I know Bernie Taupin and Elton John have said “Daniel” is about a Vietnam veteran returning home. (In some versions of the tale, unable to cope, the vet is on a plane “heading for Span-eeee-eeee-eee.”)
But for some reason, even now, that butts up against the version and vision that’s in my head.
In my version, Daniel is an illusion. For reasons I’ve never been able to specifically determine, the narrator is broken mentally in some way, and he has created this brother whom none of us really see. And it’s like Span-eee-eee-eee is a safe place to which the narrator sends Daniel time and again. (“He should know, he’s been there enough.”)
Maybe the key for my thought is that Daniel is a star in the face of the sky. And the internal relation between “stars” and “scars” probably messed with my teenage imagination as I listened to the song repeatedly, creating images.
The dream-like music adds strongly to the feeling too. What a way to open an album. It’s almost like opening “Sgt. Pepper” with “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” In just a few months, Elton John put out three albums of material that’s all in the top 75 on The Big List. “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player” is No. 72, and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is No. 57.