'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' by Elton John: The making of the rock 'n' roll glam classic

21 June 2023, 16:29 | Updated: 6 October 2023, 10:30

Sir Elton John to headline Glastonbury in final UK show of last ever tour

By Mayer Nissim

When Elton John turned back the clock for one of his most rocking moments.

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As Elton John gets towards the end of his years-long Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, he's been bringing out his very biggest hits night after night after night.

Among them on every show of the tour has been 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting', one of his hardest rockin' numbers from bang in the middle of his imperial phase.

But do you know who wrote the track, what album it appeared on and where it charted here and in the US?

Read on for everything you ever wanted to know about Elton John's 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting'.

Who wrote 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting'?

Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)

Like the vast majority of Elton John's recorded output, 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' had music by Elton himself and words by his partner-in-rhyme Bernie Taupin.

It's very much up there as one of Elton's hardest rockers, and features the powerful guitar playing of Davey Johnstone, a longtime member of the Elton John Band.

Elton and his band actually planned to record the whole Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in Jamaica, but their failed attempt to record 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' put a swift end to that.

Elton John at the Hammersmith Odeon in December 1973
Elton John at the Hammersmith Odeon in December 1973. Picture: Getty Images

"I said, 'The Rolling Stones have just done Goat's Head Soup in Jamaica, let’s go there'," Elton recalled in the To Be Continued liner notes.

"We arrived, I think, the day after the George Foreman-Joe Frazier fight, and the place was swarming with people.

"I was afraid to go out of the room, because it was pretty funky in downtown Kingston, and most of those songs were written in two or three days in my hotel room on an electric piano.

"When we actually got into the studio, the only thing recorded was a really frantic version of 'Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting'; it sounded like it had been recorded on the worst transistor radio."

Elton John in concert
Elton John in concert. Picture: Getty Images

So they instead returned to Château d'Hérouville in France where they had laid down his previous two albums Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player and Honky Château to do it properly.

Elton said of the track" "The only way we could record it in the end was for the band to play it and then I put the piano in and sang afterwards.

"The first time I’d ever recorded standing up, singing and leaping around the studio, going crazy. It was also hard because it’s not a typical piano number."

What is 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' actually about?

Elton John - Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) (Central Park, NYC 1980)

The classic rock 'n' roll sound is given more than a touch of glammy edge from the surrounding era, making it the perfect vehicle for a song that's quite simply about going out, getting drunk, and getting fighty.

It's not big and it's not clever, but the song does perfectly capture that feeling of getting loaded ("It's seven o'clock and I want to rock / Want to get a belly full of beer") going dancing ("Well they're packed pretty tight in here tonight/ I'm looking for a dolly who'll see me right") and, if it comes to it, getting tooled up "(A couple of the sounds that I really like / Are the sounds of a switchblade and a motorbike").

And it was informed by Bernie's real-life experiences getting up to no good as a teen at the Aston Arms in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire.

"I'd started to feel I was writing too much about American culture and American things," Bernie said. 'Saturday Night' was my first attempt to write a rock‘n’roll song that was totally English."

When was 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' released and where did it get in the charts?

Elton John - Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting (Live 8 2005)

'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' was released on July 29, 1973, a good three months before its parent album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

It had the songs 'Jack Rabbit' and 'Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady Again)' on the B-side.

The song peaked at number 7 in the UK, while it reached number 12 in the US.

Official theme for AEW Collision on TNT is Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting by Sir Elton John!

Not too shabby, though it was also his only 192-1975 imperial his only single in the three-year imperial phase single that failed to reach the US top ten and didn't (initially) go Gold or Platinum.

It's endured as one of his best-loved songs though, and in the post-streaming era it's gone Gold in both the US and UK since.

As well as being an ever-present on his farewell tour, in 2023 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' was chosen as the completely appropriate theme song for AEW's new Saturday night wrestling TV show Collision.

Who has covered 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting'?

Cast Of "Rocketman" - Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) (Extended Number)

Like much of the cream of Elton John's back catalogue, 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' was performed by the cast of unconventional biopic Rocketman, and it was brilliant like the rest of the film's musical numbers, of course.

Elton himself reworked the song in 2000 in collaboration with Anastacia.

Beyond that, the song has been covered by The Who, Fall Out Boy and the unholy partnership of Nickelback featuring Kid Rock.