Elton wrote the music to this song as an homage to glam rock, a style defined by outrageous costumes that was popular in the early '70s, especially in the UK. Artists like David Bowie and Gary Glitter got into the act, but for Elton, it was an extension of his personality - he really was gay and liked to wear feminine clothes on stage. He became known for his wild appearance and collection of gaudy sunglasses.
"Bennie" is a female character who Elton has described as a "sci-fi rock goddess." Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics, told Esquire, "'Bennie And The Jets' was almost Orwellian - it was supposed to be futuristic. They were supposed to be a prototypical female rock 'n' roll band out of science fiction. Automatons."
It was Elton's idea to stutter the vocal: "B-B-B-Bennie..." Bernie Taupin thought this worked very well with the futuristic, robotic theme of his lyrics. Said Taupin: "That's a little quirk of the song which I'm sad to say I had nothing to do with. That and that wonderful big chord at the beginning. I think those two things are what probably made that song so popular. Neither of which I had anything to do with."
Comic books, movies, and the German photographer Helmut Newton were some of the influences Bernie Taupin threw into the pot when writing the lyrics to this song. Said Taupin: "I'd always had this wacky science fiction idea about a futuristic rock and roll band of androids fronted by some androgynous kind of Helmut Newton style beauty, which was depicted to little great effect on the Yellow Brick Road album cover. I'm not sure if it came to me in a dream or was some way the subconscious of effect of watching Kubrick on drugs. Either way, it was definitely something that was totally formed as a concept, and something that could have morphed into any number of populist items. Could have been comic books or movies. In fact, I can't help but believe that that Robert Palmer video with all the identical models somehow paid a little lip service to The Jets."
This was also a hit on the US R&B charts, known at the time as the "Black" charts. Elton was especially proud of this, as he was influenced by many black musicians.
Elton did not think this would be a hit. He was shocked when it went to #1 in America. John claims he rarely knows which of his songs will be hits.
The falsetto vocal is Elton trying to sound like Frankie Valli. He was a fan of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons growing up, and went to at least one of their concerts when he was young.
Elton's producer Gus Dudgeon wanted a live feel on this recording, so he mixed in crowd noise from a show Elton played in 1972 at Royal Festival Hall. He also included a series of whistles from a live concert in Vancouver B.C., and added hand claps and various shouts.
Suggestion credit: Graham - White Rock, BC
Elton tried to record the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in Jamaica, since The Rolling Stones had just recorded their Goats Head Soup album in a studio there and encouraged him to try it. Instead of the relaxing tropical paradise they expected, Elton and his crew encountered hostile locals and faulty equipment. They ended up recording the album at the studio in France (The Chateau) where they recorded their two previous albums.
Bernie Taupin says that when he saw the Robert Palmer video for "Addicted To Love," it portrayed when he envisioned Bennie And The Jets looking like: a dapper frontman backed by robotic models.
This wasn't released as a single in the UK, where it was released as the B-side of "Candle In The Wind." In the US, "Candle In The Wind" was not released as a single because MCA records thought this was better. Elton protested, but came around when black radio stations started playing it and it became a hit.
Elton performed this on Soul Train, becoming the first white superstar to appear on the show (he was the third white performer overall, following Dennis Coffey and Gino Vannelli). His episode aired May 17, 1975, beating David Bowie by six months. Elton asked to appear on the show, as he was a big fan. He explained on the program that he and his band would often watch it while they were on tour.
This was featured in the movie My Girl 2. Its played when Vada and Nick are exploring Los Angeles.
Suggestion credit: Melissa - Newcastle, Australia
On Elton John's "Red Piano" tour (2007-2009), he would open with this song. He had old neon casino signs that spelled out ELTON. During the opening da da dada da notes, the lights would go on with each note.
Suggestion credit: Breanna - Henderson, NV
Elton performed this song when he appeared on The Muppet Show in 1977, with a group of Muppets singing along with him at the piano. Elton's outlandish costumes were a running joke during the episode, and at one point Sam The Eagle was coerced into dressing like Elton.
In 1999, Mary J. Blige reworked this into a song called "Deep Inside." Elton played piano on the track.
Miguel covered this as part of the 40th edition expanded reissue of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 2014, with Wale contributing vocals. Elton John had Peter Asher produce the nine cover versions, which also included Ed Sheeran's take on "Candle In The Wind" and Fall Out Boy's "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)." Asher, who produced the most successful albums by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, put the track together based on the sound of Miguel's album Kaleidoscope Dream. Getting Miguel in the studio to record it proved challenging though.
In a Songfacts interview with Asher, he explained: "There was a period when I was hardly in touch with Miguel. I ended up meeting with him backstage at an Alicia Keys concert he was opening, and I said, 'Did you ever get a chance to listen to the demo I sent you?' He said, 'No, I'm sorry, I don't know what happened to it.'
