Young musicians take on the Yellow Brick Road

Young musicians take on the Yellow Brick Road
Elton John celebrates turning 67 with young musicians as diverse as Fall Out Boy and The Band Perry covering songs from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Photo: Reuters
Ed Sheeran, Emilie Sande and others share what it’s like re-recording Elton John classics
Published: 4:21 AM, April 1, 2014
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NEW YORK — Elton John celebrated his 67th birthday with the release of the 40th-anniversary edition of his classic album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. One of the highlights of the new edition is the bonus disc of covers of John’s songs from the album by young musicians with diverse backgrounds, such as R&B star Miguel, singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, contemporary country acts The Band Perry, Zac Brown Band and Hunter Hayes, Irish musician Imelda May, rockers Fall Out Boy and soul songstress Emeli Sande.

Sheeran knew responsibility came with covering John’s Candle In The Wind, which the pop icon wrote in honour of Marilyn Monroe, and years later, rewrote in tribute to Princess Diana.

“That’s when I got a little bit hesitant, but only for a second because that song holds so much meaning to England and Britain and the world after the Diana thing,” the English singer said. “I didn’t really know how I was going to tackle that and cover that because obviously you don’t want to outdo that song.”

Sheeran, 23, said he decided to “capture the heart of it and just do it” instead of trying to achieve perfection. His version is softer, with a singer-songwriter vibe. Sheeran, who has written for One Direction and with Taylor Swift, among others, said watching John’s prolific career has helped guide him.

“Consistency is key,” the Grammy-nominated performer said. “Always be careful what you put out there and make it the best you can do.”

Fall Out Boy’s appearance on the album was a case of tit-for-tat. When Elton John asked the band to appear on the re-release of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, singer Patrick Stump had a request: John had to appear on FOB’s album. And he did.

“I’m like, ‘Sure, I would love to record for him, but does he want to record for us?’ And he said yes, which kind of blew my mind,” the band leader said. “And I was kind of bluffing.”

The English musician appears on the title track of FOB’s Save Rock And Roll, and the rock band returned the favour with a cover of Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), although that wasn’t their initial pick.

“My favourite track on that album without question is Bennie And The Jets. At the time when we were asked, they hadn’t really solidified pretty much anyone, except Miguel had already done that track, so I was like, ‘Ugh,’” Stump recalled. “But I heard it and it’s amazing. Miguel killed it, so I’m happy to relinquish it to him.”

Sande said remaking John’s All The Girls Love Alice helped her become a better songwriter and influenced how she’s approaching songs that will appear on her anticipated sophomore album.

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