My Top 1000 Songs #324: Rocket Man
I think it's fair to say I'm not much of an Elton John fan. Indeed, for most of my life, I viscerally disliked everything about his music. Some of this antagonism was based on the music itself, the schlocky, overplayed pop songs I heard on the radio throughout my life; but much of it was me lumping him in with all the other hugely commercial mainstream pop artists inimical to the indie rock, punk, and other left-of-the-dial music I sought out since growing out of AM radio Top 40 in my pre-teen years. Elton, like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles and so on, represented the brand of rock music I worked hard to studiously carve my taste around.
But as middle age crept in, I became much more open to his work (and, yeah, a lot of other bands I shunned in my youth). That's still mostly limited to the early stuff, and the songs that didn't get as much radio oversaturation (particularly the surprising strains of Americana and prog on Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across The Water). But a few of his pop songs have grown on me, none more so than "Rocket Man," from 1972's Honky Chateau. The hammy theatrics that turn me off from a lot of his work are kept in check, and what you're left with is a gorgeous ballad with some experimental touches, shades of Bowie (whose "Space Oddity" looms large as an obvious touch-point, even if lyricist Bernie Taupin denied the connection) and early Genesis. Plus, like a lot of those 70s classic rock albums I eventually warmed up to, it just sounds fantastic.
Taupin's lyrics are among his best, but ultimately it's all about that chorus, as perfect as anything McCartney ever crafted. The part of me that spent the college years wholly embedded in indie rock may be a little mortified, but the rest of me has outgrown any compunction about singing along. "And I think it's gonna be a long, long time..."Live 1972:Added credibility: My Morning Jacket! Live 2012:Also... Fastbacks!