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The Meaning of Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets”

Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets” is a timeless piano rock classic that chronicles what it’s like to be a fan of an incredible band — from the concert experience to the raving obsession that often comes with devoted fanhood.

Released in 1973 on Elton John’s magnum opus Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, “Bennie And The Jets” is a favorite among listeners of all ages, drawing on the renewable resource of musical fandom to maintain its presence in today’s pop-culture landscape.

Of course, the effortlessly catchy melody and arrangement help, too. Like all of Elton John’s music, “Bennie And The Jets” is the result of creative collaboration between lyricist Bernie Taupin and John himself, who set the lyrics to music.

Strap on those electric boots, because today we’re going to explore this iconic song, from its origins to the meaning behind its lyrics, and find out what really makes it tick.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973).

“Bennie And The Jets” Origins

Despite the fact that it sounds like a live recording, “Bennie And The Jets” was actually recorded in a studio, with some producer magic done to make it sound live.

This studio was none other than Strawberry Studios in France’s Château d’Hérouville, the same place where John had recorded his previous two albums, Honky Château (1972) and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973).

Like many great moments in music history, the idea to give “Bennie And The Jets” a live sound from within the studio came from a mistake. Namely, Elton John coming in too early during the opening piano part, which explains the odd note heard during the intro.

According to Elton John’s official website, producer Gus Dudgeon explained in 1993:

For some weird reason, Elton happened to have hit the opening piano chord of the song exactly one bar before the song actually started. So I was doing the mix and this chord kept coming on which you normally wouldn’t expect to hear.

I turned to engineer [David Hentschel] and I said, ‘What does that remind you of? … It’s the sort of thing that people do on stage just before they’re going to start a song.’ Just to kind of get everybody, ‘Okay, here we go, ready?’ For some reason that chord being there made me think, ‘Maybe we should fake-live this.’

Gus Dudgeon on the making of “Bennie And The Jets”.

To achieve this sound, Dudgeon brought in bits and pieces of live recordings, both from John’s 1972 performance at Royal Festival Hall in London, and Jimi Hendrix’s 1970 concert at Isle of Wight. I find it super interesting that he chose a Hendrix clip for this (so did folks on Reddit in 2016). It’s one of those rock history tidbits you can bring up at parties and nobody will believe you.

Artwork created with Midjourney AI.

“Bennie And The Jets” Lyrics Meaning

Now that we’ve got the backstory down, it’s time to dive into Bernie Taupin’s lyrics. This song has a lot of metaphors and fantastical ways of imagining the concert experience that rings true, even if the concrete actions he’s explaining don’t make sense in reality.

It’s part of the collective experience. Feeling like the band is literally moving the earth and changing the weather while you’re in that room together. Any fans of the Grateful Dead reading don’t need this explained to them, I’m sure.

Let’s check out this first verse:

Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight’s hitting something
That’s been known to change the weather
We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight so stick around
You’re gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound

First verse to “Bennie And The Jets” by Elton John.

We’re presented with the vision of a crowd filled with young folks. There’s a spotlight on the stage highlighting a musician with Godlike powers, such as influencing meteorological events.

When he says “kill the fatted calf”, he is using a phrase that originated in the Bible’s Parable of the Prodigal Son. When the son returns home, they kill the fattest cow they have as a means of festive celebration.

Alternate single cover art.

“Bennie And The Jets” coming to town is an event of near-Biblical proportions, and the kids are going to have a party about it.

The pre-chorus is up next:

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet?
Ooh, but they’re so spaced out
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
Oh, but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh, Bennie, she’s really keen

Pre-chorus to “Bennie And The Jets” by Elton John.

Here, the narrator addresses his friends Candy and Ronnie, asking if they’ve seen this band yet. He describes how much he loves them, how they’re weird and wonderful. Everyone has a band that comes to mind for them while reading that, further illustrating the universal appeal of this song.

Next up, we have the chorus with its famously misheard lyric, “Electric Boobs”:

She’s got electric boots, a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine, oh
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Chorus to “Bennie And The Jets” by Elton John.

This lyric is one of the most famous misheard lyrics of all time. Not knowing what Elton is really singing, many people think he’s saying “electric boobs, a mole hair suit.”

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what a mohair suit was until just now. It’s a type of fancy suit that is made with goat wool, also known as “mohair wool”. The more you know.

So, she’s wearing electric boots and a fancy suit, and the magazines are talking all about it.

The second verse is up next:

Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they’re blinded, but Bennie makes them ageless
We shall survive, let us take ourselves along
Where we fight our parents out in the streets
To find who’s right and who’s wrong

Second verse to “Bennie And The Jets” by Elton John.

Elton encourages the kids to tell the people who don’t yet know about the greatness of Bennie And The Jets about what they’re missing. It doesn’t matter how old they are, Bennie will make them all the same age, meaning that people of all ages can enjoy this music. This speaks, again, to the universal power of music.

Then, he sings of unity and rebellion, breaking free from the tyranny of their parents and taking to the streets. This is a relatable feeling for anybody who has ever been young, and who had parents who sometimes didn’t let them do the things they wanted to do.

He’s so excited about Bennie And The Jets that he’s willing to go as far as fighting his parents to make it to their concert. They must be pretty damn good.

The chorus repeats again here, followed by an outro that repeats the scatted “B-B-B-Bennie And The Jets”, giving us all a chance to dance our cares away and feel some of that beautiful music-induced climate change.

Watch the video for “Bennie And The Jets” by Elton John below. The video was released in 2017, as a result of NY Mag’s The Cut asking filmmakers to create modern videos for this song as well as “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer”.

Elton John – “Bennie And The Jets” (Video)