The attractive person chooses to leave on their own accord.
They realize that the path to get where they
want is not the one they have chosen. They realize they are dispensable. To regain ones self they must move on and pursue their dreams
in another manner.The wealthy person could care less if they come or go.They will find another
have not just as easily to entertain them with
good looks,charm and youth. Brains do not come into this at all. If the pretty face had brains
it would not be in the situation to begin with.
I have a feeling the pretty face in this scenario
had a brain and saw that the yellow brick road was a road to nowhere.

I have broken down the song accordingly.

When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man

When are you going to face reality
Who do you think you are???
I should have remained where I was
I did not listen to myself
My need for survival overcame me
You had what i needed

You know you can't hold me forever
I didn't sign up with you
I'm not a present for your friends to open
This boy's too young to be singing the blues

This was not a permanent thing
I did not sign a contract, this was transitory
I am not one of your possesions
I will not be objectified by you and your friends any longer
I am too young to feel so used and so low

So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough

farwell to this lifestyle I no longer want to be part of
I am moving away from the dogma
I am not sitting in your gilded cage
I shall return to the streets

Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road

I have to recharge,rethink
This has made me realize that
the path to my happiness
will not be found in your lifestyle

What do you think you'll do then
I bet that'll shoot down your plane
It'll take you a couple of vodka and tonics
To set you on your feet again

who will you take on next
who will entertain you and your friends
after a few drinks you will forget me
move on to the next ptetty face.

Maybe you'll get a replacement
There's plenty like me to be found
Mongrels who ain't got a penny
Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground

I am not the only one
there are more of us
I am one of the have nots
you sought me out as I you
We both needed something
You give to feel important
I took to survive
-
I am the liberator, liberate I shall and I reign I will.

I have freed myself from the shackles that bind
I know control my destiny
I will not objectify myself again

baron, fort lauderdale, fl
- baron, wilton manors, FL
William,

The lyrics suggest nothing of the kind. The song is actually VERY gender neutral, and while alot of Bernie Taupin's songs are inspired by Elton John's homosexuality, this song is pretty autobiographical and Bernie Taupin is heterosexual and currently married to Heather Lynn Hodgkins Kidd. He lives on a ranch, which again, illustrates the autobiographical nature of the song and his desire to go back to his roots rather than live in pretense.

Anyone who wants to learn more about Taupin and his life can buy and read his autobiography "A Cradle of Haloes: Sketches of a childhood".

The wonderful thing about poetic music is the fact that people can emote their own experiences, which is generally what makes a song truly great, unless, of course the person is inspired to make homophobic remarks about something he obviously has not a clue about.
- Jim, Minneapolis, MN
One more thing, I saw Elton John a number of years ago live at The Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Elton was superb! Unfortunately, the thing I will remember the most is the he DIDN'T play Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. A major dissapointment for me!!!
- J_Bryon, Milladore/Monroe, WI
Got to say that this is one of my favorite songs. I used to listen to this song, over and over, in my car. The "ahahah"s are just incredibly power and awe inspiring. Great song from a great album. One thing though...it's yoo bad the songs is as short as it is. Wish it were longer!
- J_Bryon, Milladore/Monroe, WI
This song has a distinct vibe or similarity to the song "Breathe" by pink floyd, check it out for yourselves!
- Zach, Melbourne, Australia
I read the song as in internal monologue in which the speaker, a young kept man, is mentally addressing his sophisticated sugar daddy, working up the gumption to leave him.

There are a few clues that the monologue is internal rather than spoken, starting with the opening "When are you going to come down? When are you going to land?" implying that the sugar daddy is not available either because he has a busy business travel schedule and/or because he's often high (given the 1970's period and the fact that he's rich, likely on cocaine).

The implied backstory is that this wide-eyed country boy, new to the city was swept off his feet by a wealthy man. But now, the benefactor has grown bored with the young man, leaving him at home when he travels and/or parties. The line "I'm not a present for your friends to open" perhaps even alludes to his being used as a plaything by the wealthy man's circle of friends. This is not what the young man thought he was signing up for.

