Rocket Man (song)

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"Rocket Man"
Elton John - Rocket Man.jpg
Single by Elton John
from the album Honky Château
B-side "Susie (Dramas)"
Released 14 April 1972 (1972-04-14)
Format Vinyl record (7")
Recorded Château d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France, January 1972
Genre Soft rock[1]
Length 4:41
Songwriter(s) Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s) Gus Dudgeon
Elton John singles chronology
"Tiny Dancer"
"Rocket Man"
"Honky Cat"
"Tiny Dancer"
"Rocket Man"
"Honky Cat"
Audio sample

"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 John. The song first appeared on John's 1972 album Honky Château and became a hit single, rising to No. 2 in the UK and No. 6 in the US. On 21 October 2016, the song was certified Silver by the British Phonographic Industry for sales of 200,000 digital downloads.

Rolling Stone lists it as No. 245 of its 500 greatest songs of all time.

Song information[edit]

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 catalog to feature what would become the signature backing vocal combination of his band at the time, Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone.

"Rocket Man" was ranked #242 in the 2004 list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, though it dropped to #245 in the list's 2010 revision.

Another song called "Rocket Man" (and also based on Bradbury's short story "The Rocket Man")[clarification needed] was released by the musical group Pearls Before Swine on their 1970 album The Use of Ashes. In an interview in Billboard magazine, Taupin acknowledged that the song, written by Tom Rapp, had been a direct inspiration for his own lyrics. Rosenthal's account indicates that Rapp's lyrics were inspired by the writings of noted science-fiction author Ray Bradbury. Due to some similarities in Elton John's "Rocket Man," some presume this song might also be an allusion to David Bowie's character Major Tom. Bowie himself made the connection during live performances of "Space Oddity" in which he called out, "Oh, Rocket Man!"[2]

The first stanza of "Rocket Man" was thought of by Bernie Taupin whilst he was on the motorway heading to his parents' home; he had to "repeat it to himself for two hours," which was "unfortunate",[3] but in later interviews he said that since it gave him a hit, it was all worthwhile.

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.

The song includes the line, ""And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then". The website Schmoop commented, "The phrase "high as a kite" is a common idiom almost always used to refer to drug use. There's nothing to suggest that lyricist Bernie Taupin really intended the double entendre, but the song did come out at the peak of stoner '70s culture. The usual meaning of the expression, which Taupin would have been familiar with, is highly intoxicated.

Music video[edit]

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 organized 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 directed by Iranian refugee Majid Adin; the video was inspired by his 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.[4][5]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

No. Title Length
1. "Rocket Man" 4:38
2. "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.


Chart performance[edit]

Kate Bush version[edit]

"Rocket Man"/"Candle in the Wind"
Rocket Man-Candle in the Wind.png
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
Length 5:02
Label Mercury
Songwriter(s) Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s) Kate Bush
Kate Bush singles chronology
"Love and Anger"
"Rocket Man"/"Candle in the Wind"
"Rubberband Girl"
"Love and Anger"
"Rocket Man"
"Rubberband Girl"

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 #12 on the UK singles chart and #2 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.[16] 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[17]

Track listings[edit]

All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

7" vinyl / Cassette
No. Title Length
1. "Rocket Man" 5:02
2. "Candle in the Wind" 4:29
12" vinyl / CD
No. Title Length
1. "Rocket Man" 5:02
2. "Candle in the Wind" 4:29
3. "Candle in the Wind" (Instrumental version) 4:28


All titles:[17]

Additional musicians on "Rocket Man":[17]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1991–1992) Peak
Australian ARIA Singles Chart[18] 2
Dutch Single Top 100[19] 27
Dutch Top 40[20] 22
French SNEP Singles Chart[21] 45
German Singles Chart[6] 36
Irish Singles Chart[7] 17
Swiss Singles Chart[22] 20
UK Singles Chart[23] 12
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[24] 11

David Fonseca version[edit]

"Rocket Man"
Single by David Fonseca
from the album Dreams in Colour
Released 2007
Format Digital download, Radio
Recorded 2007
Genre Soft rock
Length 4:38
Label Universal Records
Songwriter(s) Elton John, Bernie Taupin
David Fonseca singles chronology
"Rocket Man"
"Kiss Me, Oh Kiss Me"
"Rocket Man"
"Kiss Me, Oh Kiss Me"
Music video
"Rocket Man" on YouTube

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.[25] Fonseca also regularly performs the single live in his concerts.[26]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2007) Peak
Portuguese Singles Chart (Top 20) 12

Other cover versions[edit]

Use in media[edit]

"Rocket Man" has been featured in several films and television series.

Preceded by
"Working Class Hero" by John Lennon
Q magazine british-year song
Succeeded by
"Heroes" by David Bowie


  1. ^ "The top 50 greatest covers as voted by you". Archived from the original on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 2016-02-21.  . The Observer.
  2. ^ On "David Bowie BBC Sessions 1969-1972", Bowie is clearly heard calling out "Oh, Rocket Man!"
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "WATCH: Elton John and Bernie Taupin's 'Tiny Dancer,' 'Rocket Man' and 'Bennie and the Jets' Just Got New Music Videos". Retrieved 26 May 2017. 
  5. ^ "Elton John Premieres Three Music Videos for His '70s Classics". Out Magazine. Retrieved 26 May 2017. 
  6. ^ a b " search results". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  7. ^ a b " search results". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  8. ^ "I singoli più venduti del 1972" (in Italian). 
  9. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  10. ^ "Chart Stats - Elton John - Rocket Man". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  11. ^ "AllMusic (Elton John > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles)". 
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 122. 
  13. ^ " - Elton John - Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long Long Time)". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  14. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1972/Top 100 Songs of 1972". Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  15. ^ 1972_in_British_music#Best-selling_singles
  16. ^ "The Observer - The top 50 greatest covers as voted by you". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c "back side of single sleeve". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  18. ^ " - Kate Bush - Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  19. ^ " - Kate Bush - Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  20. ^ "De Nederlandse Top 40, week 3, 1992 (Dutch)". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  21. ^ " - Kate Bush - Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  22. ^ "Kate Bush - Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time) -". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  23. ^ "Chart Stats - Kate Bush - Rocket Man". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  24. ^ "allmusic (Kate Bush > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles)". 
  25. ^ "David Fonseca - "Rocket Man"". YouTube. 2007-11-16. Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  26. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  27. ^ Davies, Sophie (26 January 2008). "Man of Enterprise - Times Online". The Times. London. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ "Sax All Night overview". 
  30. ^ "MP3 Podcast". Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  31. ^ ": : : puscifer : : :". 21 June 2007. 
  32. ^ "Daphne Rubin-Vega - Chart history". Billboard. 2003-11-01. Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  33. ^ "Entertainment News & latest headlines from AOL". Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  34. ^ "Paul And Storm - Rocket Man (with Jonathan Coulton, John Roderick, Hank Green, MC Frontalot)". YouTube. Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  35. ^ Pickin' On Series & Iron Horse, Rocket Man, retrieved 2016-11-02 
  36. ^ "Morgenutgaven - Morgendagens helter (Norwegian)". Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  37. ^ "The Rocket Man is burning out something, I'm just not sure what". Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  38. ^ "Experimental Pilot - NPC - World of Warcraft". Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  39. ^ Samsung's strangest ad yet: Gear VR video shows an OSTRICH donning the firm's headset and learning to fly, Daily Mail, 31 March 2017

External links[edit]