A longtime musical legend and one of the greatest of all time, Elton John is heading to the (hopefully sunny) shores of Aotearoa for his ‘Yellow Brick Road: Farewell Tour’ beginning Jan 24 at Christchurch’s Orangetheory Stadium and closing out with two final shows at Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium Jan 27-28.
With his seemingly endless accolades, unblemished impact on the music industry, and tracks that have become purely iconic, to say the least, there is no doubt it will be a show to remember.
We’re here to break down what we consider the top 10 tracks of this legend’s career ahead of this monumental event.
10) ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’
With a discography like Elton’s, making choices about the top of anything is difficult, but we’ll start with ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight.’
A deeply moving piece of storytelling that features the motifs of struggle and suicide, this autobiographical single is both highly emotional and highly relatable. It’s also a great example of John using natural symbolism, with the allusions to butterflies throughout, like 1968’s ‘Skyline Pigeon.’
9) ‘Crocodile Rock’
A heartfelt, dreamy song that benefits from John’s intuition for catchy hooks and melodies, it’s worth mentioning here for the fact that it was one of his earliest number 1’s in 1973.
8) ‘The Bitch is Back’
Commonly referred to by Elton as “his theme song”, this glorious yet slightly scandalous single originally referred to Bernie Taupin’s wife making a remark to Elton himself. Most radio stations refused to play it upon initial release, but it’s an absolute hit. Predominantly self-referential, it’s mostly concerning John’s perspective on stardom and his ability to perform in his desired manner – he knows he’s good at what he does, and ‘The Bitch is Back’ flaunts that from the rooftops with its catchy lyricism.
While some might say it comes across full of oneself, in our opinion it’s more a celebration of recognizing your own personal talent – just with a few – or rather 42 – cuss words thrown in the mix.
7) ‘Bennie & The Jets’
‘Bennie’ is an interesting piece of work. This stumbling yet impactful track is usually the tour opener, and it has a certain quality none of John’s other work quite possesses. An homage to glam-rock, it was John’s idea to include the stuttering vocals, which is suitably fitting considering the song themes are artificial intelligence, and drugs on the side. Nonetheless, it’s one of his most enduring, and comes across effortlessly different and fun.
With the female all-robot band idea it was inspired by, the backdrop is set for almost anything goes in this futuristic song world. From the shockingly high falsetto to the jabs at the mythology behind musical acts, it’s just a great damn song.
6) ‘Candle in the Wind’
Most Elton fans know this Princess Diana-inspired track, which guarantees tears upon listening. With the title reminiscent of a light gone far too soon, it’s a perfect tribute and one that Elton performs with endless tenderness every time. Also entitled ‘Goodbye English Rose’, its long-lasting effect serves as a poignant reminder that – as the lyrics describe – Diana’s legend has always been destined to continue far beyond her mortal days.
5) ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ (featuring Kiki Dee)
If I had to summarise this single in three words, they would be merry, jazzy and joyous. With the addition of Kiki’s vibrant, flirtatious tones, it’s hard to believe there wasn’t a romantic spark between the singers.
The release also secured Elton his first Number 1 single in the UK in 1976. As a fan, it runs as the most personally significant for me, so it’s included in the list.
4) ‘I’m Still Standing’
This triumphant anthem is undoubtedly one of Elton’s most upbeat and powerful moments. Accompanied by a creative, experimental, and most critically fun music video, it’s the perfect track to play when you achieve something significant or when you need to dust yourself off after a negative experience.
While its predominant inspiration was the rebuilding of character after a breakup, it’s the type of universally relevant track that applies to almost every life experience.
3) ‘Tiny Dancer’
The opening track on 1971’s Madman Across the Water didn’t make much of a dent upon initial release but is now one of Elton’s most popular tunes. Inspired by the women of Los Angeles and California as a whole, according to collaborator Bernie Taupin, it’s a song that’s transcended time like so many of Elton’s.
With a backing meaning about once again, coming to life and completing new experiences, you only need to listen once to feel the excitement and the optimism emanating from this track.
2) ‘Your Song’
‘Your Song’ oozes hope and romance, an ode to the honeymoon stage in relationships and the all-encompassing feeling of being enamored. It’s a straightforward depiction of a love story, but one that is effective, sweet, and honestly – the kind of song I would play at my wedding. Just five stars all around.
1) ‘Rocket Man’
Despite everything it’s up against, ‘Rocket Man’ always comes out on top. If for nothing else, purely its memorability, particularly after the 2019 biopic starring Taron Egerton. You can’t hear the word without knowing who it’s referring to, and considering that Elton’s been among the brightest stars for so many decades, it’s a fitting message for such a man.
Listen to the best of Elton, all in one playlist, below!