Rocket Man (song)
|Single by Elton John|
|from the album Honky Château|
|Released||14 April 1972|
|Format||Vinyl record (7")|
|Recorded||Château d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France, January 1972|
|Writer(s)||Elton John, Bernie Taupin|
|Elton John singles chronology|
"Rocket Man" (officially titled as 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 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 airplane. The account goes on to relate that the notion of astronauts no longer being perceived as heroes, but in fact as an "everyday occupation", led him 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."
It is widely considered one of the greatest recordings in music history, and by many accounts one of the most beloved songs ever recorded. Rolling Stone lists it as #245 of its 500 greatest songs of all-time.
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.
- 1 Song information
- 2 Chart performance
- 3 Kate Bush version
- 4 David Fonseca version
- 5 Other cover versions
- 6 Use in other media
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The lyrics in the song, inspired by the short story "The Rocket Man" in The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, and written by John's longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, describe a Mars-bound astronaut's mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to do his job. 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. It was later changed 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 version was 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!"
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", 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". As 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.
All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
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, backing vocals
- Nigel Olsson – drums, backing vocals
- David Hentschel – ARP synthesizer
Weekly singles charts
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|
|Writer(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 #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. 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
|2.||"Candle in the Wind"||4:29|
- 12" vinyl / CD
|2.||"Candle in the Wind"||4:29|
|3.||"Candle in the Wind" (Instrumental version)||4:28|
Additional musicians on "Rocket Man":
- Davy Spillane – uilleann pipes
- Del Palmer – bass
- Alistair Anderson – concertina
- Charlie Morgan – drums
- Alan Murphy – guitar
|UK Singles Chart||12|
|Australian ARIA Singles Chart||2|
|Dutch Single Top 100||27|
|Dutch Top 40||22|
|French SNEP Singles Chart||45|
|German Singles Chart||36|
|Irish Singles Chart||17|
|Swiss Singles Chart||20|
|U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks||11|
David Fonseca version
|Single by David Fonseca|
|from the album Dreams in Colour|
|Format||Digital download, Radio|
|Writer(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|
Other cover versions
- CKBE-FM David Tyler 1991.
- At the 1977 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 built up a cult following, and 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.
- Hank Marvin did an instrumental of the song on his 1993 album Heartbeat.
- The John Tesh Project featuring Brandon Fields on saxophone, covered the song from their 1997 album "Sax All Night."
- Punk rock cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes performed the song on their 1997 debut album, Have a Ball, and it is a staple of their live shows.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song for their 1998 album The A-Files: Alien Songs.
- The Nixons performed the song regularly at concerts and included a studio-recorded version on their 1999 EP Scrapbook.
- Post hardcore act Boysetsfire covered the track for their 2001 EP, Suckerpunch Training. It was also listed on the track listing to their rarities album, Before the Eulogy but did not actually appear on the recording.
- On the radio show This American Life episode "Classifieds" (2002), a group of amateur musicians who had been found through their classified ads were brought together for one day to rehearse and record "Rocket Man" in a studio. The free MP3 is available online.
- Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips and Maynard James Keenan of Puscifer, Tool (band) and A Perfect Circle released a cover of the track "Rocket Man" for the soundtrack of the 2009 documentary "The Heart is a Drum Machine." The song was released for digital download from the iTunes Store on 15 October 2010. The track can also be heard on Puscifer's website with the title "Rocket Mantastic."
- Daphne Rubin-Vega released a Dance version in 2003 which reached the Club play charts
- A cover version by My Morning Jacket appeared on their album Early Recordings: Chapter 1: The Sandworm Cometh (2004). This version was featured in the pilot episode of the Showtime original series Californication.
- William Hung covered this song on his debut album Inspiration (2004).
- A live cover can be found on some pressings of the Jason Mraz album Mr. A–Z (2005).
- Canadian singer Sylvain Cossette covered the song as his third single off the album 70s, released in 2007.
- TheNoseOnYourFace.com has recently[when?] made a parody of the song titled "Wocket Man," about the 2013 Korean crisis.
- Gin Blossoms covered this song from their 1st live album, Live In Concert, released in 2009.
- On 13 November 2010, Aiden Grimshaw, a contestant of The X Factor, sang Rocket Man.
- Matthew Morrison, from Glee, recorded a duet of the song with Elton John on his eponymous debut album in 2011.
