Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
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Studio Version
Key: Eb minor Structure: A-B-A-B-outro

Here's a true B-Side classic. Harmony was originally released as the B-Side to Bennie and the Jets, one of many great songs on what is arguably Elton's finest album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Harmony is one of those irresistible Elton songs. The melody and lyrics in the chorus, kicked off by a 1-octave vocal leap, are so memorable that you can't help but sing along. This is definitely an Elton melody at its very very best. Ostensibly the song is about Elton's relationship with his musical muse who is personified by the name Harmony. This gives the song an element of introspection even though the lyrics SEEM to be more about a love relationship with a person.

Harmony's Harmony
So let's look at the music. Harmony starts with one of the most beautifully ambiguous chords I've come across. The piano plays an open Cb-major chord with an Eb bass. No problem there. But Elton sings the major-7th. When combined with the Eb bass, this sounds more like an Eb-minor chord. Check it out. You'd swear you were listening to a minor chord, but it's not. I labeled this chord a CbM7/Eb.

OK then you say, so WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE DAMN FLATS? Sorry guys. That first chord is a Cb chord. I know you want to call it a B because it's easier. B and Cb are enharmonic equivalents, but there is no way theoretically to modulate from B to Eb. I'm trying to maintain some musical standards here! Therefore the song has to be notated in the key of Ebm (the relative minor of Gb) so that it can make a parallel modulation to the key of Eb at the chorus. Frankly, once you get used to the flatted C, it's not all that hard to play.

It's also worth mentioning that in recent years, Elton has lowered Harmony a half step to Dm. The transcription presented here is from the original recording.

The remainder of the verse moves downward towards a true Ebm and then to a Bb7 turnaround with a 2/4 extension tag. The Bb7 also serves as a segue, being the dominant 5th for the Eb major key as well.

|| CbM7/Eb | Db | Abm Gb | Ebm Bb7 || Bb7 ||

The modulation from Ebm to Eb at the chorus is one of the most dramatic and glorious moments in Elton's songwriting history. Bb7, which is the V-chord in both keys, is the modulation chord. The power of this moment is heightened by several elements.

  • First of all, the melody in the verse is mostly in the lower register. But when we reach the chorus, we get that 1-octave "you know, oh, oh, oh, oh" melodic jump and the melody stays up in those upper registers throughout the chorus. All by itself this heightens the excitement.
  • Second of all, the strings, which were arranged by Del Newman, and backing vocals are brought in as well. From the sparse sound of the verse, the chorus literally jumps out at you with a huge dense sound.
  • And finally, as mentioned before, that modulation from Ebm to Eb just sparkles. Starting with the ambiguous opening chord, there is a harmonic tension in the verse as it moves diatonically downward along the pentatonic scale. That tension is released dramatically through the modulation to Eb-Major where the harmony shifts to a circle of 4ths progression.

Harmonically the chorus follows an old standard pop progression: ii-V-I-vi, ii-V-I. Although he mixes it up a bit, this pattern creates a sing-along feel to the chorus. You old-time piano players may hear the "Heart and Soul" piano chords in this section. Elton's truly taking one from the classics here.

Elton's Playing
Elton's playing in Harmony is not terribly difficult. He takes a fairly open approach to his accompaniment, not filling up the space with piano. The overall approach is Eltonish in feel and rhythm, but there really isn't much in the way of trademark riffs to point to.

This is a great song from a great album. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!