In late 1973, with money that I either got for my birthday or Christmas, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road became the first album I bought at Tower Records.
I remember thinking that Tower seemed a bit overwhelming and scary. Unlike Rudy’s or White Front, it wasn’t a big store that had a record department, but rather, it was a big store that sold nothing but records! Whaaaaat?!?
Clearly, it would have to be investigated further. When I was older. And had more money. Because did you see all of those records!?!
Meanwhile, I had taken home my favorite artist’s most ambitious record to date, one that announced its ambition from the very first notes of the opening number, the prog-rock dirge, “Funeral For A Friend,” which was all weird guitar noises and wailing synths.
“Funeral For a Friend” was OK and everything, but I have to confess that I sometimes stuck the needle halfway in order to get to its companion piece, the utterly incandescent “Love Lies Bleeding,” which I still think is in the running for Elton’s best song.
For one thing, it has a chorus that works whether it’s sung from the perspective of either Elton-as-Elton or Elton-as-Bernie:
And love lies bleeding in my hand
Oh, it kills me to think of you with another man
I was playing rock and roll and you were just a fan
But my guitar couldn’t hold you so I split the band
Love lies bleeding in my hands
Secondly, you forget just how talented his core band really was. Elton, of course, was always a marvel on the keyboards, but bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson were equally adept at navigating the twists and turns of “Funeral For a Friend” or just plain rocking out in “Love Lies Bleeding”
And whether or not Davey Johnstone came up with main riff of notes winding into crunching chords, he absolutely owns it, especially after each chorus where his guitar comes out of nowhere and just dominates for as long as it needs to.
And the end, which is basically Elton “Whooo-hooing” while Davey gallops his guitar towards the fadeout like the 12 minutes they’ve already played is just a warm-up is one of the greatest moments in all of Elton’s music.
“Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding” performed live in 1976