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Rocket Man (song)
|Single by Elton John|
|from the album Honky Château|
|B-side||"Susie (Dramas)" (US) - "Holiday Inn", "Goodbye" (UK)|
|Released||7 April 1972 (1972-04-07)|
|Format||Vinyl record (7")|
|Recorded||Château d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France; mixed at Trident Studios, London|
|Length||4:41 (Album Version)|
|Elton John singles chronology|
"Rocket Man" (officially titled "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)") is a song composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin and originally performed by Elton John. The song first appeared on Elton John's 1972 album Honky Château and became a hit single, rising to No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart and No. 6 in the US Billboard Hot 100.
On 30 August 2019, the song was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry for sales of 600,000 digital downloads and streaming equivalent sales. With sales of 3 million in the US the song was certified 3 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Rolling Stone lists it at No. 245 of its 500 greatest songs of all time.
The song was inspired by the short story "The Rocket Man" in The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, and echoes the theme of David Bowie's 1969 song "Space Oddity" (both recordings were produced by Gus Dudgeon). But according to an account in Elizabeth Rosenthal's book His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John, the song was inspired by Taupin's sighting of either a shooting star or a distant aeroplane.
The song describes a Mars-bound astronaut's mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to do his job. Rosenthal's account goes on to relate that the notion of astronauts no longer being perceived as heroes, but in fact as an "everyday occupation", led Taupin to the song's opening lines: "She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour: 9 a.m. And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then."
Musically, the song is a highly arranged ballad anchored by piano, with atmospheric texture added by synthesizer (played on the recording by engineer Dave Hentschel) and processed slide guitar. It is also known for being the first song in John's catalogue to feature what would become the signature backing vocal combination of his band at the time, Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone.
The first stanza of "Rocket Man" was thought of by Bernie Taupin while he was on the motorway heading to his parents' home; he had to "repeat it to himself for two hours," which was "unfortunate", but in later interviews he said that since it gave him a hit, it was all worthwhile.
"Rocket Man" was ranked #242 in the 2004 list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time; it was ranked #245 in the list's 2010 revision. The song has been a staple of John's concerts. Among numerous other performances, John played "Rocket Man" at the launch site of Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998. In tribute to David Bowie after his death in January 2016, John performed a piano rendition that combined "Rocket Man" with Bowie’s "Space Oddity".
In May 2017, an official music video for "Rocket Man" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as a winner of Elton John: The Cut, a competition organised in partnership with AKQA, Pulse Films, and YouTube in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of his songwriting relationship with Bernie Taupin. The competition called upon independent filmmakers to submit treatments for music videos for one of three Elton John songs from the 1970s, with each song falling within a specific concept category. "Rocket Man" was designated for the animation category, and was co-directed by Iranian refugee Majid Adin and Irish animation director Stephen McNally; the video was inspired by Adin's own migration to England, portraying a character envisioning himself as an astronaut to draw parallels between the song's lyrics and the experiences of a refugee.
All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
- "Rocket Man" – 4:38
- "Suzie (Dramas)" – 3:21
In 2003, Universal Records released both a 12-inch vinyl (promotional only) & CD maxi-single with three new remixes of the song:
- A. "Rocket Man (KDME remix)" – 4:20
- B1. "Rocket Man 03" – 4:01
- B2. "Rocket Man (Royal Garden's Radio mix)" – 4:19
Of these, "Rocket Man 03" was also included on the Rocket/Island/Mercury EP "Remixed," along with four other remixes of Elton recordings.
- Elton John – piano, lead vocals
- Davey Johnstone – electric slide & acoustic guitars, backing vocals
- Dee Murray – bass guitar, backing vocals
- Nigel Olsson – drums, backing vocals
- David Hentschel – ARP synthesizer
Kate Bush version
|"Rocket Man"/"Candle in the Wind"|
|Single by Kate Bush|
|from the album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin|
|A-side||"Candle in the Wind"|
|Released||25 November 1991|
|Format||CD, vinyl record (7" and 12"), audio cassette|
|Genre||Reggae, art rock|
|Songwriter(s)||Elton John, Bernie Taupin|
|Kate Bush singles chronology|
Kate Bush released a cover of "Rocket Man" in 1991 as part of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. Her reggae-inflected version of "Rocket Man" was a commercial success, reaching number 12 on the UK singles chart and number two in Australia (held off the top spot by Julian Lennon's "Saltwater"). In 2007, the track won The Observer readers' award for Greatest Cover of all time. The B-side of the single was Bush's recording of another Elton John classic, "Candle in the Wind."
From the age of 11, Elton John was my biggest hero. I loved his music, had all his albums and I hoped one day I'd play the piano like him (I still do). When I asked to be involved in this project and was given the choice of a track it was like being asked 'would you like to fulfill a dream? would you like to be Rocket Man?'... yes, I would.— Kate Bush
All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
7" vinyl / cassette single
12" vinyl / CD single
Additional musicians on "Rocket Man":
- Davy Spillane – uilleann pipes
- Del Palmer – bass
- Alistair Anderson – concertina
- Charlie Morgan – drums
- Alan Murphy – guitar
David Fonseca version
|Single by David Fonseca|
|from the album Dreams in Colour|
|Format||Digital download, Radio|
|Songwriter(s)||Elton John, Bernie Taupin|
|David Fonseca singles chronology|
The Portuguese singer David Fonseca released his version of the song as a single in Portugal reaching #12 in the Portuguese Top 20. The song, full title "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)", also appears on David Fonseca's third album Dreams in Colour released in 2007 and on the Dreams in Colour: Tour Edition released in 2008. The music video was directed by David Fonseca himself. Fonseca also regularly performs the single live in his concerts.
|Portuguese Singles Chart (Top 20)||12|
William Shatner version
At the 5th Saturn Awards Ceremony, which aired as the "Science Fiction Film Awards" in January 1978, Taupin introduced William Shatner's spoken word interpretation of the song. It used chroma key video techniques to simultaneously portray three different images of Shatner, representing the different facets of the Rocket Man's character.
The performance was parodied on the U.S. animated series Animaniacs, Family Guy, Freakazoid!, Futurama, The Simpsons, the Canadian CGI series ReBoot, and in the video for "Where It's At" by Beck. On a 1992 episode of Late Night with David Letterman, Chris Elliott parodied Shatner's performance, complete with chroma key effects.
Shatner re-recorded the song for his 2011 album, Seeking Major Tom. In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked Shatner's performance at #17 on the list.
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- 1972 in British music#Best-selling singles
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- David Hofstede (2004). What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Back Stage Books. pp. 168–169. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8.
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