The years 1970 through 1975 were extremely fertile ones for
Elton John (1947 – ). In my opinion, these were the years when
he was at his artistic peak, producing his greatest material. Of
the eight albums he released during this time, his biggest seller
was “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” issued in the later part of 1973.
For many, it remains his greatest album to date, and is the focus
of the most recent DVD that I’ve seen from the Classic Albums series.
As with other discs in this wonderful series from Eagle Rock
Entertainment, there is a lot of film footage of Elton John from
the early 1970’s, in concert and otherwise. It also features
conversations with key personnel on the album who discuss
their recollections of the project.
Of course, Elton John’s early career is documented, with
particular emphasis on his rise to fame and popularity in
America. In addition to Elton’s contributions to this disc, his
longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin (1950 – ) is featured. Former
bandmates, including guitarist Davey Johnstone (1951 – ) and
drummer Nigel Olsson (1949 – ) also contribute to this discussion,
as does Elton John’s longtime producer, Gus Dudgeon (1942-2002).
By enlisting the services of these participants, the producers of this
DVD have ensured that viewers receive the most accurate account
possible of “what went down,” both inside and outside of the
Since “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was a double album, there
is a lot to discuss, from both a technical and anecdotal standpoint.
After an ill-fated trip to Jamaica where the recording sessions
were initially scheduled, the band ventured to a special “castle-like”
location in France. The working conditions here were nearly ideal,
often resulting in the writing and recording of up to four songs,
in only one day. This venue was also used to record some of their
other albums from this era.
During this DVD, Gus Dudgeon was the man at the recording
console. By separating the different tracks of certain songs, he
revealed who was playing what and when. Davey Johnstone
and Elton John gave demonstrations on their respective
instruments, allowing us to observe how certain songs
germinated and came to fruition.
My favorite song on this, or any Elton John album is
“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” This song was
dissected at the beginning of the bonus features, almost in the
style of an “x-ray,” with the component parts separated and
reassembled at the mixing board. Davey Johnstone also
illustrated some of his licks and riffs “in the flesh.”
Bernie Taupin discussed his literary intentions for certain
songs, as well as their inspirations. It was interesting to learn
how the vocal backup trios were formed in these sessions,
consisting of bassist Dee Murray (1946-1992), Nigel Olsson
and Davey Johnstone. It was also surprising to learn that the
hit, “Benny and the Jets” climbed to the top of the Rhythm
and Blues charts, as well as the regular Rock charts. Who knew?
The total running time of this main feature and bonus
selections is about 90 minutes, making this 2001 DVD release
another “must view” for fans of classic rock albums.