Welcome to the first installment of Albums You Don’t Need To Own, in which we discuss widely popular and completely overrated albums that are improperly labeled as “classics.” I’d like to kick things off in fine fashion with Sir Elton John’s landmark record from 1973, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Before we get too deep into this, I’d like to make note of the temporal factors involved in this criticism. It’s quite possible and most likely true that 40 years ago any real music fan needed to own this album. But after four decades of radio hit over-saturation, and a subsequent negligence for recognizing the rest of the record as bland filler, it is not only completely justified for a real music fan to not own this album, but also completely unnecessary for them to own it. I had personally never listened to this album in its entirety until this week, and I was immediately struck by its current irrelevance in the world of music.
Let’s look at the numbers – over 30 million copies sold, a ranking of #91 on Rolling Stones Greatest Albums of All Time, and the bold, unsupported claim from Wikipedia stating that it is “one of the most influential albums in music.” And while that last claim may be true, the music that this album influenced have become far more important and influential that the initial record itself. First, let’s look at the four hits which I would wager an average American has heard around 300 times during their lifetime…
“Candle in the Wind” – Ugh. A strong contender for sappiest song in creation, and held in high regard worldwide by the kind of folks who cry when a boy falls down a well in Calgary. Try to honestly think how many times you’ve heard it come on the radio – 100? 200? Have you ever heard it and said, “Damn I need this on my iPod.” No, you haven’t. If you have, I really wonder what circumventive path brought you to this website.
“Benny and the Jets” – It’s an ear-worm for sure, but again… who has ever made themselves a drink on a Saturday night, leaned back, and decided to take this track for a spin? It’s just unnecessary. You’ve heard it a couple hundred times on the radio, sometimes you leave it on, sometimes you don’t, but you’ve never needed to own it. Besides, I’ve never been able to hear it the same way since Biz Markie stumbled though it with The Beastie Boys.
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – Yeah, this one’s good. Maybe his finest work. And there is this version which is really hard to fuck with.
“Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” – Another ugh in my book. I like to imagine some tough biker gang having this be their theme song, but I know that’s never happened. Classic rock radio always plays it, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a car where it came on and the driver didn’t change the station. It may have sounded bad-ass 40 years ago, but now it sounds like a joke.
So now let me run down the songs on the album that are nothing but bland filler. I suppose if you’re looking for inconsequential background music at a family reunion, these songs might be justifiable, but after listening to this whole record through four times this week, I literally have no need to hear these tunes ever again.
“This Song Has No Title”
“I’ve Seen That Movie Too”
“Sweet Painted Lady”
“The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)”
“All the Girls Love Alice”
“Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)”
And that leaves us with three songs. The first is the opener, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” The “Funeral” part of the song is pretty cool actually – a kind of pseudo-prog-rock instrumental thing that hints at tons of cool shit to come on the rest of the record which never do. Then there’s “Jamaica Jerk-Off” which garners points for having an amazing title, but also has a killer riff, huge gospel backing vocals, and a cool solo breakdown thing – all things which are missing on the 10 songs I listed above. And then there’s “Dirty Little Girl” which is the dopest 70′s blues-funk groove I never knew existed. It’s biggest problem is that it’s buried deep in the middle of a double-album of unmemorable songs. If you had taken just these three songs and combined them with the four hits before, you would have a seven song album that I would agree deserves to be on the Rolling Stone list. But seven good tracks to ten bad ones does not a classic make in my book. Your best bet is to take these last three, maybe throw in the title track, and leave the rest to collect dust on your vinyl collection. An even better bet is to get 1970′s Tumbleweed Connection and completely rearrange your perception of Elton John in the first place. That’s the fucking record right there, clocking in at #458 on the Rolling Stone list.
So that’s my obnoxious two cents. If you see this puppy in the used vinyl section, I suppose it’s worth a couple bucks. Anything more and you’re better off just downloading the few decent tracks. Am I wrong? Tell me why. In the meantime, here’s some kids playing my favorite new jam off my new most overrated record.