Honky Chateau opens up with the Honky Cat, ready to leave the hicks from the sticks in his rear view mirror and make his mark in the big city, specifically New York. And on this, the album's penultimate track, he finds that having made that mark it's not all it's cracked up to be, and disillusionment has set in. The Cat has seen the casual hardheartedness that exists in certain circles, and sums his experience up thusly:
Subway's no way for a good man to go down
Rich man can ride and the hobo he can drown
And I thank the Lord for the people I have found
I thank the Lord for the people I have found
But he's not entirely soured upon the experience, taking pains to inform that there are some good people...just not enough of them. Feeling discontent, he decides
This Broadway's got
It's got a lot of songs to sing
If I knew the tunes I might join in
I'll go my way alone
Grow my own, my own seeds shall be sown in New York City
Taupin has often admitted to a love/hate relationship with New York City many times, and this is an eloquent summing-up circa 1972.
Music is Elton on piano plus chiming mandolin by Johnstone and understated percussion by Olsson. As befits the subject matter, it's given a melancholy melody, one that's quite catchy and creates an air of reflection, almost a calm-after-the-storm feel. I suppose that it doesn't close the album (which would seem most fitting, given its bookend status with "Honky Cat") because of this downbeat feel; it would seem that John wanted to finish on an upbeat note, hence the upbeat, somewhat silly doo-woppish finale of "Hercules".
Elton and Bernie updated/revisited this track several years later, in the late 80's, on his Reg Strikes Back album; I've only heard a couple of excerpts, and a look at the lyrics reveals a too-broad, almost crass update, set to a blaring typical 80's Big Production Sound...a disappointment typical of Elton's output in that decade. The Indigo Girls did a decent live cover that appeared on their Rarities album.