So, we sat backstage and listened to it for the first time. He plugged in his in-ear monitors into my laptop and I played it to him and he said, 'I love it. That's great. Go ahead.' And he just arranged time to come into the studio and sing it.
And then, he made some suggestions and changed some stuff and added some brilliant background parts and so on. So, it ended up being a combination of the ideas I'd started with, with some ideas he had on top."
Dominic from PrincetonIsn't it... "She got electric boobs and Mohawk shoes..."
Jennifur Sun from RamonaAdrian, I also thought it was a take off on West Side Story.
Markantney from BiloxeAug 15, This was a big song in "Da Hood" when I was young kid in the 70s and I became a big fan of this and other songs of his but I'm one of the Rare Fans of his that loves his music but can't stand Crocodile Rock.
It's about the only song of his I don't like.
Also a HUGE fan of his song,"Empty Garden".
Opiumed from Lexington, KyAnother little-known fact: This song may very well have a link to Frank Zappa. In 1968 Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention released an album called "(Cruising with) Ruben & The Jets," about a fictional band from 1955, Ruben & The Jets. In the fictional story about the band on the album cover, one of 3 dogs owned by Ruben was named Benny.... so, the fictional 1950s band created by Frank Zappa did have a Benny.... and the Jets. I'm surprised Bernie Taupin or Gus Dudgeon didn't mention this anywhere as one of the inspirations. I know that Elton had a huge record collection and would be surprised if neither Bernie Taupin or Elton John had never heard of it before they wrote about their Benny (a.k.a. Bennie) & The Jets.
Ginzagirl from Pittsburgh, Pa"Bennie and the Jets" was one of 165 songs that media giant Clear Channel Communications urged their affiliates not to play in the aftermath of 911, due to what they considered "questionable lyrics."
Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesThanks to a friend with a Monty Python sense of humor, it's difficult for me to listen to this without thinking of Pope Benedict XVI. Some of those outfits of his certainly qualify ...
Camille from Toronto, OhOh and by the way, a mohair suit sounds quite plausible in this day and age where Gaga herself has worn a meat dress. lol
Camille from Toronto, OhI was a teenager and loved had loved Elton John's music for years when the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album was released. There were so many songs on it that I like much better than Bennie and the Jets, like Gray Seal, Funeral for a Friend, Love Lies Bleeding, Harmony. I still love all those songs, but to my surprise, I have come to love Bennie and the Jets just as well. It really stands up to the test of time. It's visuals are easy to conjure up when listening to the lyrics. But the opening piano notes are what really get to me. Instantly, you are at that concert where Bennie and the Jets are playing. All you have to do is hear the first piano note on the radio and you know what's coming. You get excited. You want to sing along.
Esskayess from Dallas, TxI knew someone who played this song to death. Drove me c-c-c-crazy!
Sally from London, United KingdomI had fun with this song on a car journey recently, just kept singing it , but replaced the name Bennie with other random names..it was funny
Adrian from Toledo, OhI am not sure if it's true, but I was told this was loosely about the characters in the broadway play "West Side Story", a popular show at the time.
John from Arkansas City, KsIsn't there an inside joke here. Aren't "Candy" and "Ronnie" included in the titles of songs by The Four Seasons.
J from Newport News, VaFor the record, - graham, White Rock, BC is not the whistler recorded on one of the live versions of Bennie and the Jets. I know because it was me.
Mike from Toronto, Cape VerdeThis song is a reflection of what was going on in the early seventies with pop music, particularly glam rock. It is about a fictional band called “Bennie and the Jets” and the fans who blindly follow them. By dressing up in outrageous clothes, makeup and hairstyles; by hiring a publicist to plant stories in magazines; by getting up on stage and creating a electrified wall of sound the author is suggesting a band can obtain cult like status. This particular band has achieved such status that they’ve been known to change the weather. People don’t just come to their concerts to hear the songs - they come to worship the band. The lyrist, Bernie Tauplin, is poking fun at glam rockers and suggesting that there is more sizzle than substance to their acts. I think he is also poking a bit of fun at himself and Elton perhaps suggesting that they are taking things more seriously than they should or that the fans are.
Jim from Monterey, CaI heard this song on the Hippo today and it took me right back to 1973. It captures the glam rock vibe and the excitement that I felt as a 13 year old kid listening to rock on an AM radio. Back then I was too innocent to know about anything gay or bi or w/e, I just knew that the British glam rockers were outlandish, played great rock and girls loved them. Songs like this made me want to be a rock star, lol!
