Elton John microphone studio

GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD... THE ALBUM THAT STARTS WITH A FUNERAL AND ENDS WITH A "HELLO"

The determination of any musician's "best" album will forever be debated, but it can certainly be said that Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is Elton John's most identifiable work, most popular studio recording and the anchor of his four-decade deep catalogue.

Recording

Originally, the location selected for recording Elton's seventh album was Dynamic Sound Studio in Kingston, Jamaica. The Rolling Stones had recently recorded Goats Head Soup there, and the facility looked very appealing to Elton and producer Gus Dudgeon for a variety of reasons.

"In Jamaica I hope to be cut off and uninterrupted, " Elton said in an interview with NME's Danny Holloway in early 1973. "Gus went to have a look at the studio and spoke to Charlie Watts, and he says it's really conducive to hard work. … [Studio owner Byron Lee] said we'd have to go there to really appreciate the feel."

Truer words were never spoken, but perhaps not in the way they were intended. Elton, lyricist Bernie Taupin, Gus, engineer Ken Scott and the band (guitarist Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson) arrived in Jamaica in late January 1973 and were witness to a city in the throes of hosting the Joe Frazier vs. George Foreman heavyweight boxing championship fight. Imagine Times Square on New Year's Eve…over a week or so.

In addition, owing to some socio-political struggles that were going on at and around the studio at the time, the working atmosphere was less than conducive to creativity. In Ken Scott's book, Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust, he describes the tension, "On our first trip to the studio, these lines of [Dynamic Sound] workers began rocking our mini-bus with the intent of trying to push it over. It was very hairy for a bit and we were all terrified, and almost cancelled the session then and there."

Once they got inside the studio, things were not much better; the recording team found they were utterly unable to get a decent sound mix owing to a dearth of microphones and a recording system that was not up to the standard with which they had become accustomed. As Davey Johnstone says, "We did a version of Saturday Night's (Alright For Fighting) that sounded like a bunch of angry bees. It sounded terrible." After a day or two of attempting to overcome the setbacks the decision was made to abort the sessions entirely and try again elsewhere later on. In the meantime, Elton had written a number of songs at his hotel in Kingston.

Pretty good

by frobs11

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