Having spent some time looking "behind the curtain" on the rich man's life, he's disillusioned, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she realizes that Oz the Great and Powerful is just a small insecure flawed man. He feels debauched, and realizes that he's just one in a string of "flavors of the month" that the rich man likes to keep around the house ("Maybe you'll get a replacement / There's plenty like me to be found"), and that many who end up being kept are gold-diggers who are actually looking to be used the way the speaker has in return for access to a rich lifestyle ("Mongrels who ain't got a penny / sniffing for morsels like you on the ground"). The speaker implies that by naively accepting this arrangement, he's no better than those gold-diggers. However, he still retains a shred of self-respect so he is leaving the man, the city, and whatever dreams initially led him there to return to the country life he understands.
- Planetdrum, Sant Cruz, CA
Brandon in Peoria: The whole line is "back to the howling old owl in the woods hunting the horny back toad" So, it just means he misses country life :)
- Jennifer, Kyle, TX
Dear Songfacts:
This album is Elton & Bernie's BEST! They hit their stride when they wrote this one. The opening with Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding is of course Elton's & Bernie's best song on one of the top 10 albums of all time!!! Oh...to be that talented, just for one day. This album really takes you back to days when you where young and there was heroes and Saturday mornings had Looney Toons, Commander Cody and Roy Rogers. You want to go back in time when things were innocent and life was something for the future.
There's is no place like home!
RJ
- Robert, Bridgeton, NJ
No Randy, this song isn't about gay marriage! Like Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. It's more of a country boy going to the city and getting soured on it, and moving back to the country. 'Hunting the horny back toad' is about simple country pleasures, not code words for identifying the leader of the invading aliens, or anything. I guess if you read into the lyrics what you want, it could be about some kind of relationship. But at that time there were also other relationships constraining John and Taupin, the kind where you have to churn out records according to someone else's contract.
- Liquid Len, Ottawa, Canada
Quite possibly the most unintelligible lyrics i have ever heard...especially during the chorus. Before i looked up the lyrics i used to just mumble the entire chorus. BTW what does hunting the horny black toad mean?
- Brandon, Peoria, IL
I love the amazing 'ah0ah-ah' harmonies. It is just so UPLIFTING and idk amazing!
- Prince, Haddam, CT
I love this song, he speaks about leaving the high life for the simple things. It seems he feels he's an aquisition for this woman rather than a partner.
- Kaylani, Newark, DE
The moving baseline is so wonderfully predictable. It is such a confortable rocky beat. I love the end of the verses where the key changes in 2-3 beats- genius! And who can't identify with the lyrics of choosing something we later wished we hadn't??
His falsetto is an amazing delight to the ears. Will always be a favorite of mine.
- Vonda, Kansas City, MO
Still grabs me like nothing else. Easily his best song... might be the best song by anyone, ever, for that matter. Same with the album.
- Pete, NY, NY
This is the song where elton john is having his gay coming out party......when he refers to his "horny back toad" he is obviously refering to finding a gay lover and running down the yellow brick road with .....the yellow brick road symbolizes the wedding isle meaning legalize gay marriage!!!!!!!!!
- Randy, Lexington, KY
Chosen by Billy Joel to perform live in 1994/95, it is one of Joel's all time favorite songs by Elton.
Taupin was attempting to write a Loggins and Messina style song lyric, ( "House At Pooh Corner") and yet reflecting on his own state of affairs in 1973, feeling home-sick.
Veteran keyboardist Ralph Schuckett( Todd Rundgren, Carol King, and James Taylor) lists the songs arrangemnet in his top 15 ( # 13)of the greatest Pop song arrangements of all time, noteing the beautiful strings.The songs vocal harmonies are Beach Boy's and Brian Wilson inspired, as are the opening heavy piano bass notes.
- Kathy, Pottstown, PA
This song is close to my heart now. I left a quiet life with my own house and dog and good career to come to New York to get married. I can't stand being penned in an apartment 25 floors up. I am so miserable, there is no freedom to breath. Very soon, I'm going home to wide open spaces and relaxed pace of life. NYC your people are fantastic, but you can keep your sky scrapers.
- Sandra, New York, NY
I, too, have heard about the gay lifestyle connection with this hit song. From what I gather, this tune loosely recounts a true life story reported in the L.A. Herald Examiner about a young runaway from Oklahoma who thumbed out west in search of himself, got mixed up with the mob, then was taken under the wings of an in-the-closet Beverly Hills big shot. Following some time though, the guy finally got fed up with being a flunky companion and after trying to make it as a restauranteur in Malibu, returned to heartland America and became an elementary school teacher, only to get outted by a fellow educator/jealous wannabe boyfriend and later, while awaiting litigation regarding the discharge from his positon, was killed by a drunk driver in front of the church where he used to be an altar boy. Has anyone else heard this? Guessing that Bernie might've read the newspaper story and got inspired to write this popular ballad without mentioning the poor fellow's ill-fated outcome. Quien sabe?
- Leya Qwest, Anchorage, AK
simply a "classic"
- marlow, perth, Australia
I've always understood this song to be about the simpler, less ostentatious "down to earth" life being better than glitz, glitter and fame. However, since the yellow brick road is associated with The Wizard of Oz and therefore also childhood, perhaps it's also about a desire to become innocent once again.
- Wes, Springfield, VA
This is #380 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs
- Ross, Independence, MO
"Good bye Yellow Brick road" is one of the best, if not the best album ever in rock!
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
This lyric suggests the keeping of a "boy toy" by an older, wealthy man. The young man is intoxicated to mask the pain of this unhealthy relationship. The protagonist is very bitter about how he has been treated by his presumably sophisticated paramour and is planning to return to his rural roots.It is a sad statement on the homosexual lifestyle.
- William, syracuse, NY
This has to be Elton's signature song by far, The whole album is great, but this seems to say Elton John throughout.
- Dee, Indianapolis, IN
It seems like this song could be a follow-up to "Honky Cat". In that song, the singer leaves his "redneck ways" for the big city and all its bright lights. Maybe in "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", the man finds out the city's not all it's cracked up today, and heads back to his rural home with his tail between his legs.
- Billy, Pittsburgh, PA
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