Wayne from Crockett, TxI wonder if the lyrics "faithless" and "blinded" in the second verse are reference to the group Blind Faith? Anyways, love this song, it always makes me think of my childhood, spinning Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on my old record player.
Erik from Newcastle, Ca5Cats in Manitoba, don't forget that it was, in fact, Benny and the Jets. The owner of the Jets was Ben Hatskin. The guys at CKY used to play up that connection every time they played the song.
Brock from Jackson, Mialso, Elton never liked this song, producers had to beg him to start playing it live. The third time when the man said "Bennie and the Jets is #1 in Motown, are you SURE you don't want to keep this song?" Elton nonchalantly agreed!
Brock from Jackson, MiElton did an "in the mood" version in 1984 at Wembley. The video is posted on youtube and is about 10 minutes long. Elton in the video itself, to me, looks like he's on some type of drug LOL
Jon from Vancouver,Bennie and the Jets has been a favorite of mine since it's (US) release in 1973 (the year that I happened to graduate from high school and joun the Navy.
The way that Sir Elton John played the piano solo during the break, and his "hammering" of the piano keys and the repeat "Frankie Valli" sound of, "Bennie... Bennie... Bennie... Bennie... Bennie and the Jets... (whistle from the audience) and repeating until the final fading momnents of the number were so hot! It made us kids want to go out and race our cars on 53rd street at the edge of town (in Corvallis Oregon.)
Those were the days, kids! THOSe were the days!
THAT, my friends, is rock and roll!
Bob from Southfield, MiThere was a group called "Bennie and the Jets" that played in the Detroit area for years. They were actually formed before the song was released. When the song came out, Elton tried to sue them for copyright enfringment. However, they were able to document that they had come up with the name prior to the song. It is believed that Elton, who had played Detroit in the early 70's, might have heard the name of the band and registered in in his subconscious memory.
Reginald Lewis from Vallej, ArubaOf course there is a such thing as a mo-hair suit. It is made from alpaca the wool that comes from a llama.
Julia from Dallas, TxIs there such thing a a mo-hair suit? Stupid question but I'm curious.
Dave from Baltimore, MdIt was legendary disc jockey Donnie Simpson then at WJLB Detroit for flipping Candle in the wind over and playing Bennie an the Jets on the "Soul" station. John presented him personally with a gold record in Detroit. Simpson would later go on to program WKYS FM in Washington, DC and host Video Soul on Black Entertainment Television. Donnie is still doing morning drive at WPGC FM in the nations capitol.
Dave from Baltimore, MdIt was legendary disc jockey Donnie Simpson then at WJLB Detroit for flipping Candle in the wind over and playing Bennie an the Jets on the "Soul" station. John presented him personally with a gold record in Detroit. Simpson would later go on to program WKYS FM in Detroit and host Video Soul on Black Entertainment Television. Donnie is still doing morning drive at WPGC FM in the nations capitol.
5cats from Winnipeg, MbBack in the old days, when Winnipeg still had and NHL hockey team, their mascot was named "Bennie" and (of course) they played this song frequently at the old (now torn down) Winnipeg Arena. ...Memories!!
Graham from White Rock, BcFor the record the track that was added included a whistle from the the 1971 live concert in Vancouver B.C. Sorry Elton, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Colin from London, United KingdomFor the cassette release of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, this track swapped places with The Ballad Of Danny Bailey (1909-34).
Ken from Louisville, KyGus Dudgeon deliberately dubbed in the audience clapping on the off-beat. For some unknown reason, English rock audiences always clap on the off-beat, rather than on the beat.
Brian from New York, Nyreminds me of Vinny Testaverde and when he used to play for the Jets they would call it "Vinny and the Jets".
Rob from Portland, OrThe 80s pop band, The Jets, took their name from this song.
Heather from Los Angeles, CaI had always thought the audience sounds were real and wanted to know where the concert was located. Finally I learn here they were faked....amazing! Well that's an answer itself.
Beth from Pittsburgh, Pahow can anyone call this song boring?
Doug from Oakland, CaAs someone mentioned,the song charted well on Black radio and its one of the few pop-rock songs that black listeners are just as familiar with as white fans. Alone Again Naturally,for some reason,is also a song most Black audiences related to quite well.
Beth from Pittsburgh, Paoh my, Bennie and the jets just has to be the kewlest song ever
....ok, i did this karaoke thing once..third bar that night...so could not even hold a beer bottle..and i did this live..with elton..and the band....ok, so big surprise, no band..me, myself, and I...they still give me pathetic looks at that place ...ok, so i am no singer.
Dave from Warren, MiI Remember hearing on Detroit rock radio in the 70's that Paul McCartney was planning on suing Elton John, claiming that the song was stolen from him, no one else however seems to remember that happening.
