Meaning of Rocket Man Lyrics – Elton John

When it comes to the song Rocket Man (1972) by Elton John, the obvious parallels with David Bowie’s Space Oddity, released three years earlier, are obvious. Both works are written based on space fantasy, and astronauts became their main characters. Moreover, the singles were recorded under the direction of producer Gus Dodgeon and became world famous hits.

Rocket Man Lyrics – Elton John

The lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin, co-author of numerous works by Elton John. According to the most common version, he was inspired by the story “Cosmonaut” (The Rocket Man) by Ray Brabury from his collection “The Man in Pictures” (The Illustrated Man).

Elisabeth Rosenthal, in His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John, claims that Bernie conceived the composition after seeing either a high-flying plane or a shooting star in the sky.

Taupin himself cited the track Rocket Man by Pearls Before Swine, which Tom Rapp composed under the influence of the aforementioned work by Bradbury, as a source of inspiration.

In an interview with Billboard, Bernie said:

He [рассказ] about a guy who works as a pilot and goes flying every day, and then one day he kind of burns out. And the children are all waiting for their dad to come home. This is a wonderful story. The Tom Rapp song is based more on him… I thought it would be great to do a song about a guy in the future, when an astronaut becomes akin to a civil aviation pilot, which might happen. And I just created a slightly more modern product, making it more cosmic.

But borrowing the idea from David Bowie was denied by both Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

The history of the Rocket Man song

The first drafts of Rocket Man lyrics were written by Bernie while driving on a highway in Lincolnshire, UK.

The words just popped into my head: “She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour, 9 am, and I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.” I remember jumping out of the car and running to my parents’ house, yelling, “Please don’t talk to me until I write this down.”

It was these lines that formed the basis of the future work.

Subtext of Rocket Man

Critics interpret the meaning of the Rocket Man song in different ways. Some believe that the authors of the composition are trying to convey to the audience the idea that Ray Bradbury put into his story.

But other interpretations are more interesting. For example, that in the image of an explorer of the expanses of the universe, Elton John himself appears, whose incredible popularity elevated him above ordinary people.

Not without references to drugs, traditional for modern music, which some music lovers saw in the words. Proponents of this version point to the expression “high as a kite”, often used in this context.

Release and achievements

Rocket Man was released as a single in April 1972 and was included on the Honky Chateau album.

The song climbed high on the charts, including number two on the UK Singles Chart and number six on the Billboard.

Clip Rocket Man Elton John

Next is the music video of Elton John performing Rocket Man in Madison Square Garden.

Rocket Man was named one of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine.

Cover versions

The song has been covered by dozens of musicians and solo artists, including David Fonseca, The Nixons, Neil Diamond and Mike Posner.

Kate Bush’s version, recorded in 1991 for the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin, achieved the greatest success in the charts.

Kate Bush recalled:

Elton John has been my biggest idol ever since I was eleven years old. I was in love with his music, I had all his albums, and I hoped that one day I would play the piano like him (I still hope). When I was invited to participate in this project and allowed to choose a track, it was like asking: “Would you like a dream come true? Would you like to be Rocket Man?”… Yes, of course.

Synopsis for the record

Watch the video clip of Rocket Man Kate Bush.

Interesting Facts

  • Elton John named his record company Rocket Records after the song.
  • In 1998, Elton John performed Rocket Man on the launch pad of the Space Shuttle Discovery.
  • Speaking in the USSR in 1979, Elton performed the song, calling it Cosmonaut.
  • The composition sounds in numerous feature and animated films, television series, computer games and commercials.
  • In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, Howard Wolowitz set Rocket Man as a ringtone on his phone, hoping that other astronauts would give him this nickname (of course, unsuccessfully). Later, he also hummed it when he returned from space.
  • Joint concerts of Elton John and Billy Joel were advertised under the slogan Rocket Man meets Piano Man (“Astronaut meets the Pianist”)

Rocket Man Lyrics

She packed my bags last night, pre-flight
Zero hour, nine am
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then
I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
Till touch down brings me ’round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh, no, no, no, I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact, it’s cold as Hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don’t understand
It’s just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

Elton John Rocket Man Lyrics

She packed my things late at night before the flight
The hour “H” at nine in the morning
And I’ll fly up like a kite
I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife
It’s lonely in space
On such a long flight

I think it will take a very long time
Before landing again let me know
That at home I’m not the person they think I am
Oh no, no, no, I’m an astronaut
An astronaut who burns out here alone

Mars is not the place to raise children
It’s damn cold out there.
Yes, who will raise them there the way you do
And I don’t understand all this science,
I just do my job five days a week
Cosmonaut, cosmonaut

And I think it’s going to be a very, very long time.

Song quote

It is widely known that songwriters are noble thieves, and here is a wonderful example of this.

Bernie Taupin

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