Song of the Day #4,043: ‘Grey Seal’ – Elton John

In 1973, Elton John released the double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and capped off one of the most extraordinary runs in popular music history.

Six albums (one of them a double record) recorded and released over the course of four years, featuring some of the most beloved songs ever written. Twenty-seven of the 37 songs on my personal Elton John playlist come from those four years, his first four as a recording artist.

Seven of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road‘s 17 tracks show up on my playlist, making this the most represented album and arguably John’s best.

‘Grey Seal’ might be my favorite of the ten songs I’m featuring over these two weeks. It is a brilliant display of musicianship and melody (even if the lyrics, alluding to the endangered grey seal, are bizarre in Taupin’s typical fashion).

The piano part at the beginning of this song sounds like it must have been a direct influence on Ben Folds, and sure enough, Folds has covered the track throughout his career (including as a duet with John himself at Bonnaroo in 2014).

[Verse 1]
Why’s it never light on my lawn?
Why does it rain and never say, “Good day” to the newborn?
On the big screen, they showed us a sun
But not as bright in life as the real one
It’s never quite the same as the real one

[Chorus]
And tell me, grey seal
How does it feel to be so wise?
To see through eyes that only see what’s real
Tell me, grey seal

[Verse 2]
I never learned why meteors were formed
I only farmed in schools that were so worn and torn
If anyone can cry, then so can I
I read books and draw life from the eye
All my life is drawings from the eye

[Chorus]
And tell me, grey seal
How does it feel to be so wise?
To see through eyes that only see what’s real
Tell me, grey seal

[Verse 3]
Your mission bells were wrought by ancient men
The roots were formed by twisted roots
Your roots were twisted then
I was reborn before all life could die
The phoenix bird will leave this world to fly
If the phoenix bird can fly, then so can I

[Chorus]
And tell me, grey seal
How does it feel to be so wise?
To see through eyes that only see what’s real
Tell me, grey seal

One thought on “Song of the Day #4,043: ‘Grey Seal’ – Elton John

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’ve always been a big fan of this song as well. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has always reminded me of the Beatles’ White Album in that it contains some of the best work John has done with a handful of weaker tracks.

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