Elton John – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Brendan Briggs

Brendan is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. In 2022, he released his first album "Dive" under the name "Arctotherium".

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is a ballad about a desire to go back to a simpler life. The lyrics focus on wanting to get back to your roots and leave career struggles behind. The image of a yellow brick road is used to describe something that looks appealing but has no substance. This parallels “The Wizard of Oz,” in which the yellow brick road is a pathway found in a dream world.

While Elton John was the songwriter for the musical component, Bernie Taupin created the lyrics. The words to this song are personal for Taupin, who was raised on a farm in Lincolnshire. His humble upbringing didn’t always mesh well with his show business lifestyle. The track reflects his desire to simplify his life.

In this article, we’ll perform an analysis of this song’s poetic lyrics in order to reveal their hidden meaning. We’ll also take a look at what makes “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” so good from the perspective of the songwriting story. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” Lyrics Meaning

The track begins with questions Taupin poses to himself. He asks himself when he’ll “come down” from the heights he’s reached. Apparently, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Taupin admits he “should’ve stayed on the farm” instead of trying to fly high.

To the shiny world he’s now a part of, he says, “you can’t hold me forever.” Being treated like a “present” to open instead of a person is hard. He’s “too young to be singing the blues,” but he feels forced to.

In the chorus, Taupin says, “goodbye yellow brick road,” in order to put his foot down. He’s decided to leave the world of make-believe behind for a while. In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy (the protagonist) follows the yellow brick road on her fantasy journey.

However, on Taupin’s yellow brick road, the “dogs of society howl.” It’s a cynical place that will consume him if he lets it. Instead of remaining in the “penthouse” of the entertainment world, Taupin prefers “going back to my [Taupin’s] plow.”

The chorus continues by describing the tranquility of a simpler life. It’s connected to nature, represented by the “old owl” in the woods and the “horny back toad.” In the last phrase of the chorus, Taupin makes his decision boldly. He says plainly that his “future lies beyond the yellow brick road.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Taupin confirmed that the song was autobiographical. He described it as an expression of his need to return to his “roots.” Since he grew up on a farm, it makes sense that he would have this feeling. It’s not that he hated success, but rather that he was looking for a “happy medium” between fame and simplicity.

Verse two is about what may happen if Taupin does leave the yellow brick road behind. Comically, he suggests that his connections in the entertainment world might “shoot down the plane” he uses. He plans to rely on “vodka and tonics” to forget his troubles.

Even worse, Taupin realizes that the world of show business might not need him. If he leaves, he might “get a replacement” who’s still poor and “sniffing” for success. If that happens, would he even be welcomed back? Taupin doesn’t know but seems resolved anyway.

After another chorus, the song comes to a close. To sum up, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is about advanced homesickness and the headaches careers can cause. Taupin (through Elton John) autobiographically shares his troubles by “singing the blues” to us. By doing so, the duo created something universally relatable enough to be an enduring hit.

The Story Behind “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

This song’s creation was inseparable from the rest of the album of the same name it belongs to. Reportedly, Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics for the entirety of the album over a two-week period. Elton John was responsible for the musical side of things and came up with all melodies during a three-day stay at a Kingston hotel.

Not only was the songwriting done quickly, but the recording was too. After a mere two weeks of studio time in France, the album was ready for release.

To understand Taupin’s state of mind when creating this track, we have to look at the album surrounding it. After all, he took less time to write the whole album than certain artists take to write a single. Unsurprisingly, the album has an underlying theme in all of the tracks.

Generally speaking, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an album about nostalgia, remembering simpler times, and reflecting on past culture. This all makes sense considering Taupin’s roots and level of success.

Evidently, the world loves the product of these creatives. This track is a certified double-platinum success, with just as much critical praise as commercial sales. Named one of Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time, this song has earned the title of a masterpiece.

The next time you play this classic, let these little bits of music history make it even more special!