“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” is the opening track on the double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. The first part, “Funeral for a Friend”, is an instrumental created by John while thinking of what kind of music he would like at his funeral. This first half segues into “Love Lies Bleeding”.
In the Eagle Vision documentary, Classic Albums: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, John said the two songs were not written as one piece, but fit together since “Funeral for a Friend” ends in the key of A, and “Love Lies Bleeding” opens in A, and the two were played as one elongated piece when recorded.
The grandiose introduction to “Funeral for a Friend” was performed on ARP synthesizer (erroneously credited as A.R.P.) by the album’s engineer, David Hentschel, who, John recalled, overdubbed track after track of music and synthetic atmospheric effects until the mini-opus was complete. With lyrics like “And love lies bleeding in my hand/Oh, it kills me to think of you with another man”, lyricist Bernie Taupin uses death symbolism as an angry take on a breakup song.
In an interview for John’s official website, Hentschel recalled that he used melodies from Danny Bailey, I’ve Seen That Movie Too, Candle In The Wind and others in creating the track.
The song was well received by critics. AllMusic’s Donald Guarisco called “Funeral for a Friend” “a stunning instrumental” with “a powerful fusion of classical and rock elements where a gentle, lyrical motif is developed and energized until it builds into a powerhouse full of emotion and bombast.”
“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” was too long for a single release, but got significant airplay on FM stations that were predisposed toward rock epics. The whole piece is just over 11 minutes long. A fan favourite, it became a staple part of many Elton John tour set lists.
Billboard magazine listed this song as #2 in the list of Elton John’s best songs as picked by critics, second only to “Bennie and the Jets”. Rolling Stone readers picked this song as #3 in a list of “deep cuts” by Elton John, songs that only a true fan would know, even though it has received significant exposure over the years. The song had a strong influence on the Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion albums and, in particular, the song “November Rain”. Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows lists the song among the ten songs that helped shape how he relates to music.