Certain Songs #392: Elton John – “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”

Elton Goodbye Yellow Album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Year: 1973

So, there’s something that’s always bothered me about the album cover of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. If he’s really saying “goodbye,” then why does the cover depict him stepping on to the Yellow Brick Road?

It never made any damn sense to me. Like how effete, glasses-wearing Elton pulled off this wonderful yobbo drinking song.

In point of fact, Bernie’s lyrics about going out and drinking and fighting seemed more apropos for a band like The Who than Elton John.

It’s getting late have you seen my mates
Ma tell me when the boys get here
It’s seven o’clock and I want to rock
Want to get a belly full of beer

Of course, when the Who covered it 20 years later, it was completely unconvincing. Probably because by the time he sang it, nobody believed that Roger Daltrey was going out and getting into barfights anymore.

Which wasn’t the point with Elton: even when he was singing in the first person, it never felt like he was singing about his own self, and not just because he never wrote the words.

Part of his weird particular genius was inhabiting the characters he sang about without ever giving off the impression he was actually those people.

Of course, I’m not sure if that mattered on “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” because Davey Johnstone’s guitar is the star here. Sporting an incredibly distinctive fuzztone, it spends most of the song singing “Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday” as the main riff and in lieu of an actual guitar solo, and only lays off as Elton glissandos into the chorus:

Don’t give us none of your aggravation
We had it with your discipline
Saturday night’s alright for fighting
Get a little action in

Get about as oiled as a diesel train
Gonna set this dance alight
‘Cause Saturday night’s the night I like
Saturday night’s alright alright alright, ooh

But of course, the end of the song follows Elton’s favorite trick of repeating the title phrase endlessly, as he and Davey sing “Saturday, Saturday, Saturday night’s alright” over and over and over again at the end.

“Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”

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