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DLC Week of 1/18: Elton John and The Troggs

Who’d have thought that one of the glam-rock era’s greatest icons would have common ground with a rough-around-the-edges garage rock band? And yet, Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and The Troggs “Our Love Will Still Be There” proves just that!

From the opening piano bars, it’s clear “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is something special. As it turns out, the track may well be the ultimate Elton John single – musically and lyrically impactful, with layered nuance and top-tier performances from start to finish.

The timeless masaterpiece comes from the 1973 double-LP of the same name that, to this day, stands as John’s crowning achievement, featuring more enduring hits that continue to dominate radio airwaves and appear on television and in film than nearly any other pop/rock album ever released – and the title track sits atop that list. 

Following the aforementioned, unaccompanied (other than Dee Murray’s bass doubling the root-notes) piano at the top of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Elton John’s distinctive vocals begin at 7 seconds in. Effortlessly transitioning from chest- to head-voice repeatedly, John has never before or since sounded quite so melancholic, so defeated – and yet, oddly, so joyfully liberated. It’s the sound of someone who’s come to a tough conclusion, filled with difficult and sorrowful repercussions, but also great liberation. Do the lyrics provide any clues? Sure, but also plenty of questions, as well. Wordsmith Bernie Taupin’s wistful, poignant lyrics would, on the one hand, seem to address bidding adieu to fame and wealth – something the shy and reserved (offstage) John could relate to convincingly when contrasted to his flamboyant, all-out onstage persona. Although, to hear lyricist Taupin tell it, the words of the song were at least as much about his own life and conflicted feelings related to the pair’s newfound fame: “There was a period when I was going through that whole 'got to get back to my roots' thing, which spawned a lot of like-minded songs in the early days, this being one of them. I don't believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn't want it. I just don't believe I was ever that naïve. I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting. My only naiveté, I guess, was believing I could do it so early on. I had to travel a long road and visit the school of hard knocks before I could come even close to achieving that goal. So, thank God I can say quite categorically that I am home."

Back to the music! At the 37-second mark, drummer Nigel Olsson announces his presence with a single, authoritative snare-hit and from there it’s off to the races. A few seconds later, guitarist Davey Johnstone’s guitar joins the picture with some lovely arpeggios and the entire band displays impressive collective pipes with stellar, soaring background vocals. The first chorus arrives 50 seconds in and it’s just as poignant and wistful – and catchy – as a masterful composition such as this deserves. The rest of the song is a near-perfect (maybe it’s just straight-up perfect!) cinematic tone poem matched to lushly symphonic pop arrangement. Oh, yeah – there’s a delicate string-section adding weight to key moments of certain transitions, throughout. Because of course there is!

All in all, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was – and remains – a breakthrough for Elton John and a statement of purpose, just as the album it was taken from was, and is. John has had many memorable hits and some charted higher than this one (though “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” reached #2 in the U.S. Not too shabby!), some have appeared on more soundtracks, and some have been covered by more admiring artists. It could be argued, however, that no other track has captured the emotional heft and melodic might of the John/Taupin partnership. Prepare yourself for 3 minutes and 12 seconds of unmatched songwriting mastery.

Naughty, sweaty, rough and (barely) ready, and with do-not-care attitude to spare, The Troggs were “punk” before punk was a thing. “Our Love Will Still Be There,” from the group’s first album, 1966’s From Nowhere, however, is something of a departure. A truly heartbreakingly beautiful song, the track is far less roughshod rocker than The Troggs’ most well-known cut (that’d be “Wild Thing,” of course) and other fan-favorite barn-burners, but the gritty, loose, and immediate delivery for which the band is known (Troggs is short for “troglodyte,” as the theory/legend goes – and it makes sense), is decidedly present.

“Our Love Will Still Be There” finds the  garage rock band charting a different course than the party anthems and defiant sonic middle-fingers they’re most often celebrated for. Bandleader and frontman Reg Presley challenged himself and his mates when he penned the track, a heartfelt and touching ode to true love. Kicking off with a growling bass line over bare-bones drums, some supremely fuzzed-out guitar is added to the mid-tempo rocker less than five seconds later. Said guitar pulls back after a few seconds to allow Presley’s vox to take the spotlight and, from jump, another aspect that distinguishes “Our Love Will Still Be There” from most of The Troggs’ discography is apparent: you can understand the lyrics! Really well, in fact. Why would Presley make this artistic choice? The answer would seem fairly evident: to put the focus on the words – and in the case of this song, it was an understandable decision! Reciting the many ways in which a couple’s love would endure beyond myriad apocalyptic global events could rightly be dismissed as pithy by sarcastic listeners, or when delivered by a lesser performer, but Presley really sells this stuff! Be jaded about such sentiments to your own loss, listener!

Never fear, however, the guitar fuzz returns soon enough and between that and the throaty bass, chthonic drums, and rough-around-the-edges delivery, “Our Love Will Still Be There” never veers into sappy lameness. On the other hand, the screw-it juxtaposition between the gravelly performances and sincerely saccharine lyrical content is, in many ways, more “punk rock” than a full-tilt rager. Incongruous sentimentality paired to tough-as-nails instrumentation and performance continues on its pleasantly incongruous ride until the track fades out at 3:12. A deceptively complex rocker that tugs at your heartstrings whether you want it to or not – prepare yourself for a nuanced ride through garage-rock-land!

Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and The Troggs “Our Love Will Still Be There” are now available as DLC. Both can now be yours for $1.99 each.

  • Elton John – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
  • The Troggs – “Our Love Will Still Be There”

VIDEO: Rock Band 4 DLC Week of 1/18: Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and The Troggs “Our Love Will Still Be There” 



*Please note that this week’s DLC tracks will be available for purchase on Thursday, January 18th.