|"Burn Down the Mission"|
|Song by Elton John|
|from the album Tumbleweed Connection|
30 October 1970 (UK)|
4 January 1971 (US)
|Genre||Rock, progressive rock|
"Burn Down the Mission" is musically driven by the story told by Bernie Taupin's lyrics, as is common in John/Taupin collaborations.
The lyrics themselves, while telling a simple story, are vague enough to be open to interpretation. Ostensibly the story is that of a poor community oppressed by a rich and powerful force, and the narrator, driven by some sort of revelation, has decided to take direct action to remedy the situation. However, his attempt fails and he is "taken away", presumably to meet his fate, and justifies his actions as an attempt to defend his family.
The music reflects this narrative structure by starting with a slow piano introduction and the telling of the hero's situation and his progress towards direct action; the middle section, which is faster, jazzier and brings in full instrumentation, can be read as an interpretation of the actual struggle in which the hero engages. Finally, the struggle has ended and the music returns to its initial understated form, reflecting the eventual defeat of the hero. The song ends with a restatement of the middle section while it fades out.
In the premiere episode of Elvis Costello's show Spectacle on Sundance channel, John cited Laura Nyro as an influence on, among other, unusual structure and rhythm changes of this song in particular.
This is one of the most musically complicated works of John's career. The key changes four times before returning to the original opening chord sequence at the half-way mark. It has always been quite a fan favorite, and John has frequently performed it live over the last 40 years.