This was my favorite song when I was 13 :-D I was a kid on his own rocket trajectory, for sure. I don't quite know what about its melancholy melody I found so relatable, it just felt like it could be my story! I was recoverying from cyst outpatient surgery (on my bottom left eye lid! Yikes) when I heard it on the Oldies Lunch Set on K-98. I think I heard "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" the day before- I was out on a Thursday and a Friday- and I request some Elton John, as though he were kind of a new singer to me. The next week I requested more and found "Tiny Dancer"- I looked all over to get that song! I had it taped off the radio. Then I heard "Bennie and the Jets" and was floored!!!!!! Not long afterwards I caught a Westwood One Radio Network concert from the Hammersmith Odeon, 1973 December holidays. OH wow. I taped it off and listened to it so many nights. Especially before my operation, I felt like an outcast, so perhaps that's why a song like this left such an impression on me. It's beautiful, too, and is probably where my love of great repetitive outros was really born.
Rocket Man, Bernie says, came to him while driving home one night. He says he was as much inspired by Ray Bradbury as anything, and the title came from a song by an obscure Florida band, though I don't know how much that factored into Bernie's lyrics. Bernie, of course, is Taupin, the wordsmith behind most of Elton's greatest hits. They released "Rocket Man" about the same time as the Apollo 17 launch, in April 1972. They recorded it during the sessions for Honky Chateau, which was so haunted, Davey Johnstone (the guitarist) said hardly a day went by without someone getting tapped on the shoulder on the staircase...to say nothing of its weird cold spot in one bedroom. Granted, everyone but Elton was pretty stoned.
It went to #5 I think. It was Elton's biggest hit to date and is considered his breakthrough as a star.
("Your Song" went to #7 in 1970 but he didn't get another big follow-up hit for a while.)
If you hear it with only piano accompaniment, it's nearly too beautiful for this world. I recommend the 1976 version! That's where I copped my ending.
Here's the Cecil and Angela version.
Hope you enjoy.