“Better Off Dead” by Elton John

As fans of 1970s’ music are well aware, Elton John and Bernie Taupin are one of the most-renowned to ever grace the industry. In fact as the story goes, they conceptualized this song one night while hanging out in a burger bar during the late hours of the night. And even without knowing the backstory of the track, an astute listener can pick up on this scenario on his or her own. For basically what the lyrics represent is the singer’s observations while sitting in “an all-night café” which possesses “grease-streaked windows”.

And amongst the things he notices is that law enforcement is very much active this evening. Indeed there are the likes of working girls and “drunks” populating the street.  However, going back to the expert songwriting, he is also able to detail mundane observations, such as discarded newspapers blowing in the wind, in an entertaining way.  And there are also deeper, more-philosophical themes present. For instance, he has also observed that some individuals, such as concerned families’ daughters, are not out on the prowl at night. 

Meaning of “Better Off Dead”

And as for the title of the song it apparently alludes, in a roundabout way, to why he is out deep in the night in the first place. And that is because some type of ‘inspiration’ has led him outside.

Now since we know the backstory of the track, we also know that said motivation is based on him following his passion, which is making music. And ultimately, the idea which he seems to be putting forth is that such is indicative of his willingness to put it all on the line to pursue his calling. Or as Sir John states in the song itself, “you’re better off dead if you haven’t yet died”. And what he seems to be saying, within the context of the entire piece, is that being out late at night like this, even if it is in a less-than-ideal environment, makes him feel more alive. And once again, the underlying implication would be that this is due to the fact that the reason’s he’s out in the first place is in pursuit of his dream.

Writing Credits and Album

“Better Off Dead” was written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.  And the track can be found on Sir John’s classic album, “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”.

Release Date of “Better Off Dead”

This song was released, by MCA Records in association with DJM Records, along with the album on May 19th, 1975.

Elton didn’t release “Better Off Dead” as a single. It’s album actually produced just one official single. And said single is the hit classic “Someone Saved My Life Tonight“.

1 Response

  1. Howard in Colorado says:

    Better Off Dead
    You quoted the song, but only got half of it! “…If you ask how I am then I’ll just say ‘inspired.’ If the thorn in your rose is the thorn in your side (now your part) then you’re better off dead if you haven’t yet died!”

    Point being that if what it is that is driving you is also causing you great vexation then…
    well…you know the rest.

    You left half of the quote out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like...