Island Girl

Album: Rock Of The Westies (1975)
Charted: 14 1

Songfacts®:

  • With a jaunty, Caribbean-inflected melody, the lyrics to this one often slip by. The song is about a Jamaican prostitute in New York City. The story is vague, but in the chorus, Elton asks, "What you wanting with the white man's world?" and tells her, "Black boy want you in his island world." Seems she is trapped there, unable to leave with the man who wants to take her home. It's a case of Elton John taking the song in a musical direction that belies the lyric delivered to him by Bernie Taupin.
  • On November 1, 1975, this went to #1 in America, giving Elton his fifth chart-topper there. It knocked off Neil Sedaka's "Bad Blood," a song Elton sang on that was released on his Rocket label.
  • Those spacey sounds in the instrumental break were done with a Mellotron and an ARP Synthesizer, both played/programmed by James Newton Howard. Other instrumentation on the track:

    Davey Johnstone - guitars, banjo
    Caleb Quaye - acoustic guitar
    Kenny Passarelli - bass
    Ray Cooper - congas, tambourine, marimba (sounds kind of like steel drums, evoking the island)
    Roger Pope - drums

    Kiki Dee, known for duetting with Elton on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" the following year, was among the backup singers along with Passarelli, Johnstone, Quaye and Ann Orson.
  • Elton plays lots of crowd-pleasing hits at his concerts, but this one rarely made his setlist. The last time he performed it was 1990.
  • Elton John and Bernie Taupin were rejected by Liberty Records, but a few months later formed one of the the most prolific songwriting teams in history. Their 1975 album Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy was the first album ever to debut at #1 in America, and the next album, Rock Of The Westies, also broke in at #1, even though "Island Girl" was the only hit from the record.

Comments: 14

  • Bartist from NeptuniaCathy from Omaha. What the hell? It's a song about a thought or experience, perception. The meaning of the song could only be described by Elton or Ber. This is art. I'm a feminist too. We have a long way to go if this offended you. Most art isn't first person. When you watch a movie do you think its something that really happened or the writer had an agenda and ill will. They are people with good intentions your own thoughts and experiences can make it seem evil.
  • K. from NycThe song is about the "black boy" not the Jamaican girl. It is a recitation of his thoughts and his desire to save the girl from exploitation and degradation. He fails, and he is one more john who makes a mistake in thinking he can save her.
  • Nina H from Nyc NyYou all got it wrong...just like "one more john who made the mistake...bang-bang!"
    'Island girl' was not about a 'girl' at all...it was about some of the prostitutes that hung out by the westside hwy back in the 70s - 80s nyc. Its very amusing. New York City as I knew it growing up.
  • Gregpry Mckinney from Glendale Ca UsaCan you imagine anything this explosive and imaginative on the boards today? This track can barely contain itself. Truly Elton's most fabulous hit of all time.
  • James from Greater Vancouver, BcRacist?.....ya.....if you're deeply "PC." But didn't we leave PC behind with the 80's fer Krist'sake? This is one damn fine funky song, the imagery as colorful as ever in Bernie's lyric, even lurid. But so was "Dirtly Little Girl" from "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." I didn't hear any PC calls of "racism" on that release. FERGET ABOUT IT! It's just a fun song!
  • Cathy from Omaha, NeAs a feminist, this song offends me. It's degrading to women. It's both sexist & racist. White men do not own the world. She's welcomed any place she wants to be; and she has more potential than just prostitution; if she was given the chance.
  • Gerry from Houston, TxSounds strange, but this song makes me miss W.T. Grant/GRANTS/Grant City and Woolco stores.
  • Rick from Belfast, MeThis song was at the top of the charts when I reported to my first Marine Corps duty station after boot camp....Camp Lejeune,N.C.....in Sept 1975.....was a monster hit.....
  • Paul from Marysville, WaTo me, Island Girl is the last great Elton John single from his heyday. He's had many monster hits since-- but after Island Girl he had a huge dry spell. Except of course for "Don't Go breaking My Heart" which went to Number One. But to me, that wasn't a great song.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaIn 1975 Elton could do virtually no wrong, but as the year wore on, the strain started to show. This hit No. 1, as noted, but in hindsight, it's pretty weak, if not downright foolish.
  • Kent from Toronto, CanadaTo add to Patrick's comment about "Grow Some Funk Of Your Own" also placing in the US charts: as this was a double A-side single, "I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)" being the other side, "Island Girl" might be considered only one of three hits from the album.
  • Darrell from EugeneAccording to my girlfriend, this song is Elton's only racist-sounding single, and the title applies to her since she was born in Hawaii and lived there until she was 11 years old.
  • Carlos from Brooklyn, NySong is about a tall Jamaican prostitute.
  • Patrick from Wevelgem, BelgiumSorry to contradict, but the second single "Grow Some Funk of Your Own" made it to number 14 in the American Billboard Hot 100.
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