There’s a scene in the Elton John movie, Rocketmanwhere the songwriting partnership between the ivory-tinkling megastar and her lyricist Bernie Taupin is showcased in all its easy-going glory.
Taupin sits at Elton’s mother’s breakfast table, cheerfully scribbling lyrics on a sheet of paper. He hands it to Elton (“He has tea on it,” John replies in disbelief) and goes upstairs to take a shower. No sooner had Taupin considered shaving in the bathroom mirror than Elton launched a melody and finished the song. The song, of course, is John’s eventual hit. Your song.
The film’s scene relies on a pinch of poetic license – it’s billed as a “musical fantasy” rather than a biopic, after all – but the reality of how Your song came to life is not far behind.
“The original lyrics were written very quickly on Elton’s mother’s kitchen table [house] in Northwood Hills in the suburbs of London, if I remember correctly, on a particularly dirty sheet of paper”, Taupin Told The Independent in 2018.
“I remember writing it while I was having breakfast – the original lyrics had tea stains on them,” he told Paul Zollo in Songwriters on Songwriting. “Elton wrote it the same day. We went to the room where the piano was and just hammered it.
“I remember writing it in my parents’ flat in north London and Bernie giving me the lyrics”, John says Rolling Stone in 2013. “[I sat] over to the piano and looked at it, saying, “Oh my God, that’s such a good lyric, I can’t fuck it up”. He was out in about 20 minutes, and when I was done I called him and we both knew.
Written at the very beginning of the couple’s partnership, the song marked the first time John and Taupin truly realized the power they had as a duo. “Your song was one of the first songs we wrote when we really locked ourselves into writing and when we had really honed our craft after writing all kinds of early material that never surfaced,” Taupin said. Zollo.
If the lyrics sound naïve, that’s because they were: Taupin was only 17 when he wrote them, and had never known romantic love – not really. So he put down his idea of what it could be. “It has to be one of the most naive and childlike lyrics in the whole musical repertoire,” he said. Music connection in 1989. “But I think the reason it still holds is because it was real at the time. It was exactly how I felt. I was 17 and it came from someone whose vision of love or experience with love was totally new and naive.”
The subject matter that inspired the song has never been revealed – even Elton himself claims not to know.
Released in 1970 as one of the tracks on John’s self-titled debut album, it wasn’t until a year later that the song took on a life of its own. John had made headlines in the United States thanks to a series of incendiary performances at legendary Los Angeles venue The Troubadour. Drawing sell-out crowds night after night, John and Taupin’s weekend in the city slowly turned into a residency, which gradually turned into a tour.
Elton John‘s songs – in particular the opening trio of the album of Your song, border song and Take me to the pilot – became ubiquitous on American rock radio, and its American audience only grew. But in the UK, the public was extremely slow to catch on. Determined to make his mark in his home country, John’s quest for a UK chart hit began, and Your song was finally released as a single in January 1971.
Your songThe success of the UK charts actually dates back to an ultimatum issued by Radio One breakfast show DJ Tony Blackburn, who promised to make the record of the week, so long as it was released as a single. The rest, as they say, is history. Although the track did not reach number one (it charted at number seven in the UK; number 8 in the US), it did awaken UK audiences to the biggest new rockstar of the 70s.
He also made a fan of ex-Beatle John Lennon, who became close to Elton after the song was released. “There was something about his voice that was an improvement over any English voice up to that point,” Lennon said. Inspired by the simple arrangement of piano and vocals, Lennon’s hit, Imaginefollowed later the same year.
The song has stood the test of time, gaining popularity over the years since its release. Given a new lease of life after being used as the focal point in Baz Luhrmann’s musical romance film Red Mill! in 2001, it also found its way to a John Lewis Christmas commercial in 2018, rekindling interest (and sales) again.
As well as being voted Elton John’s favorite song in the UK, it is his most played song of all, having been played over 2200 times during John’s career. Her most high-profile public outing was probably at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018.
“The great thing about this song is that the naivety of it is really honest,” Taupin told Zollo. “It’s true. This is not someone who pretends to write a simple and naive song.
“It’s a simple and naive song. And it still holds. »