By Randal C. Hill
Due to a combination of iron and lime, yellow brick roads were fairly common at one time in parts of America. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” became Elton John’s seventh MCA Records studio album. It sold 20 million copies, and his two-disc set is now considered his magnum opus with such iconic tracks as “Bennie and the Jets,” “Candle in the Wind,” and the title track, which reached #2 on Billboard.
Just three years after Elton John and his lyric writer Bernie Taupin had found fame and fortune, Taupin was already tiring of the high-pressure celebrity madness. His early 1970s lyrics sometimes reflected the sentiments of someone who yearns to return to a simple past. Raised on a farm in northeastern England, he and his family lived without electricity until Taupin was five years old.
Elton John has said, “Bernie was always the more thoughtful one… We both burned the candle at both ends, but I did it far more than he did… I was just the guy who wrote the melodies; that was my job.” Elton John then added, “I just loved writing to Bernie’s lyrics, [but] I really don’t analyze them much.”
Success earned Taupin incredible wealth, but the former farmhand has remained grateful that – unlike his professional partner – he has been able to stay relatively anonymous. “My name does still get recognized,” Bernie says with a sigh. “I go places…and someone will recognize me, and the gushing begins… But I couldn’t live Elton’s life.”
Taupin continues, “There was a period when I was going through that whole ‘get back to my roots’ thing…I don’t believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn’t want it; I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium, a way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting.”
Goodbye yellow brick road // Where the dogs of society howl
You can’t plant me in your penthouse // I’m going back to my plow
I finally decided my future lies // Beyond the yellow brick road
Bernie realized his goal in 1992 when he bought a 30-acre ranch near trendy Santa Barbara, California, in the ultra-pricey Santa Ynez Valley. Here Taupin now enjoys painting and riding horses.