March 8, 2014| « back

GYBR Song-by-Song: This Song Has No Title and Grey Seal


This Song Has No Title

Song Title: This Song Has No Title
Song Length: 2:24
Song Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin

Elton John – Farfisa Organ, Electric Piano, Mellotron, Piano, Vocals

This Song Has No Title, the fifth song on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, is the shortest song on the double album…and indeed one of the shortest lyric-based tunes Elton has ever put on any of his albums.

The song is also unique in that Elton recorded the entire track himself. Every instrument you hear is a keyboard of one sort or another (don’t be fooled – the “flute” part is in fact a Mellotron); there are 3 acoustic piano tracks, an electric piano, two Farfisa organ parts and the Mellotron. Plus there are more than four separate layers of vocals, all done by Elton as well.

As Davey Johnstone explains*, “The only thing anybody else did was, I did the wah-wah on his electric piano, because he didn’t know how to do that and play the piano at the same time. So while he was playing the piano I was working the wah-wah with my foot. His vocal harmonies, all his overdubs on that, his synth…they were just you know, phenomenal. And he was very proud of that.”

Elton performed This Song Has No Title on his winter 1973-74 tours of England, Japan and Australia. Thus, it appears on the December 22, 1973 Hammersmith Odeon (London) show that is included in the Super Deluxe edition of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

* will soon be publishing an exclusive interview with Davey containing more information about the recording of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Grey Seal

Song Title: Grey Seal
Song Length: 4:02
Song Writers: Elton John/Bernie Taupin

Elton John – Piano, Mellotron, Electric Piano, Vocals
Davey Johnstone – Electric Guitars, Backing Vocals (uncredited)
Dee Murray – Bass, Backing Vocals (uncredited)
Nigel Olsson – Drums, Congas, Backing Vocals (uncredited)

Grey Seal, the next song on the album, was originally written in 1969 and recorded for the Elton John album but was relegated to the b-side of Elton’s June 1970 UK single, Rock And Roll Madonna. But, similar to the Phoenix bird referenced in the lyric, the song was regenerated when it was re-recorded on May 11, 1973 during the sessions for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

The lyrics and chords remained the same from the 1970 version. However, the song was given a more dynamic band arrangement, including an explosive arpeggio piano intro. Elton can be seen running this down in the studio in the 1973 Bryan Forbes documentary, Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye To Norma Jean and Other Things (also included in the Super Deluxe edition).

Elton has performed Grey Seal on tours in 1974, 1997 and 1998, and the song has been part of the set list for his band concerts since 2012. It is now a centerpiece of his current Follow The Yellow Brick Road tour.

Grey Seal is the aural anchor of the song Phoenix from Elton John vs Pnau’s Good Morning To The Night (2012) and The Band Perry have covered the song for the upcoming Deluxe Edition release.