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"Skyline Pigeon"
Song by Elton John

from the album Empty Sky

Released June 3, 1969 (UK)
January 13, 1975 (USA)
March 21, 1980 (USA)
Recorded DJM Studios, 1969
Strawberry Studios, France, June 1972
Genre Pop, folk
Length 3:37 (1969 version)
3:53 (1972 version)
Label DJM Records
MCA Records (US/Canada-1975)
Writer Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer Steve Brown
Empty Sky track listing
"The Scaffold"
"Skyline Pigeon"

"Skyline Pigeon" is a song by Elton John with lyrics by Bernie Taupin. It is the eighth track off his first album, Empty Sky. It was one of John's first songs to become popular. He performed this song at the funeral of AIDS victim and friend Ryan White in 1990 on a grand piano although he played Roland piano at the time.


Musical structure

The original recording did not include piano played by Elton John but a harpsichord instead. This was because the song was written in the same style as a hymn. Elton John always had the philosophy If in doubt, write a hymn! and with this song he could not get a feel for the genre of which to write it, therefore, he wrote it in the style of a hymn. It is the only song on the album that features John solo.

The sound quality is loud; John has a heavily echoed vocal making the song even more hymn-like. The reverb could sound like it was recorded in a church.

Lyrical meaning

As many of Taupin's early composition, it deals with imprisonment and the wish for freedom. The line, "Free me from this aching metal ring" could be a symbol of an unsuccessful marriage, something Elton John was about to go into (also the matter of "Someone Saved My Life Tonight"). It could also symbolize a country boy longing for the home, describing cornfields and trees, something Taupin might have felt at the time.


It was played on the radio as early as 1968. Though the most popular song of this time of Elton's career, it was not released as a single. It was performed live various places, mainly in Britain. Later on it has been a staple at John's solo shows, but isn't anymore. However, John still regards this song as the first "great" one he wrote.

The song was a tremendous hit in Brazil. A live performance from January 17, 2009 was broadcast on TV along with the whole concert.

1972 version

In 1972 John re-recorded the song with his band. The new recording featured piano instead of harpsichord, strings and oboe, and far better sound quality. Originally the B-side of the hit-single "Daniel" it first appeared on CD with the 1992 release Rare Masters, and later as a bonus track on the 1995 reissue of Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player.


Original version:

1972 version:



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