This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #111: Rocketman (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time) by Elton John.
In the mid 1950s, science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, released a book called, “The Illustrated Man”. In that book, there was a central character who was covered in tattoos. Each tattoo told a different story. One of the stories in Bradbury’s anthology was called, “The Rocket Man”. In that story, being an astronaut had changed from the early days of space travel, when astronauts were viewed as heroes, to being more of a job along the lines of an airplane pilot. The plot revolved around a career astronaut who was growing tired of making his journeys into space but, continued to do so because of his son, who looked up to him with hero-worshipping eyes. The boy dreams of travelling among the stars, like his Dad until, one day, when the father makes that one last flight and dies in an accident in Space. This causes the boy to live a life haunted by the very stars he once sought to visit.
The Bradbury story of “The Rocketman” inspired a band named Pearls Before Swine to record a song of their own called, “Rocketman”. This song came out not long after David Bowie had released, “Space Oddity” so, it was a heady time for space-inspired music in the UK. The legend of the Elton John version of “Rocketman” is that, around the time “Space Oddity” and the Pearls Before Swine version of “Rocketman” came out, Bernie Taupin one night witnessed a shooting star. This caused him to gaze toward the Heavens in wonder and set his mind to work. Taupin freely admits that he was directly influenced by Bradbury, Bowie and PBS and that the song he came to write was merely his own interpretation on the topic. In fact, since the Taupin/Elton John version was published, many listeners believe that they were not talking about space travel, specifically but, in reality, they were using the loneliness of space travel as a metaphor for the rock n’ roll lifestyle that they were starting to experience in their own lives.
“Rocketman (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)” by Sir Elton John came from his fifth studio album called, “Honky Chateau” which was, really, only his second album of note. His previous album, “Madman Across the Water” was the album that really brought them both into the national spotlight and started them down the road to stardom. So, it was not surprising that both Taupin and Elton John would be finding that their lives were changing and that this process would find itself written down in song. So, as much as “Rocketman (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time” is a nick of two previously recorded songs, the duo managed to make it uniquely their own, at the same time. It is a song that has gone on to be a fan favourite and one that is consistently rated as a classic among all of the great tunes under the Elton John name.
I am a big fan of this song. He and Taupin wrote such great “story” songs during this period in their careers! “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Levon”, “Philadelphia Freedom”, “Island Girl” and so many more, all came from a period of 5-7 years. But, as prolific as Taupin and Elton John were back in the 1970s, the better tribute is the enduring legacy of such hits. Even today, in 2022 as I write this post, “Rocketman (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)” remains a vital song, as seen in how it is sampled for inclusion in the Elton John/Dua Lipa collaboration called, “Cold, Cold Heart”, which the three ladies I live with all think is a smashing version of the classic song.
In the end, “Rocketman (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)” is a song that hints at the perils of a life that can only be experienced alone; whether it be on the brightest of stages or among the shiniest of stars. It takes a brave heart to endure either. Without further delay, here is Sir Elton John with the classic song, “Rocketman (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long TIme)”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Rocketman (I Think It’s Gonna Be A Long, Long Time” by Elton John, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Elton John, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Rocketman” by Pearls Before Swine, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Pearls Before Swine, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Cold, Cold Heart” by Dua Lipa ft. Elton John, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Dua Lipa can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.