By Randal C. Hill
Due to a combination of iron and lime, yellow brick roads were fairly common at one time in parts of America. Such routes obviously inspired L. Frank Baum in 1900 when he wrote “The Wizard of Oz” and set his whimsical characters on such a path as they searched for the enchanted land of Oz.
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” became Elton John’s seventh MCA Records studio album. It sold 20 million copies, and his two-disc set is now considered his magnum opus with such iconic tracks as “Bennie and the Jets” and “Candle in the Wind.” And, of course, the title track, which reached Number Two on Billboard.
Just three years after John and his lyric writer Bernie Taupin had found fame and fortune, Taupin was already tiring of the high-pressure celebrity madness. His early 1970s lyrics sometimes reflected the sentiments of someone who has basked in the spotlight long enough and now yearns to return to a simple past. Taupin’s words tended toward autobiography; he was raised on a farm in northeastern England, where he and his family lived without electricity until Taupin was 5 years old.
John has said, “Bernie was always the more thoughtful one. I was always the one that said, ‘Let’s go out!’ We both burned the candle at both ends, but I did it far more than he did … I was just the guy who wrote the melodies; that was my job.” John then added, “I just loved writing to Bernie’s lyrics, (but) I really don’t analyze them much.”
Success with John earned Taupin incredible wealth, but the former farmhand has remained grateful that — unlike his professional partner — he has been able to stay relatively anonymous. “My name does still get recognized,” Taupin says with a sigh. “I go places and give a credit card or give my name at the airport, and someone will recognize me, and the gushing begins. But I couldn’t live Elton’s life. I would rather drill myself in the head with a nail gun than do what he does.”
Taupin continues, “There was a period when I was going through that whole ‘got to get back to my roots’ thing … I don’t believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn’t want it; I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting.”
“Goodbye yellow brick road
“Where the dogs of society howl
“You can’t plant me in your penthouse
“I’m going back to my plow.”
Taupin realized his goal in 1992 when he bought, not a duplicate of the hardscrabble English farm of his youth, but a 30-acre ranch near trendy Santa Barbara, Calif., in the ultra-pricey Santa Ynez Valley, where numerous A-list Hollywood personalities have owned property. Here Taupin now enjoys painting and riding horses.
“I finally decided my future lies
“Beyond the yellow brick road.”
P.S. In 2008, Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road became a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor.