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)"
Released3 March 1972 (1972-03-03)
RecordedChâteau d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France; mixed at Trident Studios, London
GenreSoft rock[1]
Producer(s)Gus Dudgeon
Elton John singles chronology
"Tiny Dancer"
"Rocket Man"
"Honky Cat"
Audio sample
"Rocket Man"

"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 as the lead single from the album. The song eventually rose to No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart and No. 6 in the US Billboard Hot 100 becoming a major hit single for John.

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.[2] With sales of 3 million in the US the song was certified 3 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[3]

Rolling Stone lists it at No. 245 of its 500 greatest songs of all time.[4]

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).[5] 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.[6]

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."[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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",[7] 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.[4]

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".[8]

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 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;[9][10] 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.[11][12]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

  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.



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"
Released25 November 1991
GenreReggae, art rock
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"
Music video
"Rocket Man" on YouTube

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.[30] 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[31]

Track listings[edit]

All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

7" vinyl / cassette single

1."Rocket Man"5:02
2."Candle in the Wind"4:29

12" vinyl / CD single

1."Rocket Man"5:02
2."Candle in the Wind"4:29
3."Candle in the Wind" (Instrumental version)4:28


All titles:[31]

Additional musicians on "Rocket Man":[31]


David Fonseca version[edit]

"Rocket Man"
Single by David Fonseca
from the album Dreams in Colour
GenreSoft rock
LabelUniversal Records
Songwriter(s)Elton John, Bernie Taupin
David Fonseca singles chronology
"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.[44] Fonseca also regularly performs the single live in his concerts.[45]

Chart performance[edit]

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

William Shatner version[edit]

At the 5th Saturn Awards Ceremony, which aired as the "Science Fiction Film Awards" in January 1978, Taupin introduced William Shatner's spoken word[46] 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.[47]


  1. ^ "The top 50 greatest covers as voted by you". Archived from the original on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). The Observer.
  2. ^ “Elton John – Rocket Man”. BPI. Retrieved 19 October 2019. Type Rocket Man in the "Search BPI Awards"
  3. ^ “ROCKET MAN (I THINK IT'S GOING TO BE A LONG LONG TIME)“. RIAA. Retrieved 19 October 2019
  4. ^ a b "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". 9 December 2004. Archived from the original on 22 June 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  5. ^ Petridis, Alexis (22 July 2002). "Gus Dudgeon". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  6. ^ Rosenthal, Elizabeth J. (2001). His Song The Musical Journey of Elton John. Billboard Books. p. 49. ISBN 978-0823088935. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Bernie Taupin :: Discography". 25 April 2009. Archived from the original on 25 April 2009.
  8. ^ "David Bowie death: Elton John performs hauntingly beautiful 'Space Oddity' tribute for 'the Starman'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  9. ^ "Rocket Man by Majid Adin & Stephen McNally | Elton John Music Video". Directors Notes. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Blinkink – Stephen McNally – Elton John – 'Rocket Man'". Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ "Elton John Premieres Three Music Videos for His '70s Classics". Out Magazine. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  13. ^ " - Forum - CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  14. ^ " search results". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  15. ^ " search results". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  16. ^ "I singoli più venduti del 1972" (in Italian).
  17. ^ "flavour of new zealand – search listener". Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  18. ^ "The Official Charts Company – Elton John – Rocket Man". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  19. ^ "Elton John Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  20. ^ "Elton John Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  21. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, July 15, 1972
  22. ^ " – Elton John – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long Long Time)". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  23. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1972/Top 100 Songs of 1972". Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  24. ^ 1972 in British music#Best-selling singles
  25. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 30, 1972
  26. ^ "Danish single certifications – Elton John – Rocket Man". IFPI Denmark. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  27. ^ "Italian single certifications – Elton John – Rocket Man" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 25 November 2019. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Rocket Man" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
  28. ^ "British single certifications – Elton John – Rocket Man". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  29. ^ "American single certifications – Elton John – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be a Long Long Time)". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 30 August 2019. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  30. ^ "The Observer – The top 50 greatest covers as voted by you". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  31. ^ a b c "back side of single sleeve". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  32. ^ " – Kate Bush – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 2057." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  34. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 8 no. 51–52. 21 December 1991. p. 37. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  35. ^ " – Kate Bush – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  36. ^ " – Kate Bush – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  37. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Rocket Man". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  38. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 3, 1992" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  39. ^ " – Kate Bush – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  40. ^ " – Kate Bush – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  41. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  42. ^ "Kate Bush Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  43. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  44. ^ "David Fonseca – "Rocket Man"". YouTube. 16 November 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  45. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  46. ^ Davies, Sophie (26 January 2008). "Man of Enterprise – Times Online". The Times. London. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  47. ^ 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.

External links[edit]