Kent from Toronto, CanadaThis is one of a number of stuttering hits, along with Dayid Bowie's "Changes", Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" (actually written as a throwaway for Randy Bachman's stuttering brother); The Knack's "My Sharona" and Guns 'N' Roses' "Welcome To The Jungle".
Mary from Phoenix, AzThank you Brian in ND...your answer is the reason I came to this song on Songfacts. I was going to ask if anyone knew of a studio recorded version of this song. Now I know. Very cool.
David from Youngstown, OhThat's "mom." Sorry.
Ken from Louisville, KyElton's piano was "phased" in the bridge: it was recorded on two tracks that deliberately weren't exactly in sync. This gave it a slight reverb sound as part of the faux "live" performance.
David from Youngstown, OhThis is a classic misheard lyrics song. Unless I have the lyrics in front of me, I can't make out the first part of the song. The "electric boots" line has been misheard so many ways. My favorite is "She's got electric boobs. Her mon has two."
Paul from Cincinnati, OhI love how Elton John holds the "s" sound when he says Bennie and the Jets
Scott from Perth, Western Australia, AustraliaIn actual fact, the applause was taken from a Jimmi Hendrix performance at the Isle of Wight music festival. Gus added on the claps from a previous Elton concert and the whistles were fake. Elton did not want to put it out as a single, but a man by the name of Pat Pipalo convinced him he could make it as an R&B artist as well as a pop artist. Fair enough the song went #1 on the US charts and #1 R&B. Its a fantastic track which really showed off Eltons vocal range and the talent of Gus Dudgeon as one of the greatest music producers.
Ashley Jade from Cleveland, GaI never thought of Elton John as glam rock before...
Amy from Grimshaw, CanadaI absolutely love this song, it's odd but I like it! I was reading an iterview of Elton John the other day and he was asked if he was gay back then and he said "MAYBE, deep down I was, but I fought it!!" now you people say he was gay because of what he wore, all people in the 70's wore odd clothing that didn't make them gay! But I won't fight about what I think, but if anyone has anything they would like to say to me personally about music and so on, well he's one of my e-mail addresses firstname.lastname@example.org
David from San Francisco, CaElton and Bernie wrote this song...not as a parody...but as a homage.
-David Bowie was never gay
_The "Goodbye Yellowbrick Road" album was NEVER recorded in Jamaica, despite the effort to do so.
-The background noise was sampled from both an Elton concert...and a Jimi Hendrix album
-It had nothing to do with Phil Specter
_In point of fact, Elton was the FIRST white performer on Soul Train
-Elton was copying NO-ONE on the vocal track. He was pretending to be the female performer that the song was written about.
Patrick from Conyers, GaWhen Airtran put Elton on their airplanes to help promote that their planes carry XM radio, their billboard ads included the phrase "Bennie And Our Jets"
Jude from Thomasville, GaThe best version of this song is the one Elton sings on the Muppet Show. He's playing the piano surrounded by assorted foam rubber creatures. On the falsetto chorus, Elton sings "Bennie" and the Muppets shout "BENNIE!" with no regard for the key or tune. Elton can barely get through the rest because he's about to crack up. What a great song, or as Kermit would say, "YEEEAAAHHH!"
Ken from Louisville, Ky"Bennie" also has a shout-out to Phil Spector: "You gotta hear electric music, solid walls of sound". "Wall Of Sound" was Spector's production style in the 1960's.
Don from Dallas, TxI have never understood what anyone could like about this song. It's just a horrible boring effort by a truly great artist.
Andrew from Arlington, MaFor an answer to the first songfact, David Bowie was in fact a bysexual and also wore the clothes because it was what he liked to wear. I don't know about ther other guy. I think this song really in all truth has no distinct meaning. Some songs don't, so they post al this crap that doesn't help you out with the meaning at all
Rick from Montgomery, AlGoodbye Yellow Brick Road was a group of tracks that had already been released...with the exception of "bennie & the jets" and just a couple other songs... the jamaica recording sessions did not go well after they started and elton went to france to finish the post work on the album....
Randy from Sunnyvale, CaThis is one of 3 songs that I predicted would become a big hit when I first heard it i.e. before the song was played on the radio. "Welcome Back Kotter" and Queen's "You're My Best Friend" were the other two.
Brian from Grand Forks, NdThe Applause... Audience sounds were FAKE... They were going for a live sound and Faked it... The song was recorded in a studio... Aerosmith did the same thing on Get your Wings with Train Kept a Rollin'...
Deno from Hamilton, New Zealandsong was used in the movie, Aloha Bobby and Rose
Charles from Charlotte, NcThis sounded really neat on headphones when I first heard it after the release of the album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road".