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Goodbye Yellow Brick Elton
Saturday, October 16 1999

By Reggie Zippo.

I remember when the now famous split of Elton John and Bernie Taupin was announced after the release of the "Blue Moves" album. The devastation I felt could not be described through mere words. After all, how could Elton's career possibly continue without the wit and wisdom of Bernie's lyrical magic? And how could Bernie's poetic creations survive without Elton's musical genius? For nearly a decade, the two had seemed to be perfectly matched (professionally speaking of course). So, the notion of a breakup was unthinkable. The news media, Elton, and Bernie, however, all said that the "split" was nothing more than a temporary separation to pursue other interests and that they would most assuredly team up again for future endeavors. Even so, it all seemed like the Elton party was over forever. Time heals all wounds and the separation was indeed temporary. Both EJ and BT bounced back together triumphantly, but what most fans do not realize is that, if not for sincere reluctance, this "split" could have happened as early as 1973.

Back when Bernie was creating the lyrics for the "GBYBR" album, he included a lyrical letter to Elton that outlined his intent to leave the team. Perhaps Elton was oblivious to the underlying meaning of the words or maybe he simply chose to ignore the situation and let the chips fall where they may. Whichever the circumstance, they remained together at least until 1977. To prove my point, consider the words for the album's title song.

"When are you gonna come down,
When are you going to land?
I should have stayed on the farm,
I should have listened to my old man.

Bernie felt that Elton's ego trips were more than he could handle or possibly that Elton was spreading himself too thin. The constant regime was obviously taking an exhausting toll on Bernie.

"You know you can't hold me forever,
I didn't sign up with you.
I'm not a present for your friends to open,
This boy's too young to be singing the blues."

This exposes Bernie's desire for independence and an end to the relationship. Did he feel that Elton only rolled him out as a novelty whenever it suited his needs? This is where he tells Elton that there is a foreseeable life without him.

"So, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,
Where the dogs of society howl.
You can't plant me in your penthouse.
I'm going back to my plough.
Back to the howling old owl in the woods,
Hunting the horny back toad.
Oh, I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road."

Elton's glamorous career moves could be considered by some as the road leading to the Emerald City of OZ. On that road to success, there most certainly were questionable characters and decisions that lurked in the shadows and Bernie wanted no part of it, nor the fame that came with it. His need for simplicity and a bare bones career structure reflects back to when he and EJ first began their adventure. Everything was less hectic and more for the music than it was for popularity and business dealings. Since he knew that he could not be expected to take a step backwards for the sake of his own career, he was consigned to move beyond the glitz and glamour that encompassed Elton and create his own road to success.

"What do you think you'll do then?
I bet that'll shoot down your plane.
It'll take you a couple of vodka and tonics
To set you on your feet again."

What would Elton do without Bernie? That is exactly what Bernie contemplated. Something so drastic as to leave the team would have been a major shock to both Elton and his adoring fans. By 1972, Elton was already on the fast track to drink and drugs and Bernie certainly knew that his resignation might cause him to sink further into that kind activity.

"Maybe you'll get a replacement,
There's plenty like me to be found,
Mongrels who ain't got a penny,
Sniffing for tit bits like you on the ground."

Obviously, Bernie was not worried that Elton would have the trouble of finding a replacement. Musical history has proven that for every successful songwriter there are thousands of others still waiting to be discovered, some of which will never see the light of day without the shining intervention of a successful personality such as Elton.

If Bernie had followed through with his intentions, we would never have heard Elton sing "Ticking", "Curtains", "Dan Dare", "Boogie Pilgrim", and "Ego". Perhaps Elton did read between the lines and had a long heartfelt talk with Bernie and persuaded him to stay. This scenario is definitely a complete fabrication on my part, but if you look at the words closely enough, you too might have come to the conclusion that Bernie was thinking about leaving Elton as early as 1973. I am very grateful that it never happened at that time.

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