- Neil Diamond covered this song live; a recording of this cover can be found on his album Stages: Performances 1970–2002.
- Singer/rapper Mike Posner recorded a cover for his mixtape, The Layover, featuring a rap verse from Bun B.
- The band Puddle of Mudd covered the song on their album Re:(disc)overed
- At the Saturday night concert at PAX Prime 2012, Paul and Storm, accompanied by Jonathan Coulton, Hank Green, MC Frontalot, John Roderick, and Jason Finn performed the song as a tribute to the late Neil Armstrong, who died a week prior.
- Featured on the album Bluegrass Tribute to Classic Rock in 2007, performed by Iron Horse.
Use in other media
- Notable uses in cinema include the 1996 action film The Rock, the 1997 comedy film RocketMan, the 1998 biography film Without Limits, the science fiction film K-PAX (2001), and the closing credits of The Astronaut Farmer (2007).
- In the 1996 action film The Rock, Nicolas Cage's character asks an enemy if he likes the song "Rocket Man". The man replies in the negative leading to Cage informing him that he's the rocket man while blasting him through a window with a VX rocket.
- The song has been used in several television series, including episodes of the FX show Nip/Tuck, Life on Mars, episode 3-3 of Six Feet Under, episode 3-08 of Cold Case, episode 3-11 of Numb3rs ("Killer Chat"), the Eurovision episode of the Greek comedy series Ellinophreneia and as the theme song for the 2005 BBC drama Rocket Man. In the pilot episode of Showtime's Californication, a cover version performed by My Morning Jacket is used as the credits song, and a remix of Elton John's original is featured in the season three finale, as well as in the closing credits of the series finale. In an episode of the animated comedy Family Guy (Season 3, episode 5), Stewie Griffin sings the song (in the style of William Shatner). In the pilot episode of The Greatest American Hero from the early 80's, the song is sung by Joey Scarbury. The song was also used as background music for Channel Four comedy programme Trigger Happy TV and as early as 2014 in the SYFY channel's Ascension miniseries. The song was also featured at the end of the season 2 finale of The Blacklist.
- During Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens' tenure with the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros, "Rocket Man" was often played at Yankee Stadium and Minute Maid Park when Clemens was involved in a game. The song was also played on the Fenway Park organ as Clemens took the mound as a member of the Boston Red Sox, where he first received the nickname "Rocket."
- The song was also played during the 40th and 45th anniversaries of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing and the day after the death of Neil Armstrong in the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts in Anaheim, California and Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
- In the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, in episode "The Friendship Contraction" (season 5, episode 15), Howard Wolowitz uses the song as his ringtone in an attempt to get another astronaut to give him the nickname, "Rocket Man" but finally fails. And in the episode "The Re-Entry Minimization" (season 6, episode 4), Howard sings the song when he is alone after his return from space.
- The Norwegian company Statoil also used the song for one of their commercials, part of the song being covered by Silje Gulbrandsen Hagen and the latter part sung by Elton John.
- In the song "Home Life" by John Mayer, he sings "I am not a rocket man," a reference to the song.
- When Sir Elton John and fellow singer-pianist Billy Joel tour together, their concerts are often billed as "Rocket Man Meets Piano Man," the latter being a reference to one of Joel's well-known hits.
- A television commercial for the 2012 Volkswagen Passat features the song, with people mistaking the chorus lyric "burning out his fuse up here alone" for other similar-sounding words such as "burning out this useless telephone." The mondegreen is meant to highlight the clarity of the speakers in the automobile.
- The song and its lyrics are a recurring theme in Alastair Reynolds's short story "Understanding Space and Time" with Elton John making several appearances.
- In the computer game World of Warcraft, a large rocket is under construction at the town of Area 52 (an obvious pun on Area 51). Occasionally, a non-player character called "Experimental Pilot" walks up to one of the workers and a conversation starts between the two, the dialogue being based on the lyrics to the song Rocket Man.
"Working Class Hero" by John Lennon
|Q magazine british-year song
"Heroes" by David Bowie
- The top 50 greatest covers as voted by you at the Wayback Machine (archived 11 August 2013). The Observer.
- On "David Bowie BBC Sessions 1969-1972", Bowie is clearly heard calling out "Oh, Rocket Man!"
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