Take Me to the Pilot
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|"Take Me to the Pilot"|
|Single by Elton John|
|from the album Elton John|
|Released||26 October 1970|
|Format||Vinyl record (7")|
January 1970; Trident Studios|
|Songwriter(s)||Elton John, Bernie Taupin|
|Elton John singles chronology|
Composition and inspiration
Many—including Elton John himself—find the song's lyrics cryptic and incomprehensible.
"If you feel that it's real, I'm on trial. And I'm here in your prison. Like a coin in your mint, I am dented. And I'm spent with high treason. Through a glass eye your throne, is the one danger zone. Take me to the pilot for control, take me to the pilot of your soul."
Lyricist Bernie Taupin has admitted to not knowing what the song's lyrics represent, comparing his writing style in "Pilot" to poets like "Baudelaire and Rimbaud...(who) just threw things together and went 'Wow! That sounds good'." The lyrics possess many elements: betrayal, either political or personal ("treason"); the illusion of danger ("through a glass eye"); and fearlessness toward the unknown ("take me to the pilot of your soul"). According to Elton, this and other songs recorded during this period were inspired by the science fiction books Bernie was reading at the time.
The country duo Brothers Osborne recorded a remake of the song for the 2018 tribute album Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
This has become a staple of John's live shows and can be heard on many of his concert recordings — such as a performance with his early 1970s backup musicians, bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson on 17-11-70 (1970) to Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (1987) with a full scale orchestral reworking the original Paul Buckmaster score. There have also been numerous notable cover versions from the likes of José Feliciano, folk/blues guitarist Buzzy Linhart, British Group Orange Bicycle, R&B vocalist Ben E. King, blues icon Odetta, pianist Nate Hopkins, a duet between singers Al Jarreau and Gloria Loring, and third-season contestant George Huff on American Idol. The Who segue into it from "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" on the Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute album, Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. In 1983, Kikki Danielsson covered the song on her Singles Bar album. Elton once quoted, in The Red Piano Tour in 2005, "And in the early days, there were a lot of inquiries about 'What does this song mean? What does that song mean?' and in the case of 'Take me to the pilot/Lead me through the chamber/Take me to the pilot/I am but a stranger', I have no idea! You're on your own, I tell you." Most recently, American Idol season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino and Season 11 Top 3 finalist Joshua Ledet performed this song on the American Idol season 11 Finale.
Format and track list
- 1970 US 7" single
- . "Your Song" 3:57
- . "Take Me to the Pilot" 3:43
- 1988 US 7" single
- "Take Me to the Pilot (live)" 3:58
- "Tonight (live)" 7:26
- 1992 US 7" single
- "Take Me to the Pilot"
- 1995 US CD single
- "Blessed" 4:19
- "Honky Cat (live)" 7:05
- "Take Me to the Pilot (live)" 5:55
- "The Bitch is Back (live)" 4:26