Thursday, January 31, 2008

Harmony

Coming as it does at the very end of the multi-genre Yellow Brick Road album, "Harmony" feels almost like an exhalation of breath after a strenuous task- a reflective, accomplished melancholy dominates the track.

Lyrically, at least on the surface (and if there's any subtext it's not immediately apparent to me), it seems to deal with a couple of former lovers who have encountered each other again for the first time in a while. Perhaps it's Bernie, yet again, commenting on his relationship with his working partner circa 1973. Anyway.

But the singer is not exactly overjoyed with this reunion; Taupin churlishly has him asking, in a patronizing fashion:

Have you quit doing time for me
Or are you still the same spoiled child?


and

Is this the only place you thought to go
Am I the only man you ever had
Or am I just the last surviving friend that you know?


But the starry-eyed chorus completely contradicts the sour verses:

Harmony and me
We're pretty good company
Looking for an island
In our boat upon the sea
Harmony, gee I really love you
And I want to love you forever
And dream of the never, never, never leaving harmony


Fortunately, the arrangement Elton and Del Newman creates for this schizo set of words is so lush and melodic, and the Classic EJ Band harmony vocal blend so strong, that it sweetens the track and makes the lyric content palatable.

While it's not exactly a Grand Closing Statement, it makes itself felt by virtue of the arrangement, and stands as a great closer.

6 comments:

Richard Marcej said...

I'm not sure if I read this or saw it on the Goodbye Yellowbrick Road DVD, but wasn't "Harmony" supposed to be a single? That the record company decided not to release it though Elton wanted them too?

Also, wasn't it a "B" side twice?

I seem to recall having a couple singles from GYR and Harmony's the "B" on two of them.

Johnny B said...

"Harmony" was the B-side of "Bennie and the Jets", but it wasn't on the other three singles; "Screw You" was the flip of the title track, "Jack Rabbit" and "Whenever You're Ready" was the double B-side of "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting", and "Candle in the Wind", which only came out in the UK, had "Bennie" as its flip, probably trying to get an A/B side hit.

I don't know if Elton wanted to be a single, or at least I didn't run across any thing that stated that, but if he did, he was right- I think it would have been a good choice. I don't think it would have been a #1, though...

Roger Green said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny B said...
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Thom MacFarlane said...

Oh yes - a keeper for sure.

Btw, what's with that opening chord during the verses?

andrea said...

the opening chord is what drew me to the track.

i think it's supposed sets the mood. superficially, taupin is jaded and spiteful, but in actuality is romantic just naïve. the musical arrangement helps segue smoothly from verse to chorus, to demonstrate a mood swing, from action to reflection.

in the liner notes the producer does say that he regrets not making this a single.