Someone Saved My Life Tonight
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|"Someone Saved My Life Tonight"|
|Single by Elton John|
|from the album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy|
|B-side||"House of Cards"|
|Released||23 June 1975|
|Songwriter(s)||Elton John, Bernie Taupin|
|Elton John singles chronology|
"Someone Saved My Life Tonight" is a song written by Elton John (music) and Bernie Taupin (lyrics) from Elton John's 1975 album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. It was released as a single on 23 June 1975, the only single released from the album. Like the rest of the album, the song is autobiographical; it tells the story of an attempted suicide by John.
At six minutes and 45 seconds, it was long for a single, but owing to the highly personal nature of the lyrics, John refused to let it be cut down to a more typical single length. Still, despite the length, it peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. at #4 and in Canada on the RPM Top Singles chart at #2. It would be his last single for eight years to feature the original Elton John Band (John, Dee Murray, Davey Johnstone, and Nigel Olsson), as John fired Murray and Olsson following the recording of the album.
The song concludes side one of the album's narrative, chronicling the early history of John and lyricist, Bernie Taupin, and their struggles to find their place within the music industry. When released as the album's only single in 1975, it reached #4 on The US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and entered the top 25 on the UK Singles Chart. In the U.S., it was certified Gold on 10 September 1975 by the RIAA. In Canada, the single narrowly missed being his ninth number one, hitting #2 on the RPM 100 national Top Singles chart on August 30.
Taupin's lyric refers to a time in 1968, before John was popular as a musician, when John was engaged to be married to girlfriend Linda Woodrow. John and Woodrow were sharing a flat with Taupin in Furlong Road in Highbury, London, hence the opening line "When I think of those East End lights." John did not love his girlfriend, and felt trapped by the relationship. Feeling desperate, John contemplated suicide, and even made a half-hearted attempt at asphyxiating himself with a gas oven in his home. He took refuge in his friends, especially Long John Baldry, who convinced John to abandon his plans to marry in order to salvage and maintain his musical career. His parents arrived the next day, in a van, to take him home. As a sign of respect and gratitude to Baldry, Taupin wrote him into the song as the "someone" in the title, and also as "Sugar Bear".
According to Taupin in the documentary Two Rooms, which is about the professional and personal relationship between Bernie Taupin and Elton John, he was the one who found Elton. Elton had turned on the gas oven and lay down on the floor next to it. But, he had also opened the kitchen window, rendering the attempt ineffective.
The lyric "And butterflies are free to fly" is a reference to a famous quote from Dickens' Bleak House: "I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies." A few years prior to the song's release, the same quotation had inspired the title of the 1972 American comedy-drama film Butterflies Are Free, an adaptation of the 1969 play of the same title by Leonard Gershe.
Comparisons were drawn to the earlier John/Taupin composition "Skyline Pigeon", as both songs contain the metaphor of a creature flying free towards the sky to signify escape from marriage, with the creature in this case being a butterfly.
Some radio stations altered the song or refused to play it due to the use of the phrase "Damn it" in the second verse.
In the liner notes to the Deluxe Edition of Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy, writer Paul Gambaccini related a recollection from producer Gus Dudgeon. During the recording of the song's lead vocal, Dudgeon said he was pushing John for more in terms of his delivery of the vocal, not paying attention to the lyric. According to Gambaccini, guitarist Davey Johnstone leaned over and told Dudgeon, "You know he's singing about killing himself." Dudgeon was apparently mortified by the revelation and relented.
At 6:45 this was one of John's longest singles and was supposed to be edited to a shorter version for radio consumption. However, John refused to let MCA Records cut it down, saying that it was to be released as a whole, and the record company acquiesced. Its B-Side song, "House of Cards", was recorded by UK singer Linda Kendrick.
John has played the song live many times, one of the best known recorded performances coming during the Central Park concert in September 1980.
Weekly singles charts
- Elton John – piano, Rhodes piano, ARP String Ensemble synthesizer, vocals
- Davey Johnstone – Leslied electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Dee Murray – bass guitar, backing vocals
- Nigel Olsson – drums, backing vocals
- Ray Cooper – tambourine, shaker, cymbal
This song is featured in the trailer for the 2002 film Moonlight Mile directed by Brad Silberling, starring Susan Sarandon, Dustin Hoffman and Jake Gyllenhaal. The film is partially based on Silberling dealing with the aftermath of the murder of his girlfriend, actress Rebecca Schaeffer.
In the Simpsons episode "I'm with Cupid", which features Elton John playing himself, Apu irritates John by deliberately punning that "Someone saved your life tonight" after his quick response prevents the singer being struck by a crashing plane.
"Someone Saved My Life Tonight" was also well known among die-hard Elton John fans for its flip-side, "House of Cards," a track recorded along with the album's other songs, but left off the final edit of the album. As far as anyone knows, it could well be the album's only recorded outtake. (A Taupin lyric for "Dogs in the Kitchen" was included with the original LP and Deluxe Edition CD issue Lyric booklet, but it is unknown whether the song was ever finished with music and recorded.) "House of Cards," meanwhile, was a long-awaited track on CD, finally surfacing on Rare Masters, though left off the remastered CD re-release of Captain Fantastic in 1995. It was, however, included on the Deluxe Edition re-release as one of the bonus tracks, finally joining the album with which it was originally recorded.
Folk rock band Mumford & Sons covered the song for the 2018 tribute album Revamp: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin.
- 10 Things You Need to Know About Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy Retrieved 8 April 2018
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
- Buckley, David (2007). Elton: The Biography. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. p. 57. ISBN 9781556527135. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
- "Islington, Elton John and Long John Baldry". Another Nickel in the Machine. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
- DeGagne, Mike. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight - Elton John | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
- Robinson, John. "WHO IS "SUGAR BEAR" IN THE ELTON JOHN SONG "SOMEONE SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT"?". 99.1 WFMK. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
- Burnett, Richard (20 July 2012), Three Dollar Bill (column), "Sugar Bear" Archived September 28, 2016, at the Wayback Machine (prior versions of 2007 Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine and 2005 Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine archived at hour.ca). Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- RonnieFriend. "Elton John's "House of Cards" - Linda Kendrick 1975" – via YouTube.
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1975-09-06. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
- "NZ Top 40 Singles Chart | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Nztop40.co.nz. 1975-08-25. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
- "Cash Box Top 100 8/16/75".
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca.
- "Top Selling Singles of 1975 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Nztop40.co.nz. 1975-12-31. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
- "Top 100 Hits of 1975/Top 100 Songs of 1975". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
- "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1975".
- "American single certifications – Elton John – Someone Saved My Life". Recording Industry Association of America.