Take Me to the Pilot
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|"Take Me to the Pilot"|
|Single by Elton John|
|from the album Elton John|
|Released||October 26, 1970|
|Format||Vinyl record (7")|
|Recorded||January 1970; Trident Studios
|Writer(s)||Elton John, Bernie Taupin|
|Elton John singles chronology|
It was released in 1970 as the second single from the album, backed by "Your Song." Both received airplay, but "Your Song" was preferred by disc jockeys and replaced "Take Me to the Pilot" as the A-side, eventually making both the UK and U.S. Top Tens.
Composition and inspiration
Many found this song's lyrics cryptic and incomprehensible. "If you feel that it's real/I'm on trial/and I'm here in your prison/like a coin in your mint/I am dented and spent with high treason," reads the first verse. The speaker in this odd tale then observes, "Through a glass, eye, your throne/is the one danger zone," and exhorts his captor to, "Take me to the pilot for control/take me to the pilot of your soul."
Bernie has said that he has no idea what the lyrics mean, comparing his writing style in the song to poets like "Baudelaire and Rimbaud...(who) just threw things together and went 'Wow! That sounds good'." The lyrics possess many elements: betrayal, either political or personal ("treason"); the illusion of danger ("through a glass eye"); and fearlessness toward the unknown ("take me to the pilot of your soul"). According to Elton, this and other songs recorded during this period were inspired by the science fiction books Bernie was reading at the time.
This has become a staple of John's live shows and can be heard on many of his concert recordings — such as a performance with his early 1970s backup musicians, bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson on 11-17-70 (1970) to Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (1987) with a full scale orchestral reworking the original Paul Buckmaster score. There have also been numerous notable cover versions from the likes of José Feliciano, folk/blues guitarist Buzzy Linhart, British Group Orange Bicycle, R&B vocalist Ben E. King, blues icon Odetta, pianist Nate Hopkins, a duet between singers Al Jarreau and Gloria Loring, and third-season contestant George Huff on American Idol. The Who segue into it from "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" on the Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute album, Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. In 1983, Kikki Danielsson covered the song on her Singles Bar album. Elton once quoted, in The Red Piano Tour in 2005, "And in the early days, there were a lot of inquiries about 'What does this song mean? What does that song mean?' and in the case of 'Take me to the pilot/Lead me through the chamber/Take me to the pilot/I am but a stranger', I have no idea! You're on your own, I tell you." Most recently, American Idol Season 3 Winner Fantasia Barrino and Season 11 Top 3 Finaliast Joshua Ledet performed the song on the American Idol Season 11 Finale.
Format and tracklist
- 1970 US 7" single
- . "Take Me to the Pilot" 3:43
- . "Your Song" 3:57
- 1988 US 7" single
- "Take Me to the Pilot (live)" 3:58
- "Tonight (live)" 7:26
- 1992 US 7" single
- "Take Me to the Pilot"
- 1995 US CD single
- "Blessed" 4:19
- "Honky Cat (live)" 7:05
- "Take Me to the Pilot (live)" 5:55
- "The Bitch is Back (live)" 4:26