Song For Guy

Album: A Single Man (1978)
Charted: 4 110

Songfacts®:

  • Although it has words - "Life... Isn't ever-y-thing" - this Elton John composition can rightly be classed as an instrumental. Guy Burchett was a messenger for Elton's label, Rocket Records. According to reviewer Claude Bernadin, Elton wrote and recorded this piece on the afternoon of Sunday, August 18, 1978. He had felt it was a song about death, and only learned the next day that Guy had been killed that very afternoon in a motorcycle accident.
  • The single was released November 28, 1978. Backed by "Love Sick," it was Elton's first UK top 5 hit for six years. In America, however, it was Elton's first single since "Step Into Christmas" not to chart. Elton's label, MCA Records, didn't do much promotion for the track, since getting instrumentals played on US radio was a steep climb. This tweaked off Elton, since it was a very important song for him, and he wanted to get an instrumental on the US charts. He says it was one of the reasons he left MCA, which he later realized was a mistake.
  • The album version runs to a lengthy 6 minutes 53 seconds, although there have been various edits including a CD single released in 2000, running to 3 minutes 52 seconds. This is the Sunstorm Radio Edit by Hurley and Todd; another version, the Sunstorm Mike Koglin Remix, also by Hurley and Todd, was likewise put out in 2000, and runs to 8 minutes 12 seconds.
  • "Song For Guy" shows an introspective, thoughtful Elton, obviously reflecting on his own mortality. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above
  • The A Single Man album was the first one he made without lyricist Bernie Taupin, which was tough for both parties, but a necessary break. "We never discussed it, we just let it go, and it hurt," Elton told Rolling Stone in 2013. "It hurt him and it hurt me, but we both had the resilience and the intelligence to know that if we didn't let each other write with other people, it would be the end of our relationship."

Comments: 7

  • Stephen from TexasIs it it me or does Suede’s Saturday Night sound similar to this song?
  • Peter from Vancouver, BcI always thought the words were “Life....is a temporary thing” I guess because they made so much sense considering the subject matter. Even if the vinyl cover says differently, it is one of many songs by John that I can listen to repeatedly and never tire.
  • Jonogrooveus Maximus, it isnt ‘life is a temporal thing’. It’s ‘life isn’t everything’. I’d send you a photo of the lyrics written on the inner vinyl cover, but I can’t send photos
  • JonoJason from Auckland, piano is a percussion instrument. Even though it has strings, the original motion is a striking of the keys, and to a lesser extent, the hammer striking the string(s)
  • Jason from Auckland...plus now I can only agree with the original poster... I think that IS what he's saying and it DOES make sense. In the context of the death of Guy which the lyrics are supposed to reflect, 'life isn't everything' makes you wonder what it would mean: it isn't that John is somehow trivialising life, surely, unless he means to do so in a zen sort of a sense? I always wondered about that ... but now we have a solution I like!
  • Jason from AucklandThis is a great song that occasionally gets slammed about the percussion 'letting it down'. I don't agree. It fits, and it makes it what it is. At worst, it can be forgiven for being one of the first with this kind of percussion (which would unfortunately, for this song, come to signify tackiness).
  • Groovus Maximus from Boston, MaAmazing, tragically underrated song... I can listen to it over and over, as it washes over me with melancholy, nostalgic waves of emotion, the simple bossa nova beat supporting layers of swirling piano & synthesizer -- genius! Great headphone track, truly one of Elton's best. I do believe, though, that the mantra Elton repeats at the end is "Life... is a temporary thing, is a temporary thing, is a temporary thing" (pronounced in that clipped sort of British way we Yanks all love!) -- makes more sense considering the subject matter, doesn't it?
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Boz ScaggsSongwriter Interviews

The "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" singer makes a habit of playing with the best in the business.

80s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

MTV, a popular TV theme song and Madonna all show up in this '80s music quiz.

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete BlondeSongwriter Interviews

The singer/bassist for Concrete Blonde talks about how her songs come from clairvoyance, and takes us through the making of their hit "Joey."

Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Damn YankeesSongwriter Interviews

Revisit the awesome glory of Night Ranger and Damn Yankees: cheesily-acted videos, catchy guitar licks, long hair, and lyrics that are just plain relatable.

Which Restaurants Are Most Mentioned In Song Lyrics?Song Writing

Katy Perry mentions McDonald's, Beyoncé calls out Red Lobster, and Supertramp shouts out Taco Bell - we found the 10 restaurants most often mentioned in songs.

Danny Clinch: The Art of Rock PhotographySong Writing

One of rock's top photographers talks about artistry in photography, raising funds for a documentary, and enjoying a County Fair with Tom Waits.