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)
FormatVinyl record (7")
RecordedChâteau d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France; mixed at Trident Studios, London
GenreSoft rock[1]
Length4:41 (Album Version)
Label
Songwriter(s)Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s)Gus Dudgeon
Elton John singles chronology
"Tiny Dancer"
(1972)
"Rocket Man"
(1972)
"Honky Cat"
(1972)
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 became a hit single, rising to No. 2 in the UK and No. 6 in the US. On 5 October 2018, the song was certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry for sales of 400,000 digital downloads. The song was certified 3 times platinum in the US as well.[2]

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 catalogue 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[who?] presume this song might also be an allusion to David Bowie's character Major Tom. Bowie himself made the connection soon after the song was released by calling out "Mr. Rocket Man"[3]. In tribute after Bowie's death John performed a piano rendition that combined the two songs. [4]

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",[5] 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 phrase "high as a kite" is a common idiom often used to refer to intoxication due to recreational drug use - typically cannabis. Although it is not generally assumed that lyricist Bernie Taupin intended the double entendre, the song was written and released during the era of stoner culture and could be interpreted as an allusion to such activity.

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;[6][7] 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.[8][9]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

No.TitleLength
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.

Personnel[edit]

Charts[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"
Released25 November 1991
FormatCD, vinyl record (7" and 12"), audio cassette
GenreReggae, art rock
Length5:02
LabelMercury
Songwriter(s)Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s)Kate Bush
Kate Bush singles chronology
"Love and Anger"
(1990)
"Rocket Man"/"Candle in the Wind"
(1991)
"Rubberband Girl"
(1993)

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.[24] 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[25]

Track listings[edit]

All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

7" vinyl / cassette single

No.TitleLength
1."Rocket Man"5:02
2."Candle in the Wind"4:29

12" vinyl / CD single

No.TitleLength
1."Rocket Man"5:02
2."Candle in the Wind"4:29
3."Candle in the Wind" (Instrumental version)4:28

Personnel[edit]

All titles:[25]

Additional musicians on "Rocket Man":[25]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1991–1992) Peak
position
Australian ARIA Singles Chart[26] 2
Dutch Single Top 100[27] 27
Dutch Top 40[28] 22
French SNEP Singles Chart[29] 45
German Singles Chart[11] 36
Irish Singles Chart[12] 17
Swiss Singles Chart[30] 20
UK Singles Chart[31] 12
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[32] 11

David Fonseca version[edit]

"Rocket Man"
Single by David Fonseca
from the album Dreams in Colour
Released2007
FormatDigital download, Radio
Recorded2007
GenreSoft rock
Length4:38
LabelUniversal Records
Songwriter(s)Elton John, Bernie Taupin
David Fonseca singles chronology
"Superstars"
(2007)
"Rocket Man"
(2007)
"Kiss Me, Oh Kiss Me"
(2007)
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.[33] Fonseca also regularly performs the single live in his concerts.[34]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2007) Peak
Position
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.

References[edit]

  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. ^ https://www.riaa.com/gold-platinum/?tab_active=default-award&ar=elton&ti=rocket&lab=&genre=&format=Single&date_option=release&from=&to=&award=&type=&category=&adv=SEARCH
  3. ^ "Space Oddity- Bowie at the Beeb". web.archive.org. 22 May 1972.
  4. ^ "David Bowie death: Elton John performs hauntingly beautiful 'Space Oddity' tribute for 'the Starman'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  5. ^ "Bernie Taupin :: Discography". web.archive.org. 25 April 2009.
  6. ^ "Rocket Man by Majid Adin & Stephen McNally | Elton John Music Video". Directors Notes. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Blinkink – Stephen McNally – Elton John – 'Rocket Man'". www.blinkink.co.uk. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  8. ^ "WATCH: Elton John and Bernie Taupin's 'Tiny Dancer,' 'Rocket Man' and 'Bennie and the Jets' Just Got New Music Videos". People.com. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Elton John Premieres Three Music Videos for His '70s Classics". Out Magazine. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  10. ^ "australian-charts.com - Forum - CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  11. ^ a b "charts-surfer.de search results". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  12. ^ a b "irishcharts.ie search results". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  13. ^ "I singoli più venduti del 1972" (in Italian).
  14. ^ "flavour of new zealand – search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  15. ^ "Chart Stats – Elton John – Rocket Man". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  16. ^ "Elton John Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  17. ^ "Elton John Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  18. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, July 15, 1972
  19. ^ "norwegiancharts.com – Elton John – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long Long Time)". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  20. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1972/Top 100 Songs of 1972". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  21. ^ 1972 in British music#Best-selling singles
  22. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 30, 1972
  23. ^ "British single certifications – Elton John – Rocket Man". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Rocket Man in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  24. ^ "The Observer – The top 50 greatest covers as voted by you". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  25. ^ a b c "back side of single sleeve". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  26. ^ "australian-charts.com – Kate Bush – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  27. ^ "dutchcharts.nl – Kate Bush – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  28. ^ "De Nederlandse Top 40, week 3, 1992 (Dutch)". Archived from the original on 26 July 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  29. ^ "lescharts.com – Kate Bush – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  30. ^ "Kate Bush – Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time) – hitparade.ch". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  31. ^ "Chart Stats – Kate Bush – Rocket Man". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  32. ^ "allmusic (Kate Bush > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles)".
  33. ^ "David Fonseca – "Rocket Man"". YouTube. 16 November 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  34. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  35. ^ Davies, Sophie (26 January 2008). "Man of Enterprise – Times Online". The Times. London. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ "Daphne Rubin-Vega - Chart history". Billboard. 1 November 2003. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  38. ^ "Maynard James Keenan And Steven Drozd Cover "Rocket Man"". Vitamin String Quartet. 22 July 2010.
  39. ^ "Puscifer & Steven Drozd – "Rocket Man"". Stereogum. 6 July 2010.
  40. ^ Darville, Jordan. "How the Young Thug and Elton John song "High" actually happened". The FADER. The FADER Inc. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  41. ^ "Morgenutgaven – Morgendagens helter (Norwegian)". Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  42. ^ "JimBob's Music Massacre Podcast S01 E01 – Jim Bobs Music Massacre Podcast". Jim Bobs Music Massacre Podcast. 13 February 2018. Retrieved 16 February 2018.

External links[edit]