When I was a kid, everybody knew that I would delightedly accept any unwanted records that they had been given at birthday parties and so forth, and I had sixteen cousins that all lived nearby, so most of my own birthday and Christmas presents from this crew consisted of re-gifted scratched and/or not-so-great records. For example, there was the time my cousin Melinda wanted a Bobby Sherman record, and Aunt Nell got confused when she was in the record store, asked for a record by “a rock ‘n roll singer named Bobby”, and bought a Bobby Bloom album instead. In case you don’t remember, Bobby Bloom had a one-hit wonder with “Montego Bay”, which is a great song, and was probably better than the whole Bobby Sherman catalog combined, but Melinda didn’t see it this way, so I naturally got the Bobby Bloom record and I still know all the words to “Montego Bay” to this day.
Another good example is the time my Uncle Earl, who worked for the telephone company, gave my cousin Frank a stack of 45s that he had been given by an AM radio station when he worked on their phones. Frank picked out what he thought was all the good ones and gave me the “dregs”, among which I found the fantastic “Band of Gold” and “This Magic Moment”. I played all of these songs almost with the same obsessiveness that I applied to the “Mother of Pearl” YouTube video last year.
But unquestionably, my biggest score was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Another cousin had received this monumental double-album as a present from what must have been an extraordinarily cool boyfriend, but she thought it was weird and didn’t like it very much, so she passed it along to her little cousin, whom she also thought was weird and probably didn’t like very much. Perfect solution. Because I absolutely loved, and still love, this album. In fact, I hold this album in such high esteem that an expressed appreciation for it is part of my top-secret litmus test for admission to my “inner circle”, not that I actually have a circle, but you know what I mean.
Although I had my blue Panasonic FM radio at this time of my GYBR re-gifting, I was still getting my sea legs musically and trying to figure out what bands did what songs and such, so I was still pretty clueless. Though I knew a few of the more popular songs from the radio, I didn’t know when I got the album what a creative masterpiece it was, or how the songs would take me on a journey, sort of like reading a really good book. The songs are so widely varied in tone and style, each one telling a story, and many using strong pop-culture images. The richly illustrated and detailed cover supported the songs visually and helped me, at the tender age of eleven, to understand what the heck each one was really about.
Our friend, music guru, and Australia’s most awesome album cover aficionado, Bruce from Vinyl Connection, still has his original copy of the album from the year it came out (1973), and he has very kindly shared the photos that are posted below. Honestly, I think of all the album covers that I have held in my hands and studied, entranced, as I listened to the music within, this one is at the top of the heap. Many thanks to Bruce for sharing these great photos with us. So here we go, the original album cover for the great Goodbye Yellow Brick Road...
Full shot of the tri-fold interior.
I could write a really long post in which I describe each song in great detail, but wouldn’t you rather hear it from Bernie and Elton? Because here is a great article from Rolling Stone in which they do just that. And on March 24, a super-deluxe, 40th anniversary edition of GYBR is coming out, with all kinds of extra goodies! So just trust me when I say – there’s not a dud on the whole album. It is a shining, glorious masterpiece, causing me to continue going to see Elton when he tours, even though he has a Vegas lounge act aura now, because I haven’t forgotten the yellow brick road he led me down, not to mention the tumbleweeds with which I still connect. Long live Elton and Bernie – masters of the popular song.
Rather than linking a whole bunch of GYBR songs, I decided to pick just one. This song is one of Elton’s most beautiful, and though it’s not really “overlooked”, I don’t think it’s gotten quite the attention that it deserves. Plus looking back over the years, I have to agree that harmony has been pretty good company.
And for extra credit, here’s Bobby Bloom, with “Montego Bay”. Now excuse me while I dance joyfully around my living room…
Freda Payne, “Band of Gold”…still dancing…
Now Jay and the Americans with “This Magic Moment”, a remake of the marvelous song by Ben E. King. Just listen to that guitar at the beginning. Tearing your heart asunder and knocking your pride aside with a few simple notes…
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