A very entertaining article with Elton John written by Mike Flood Page. Mr. Page was the News Editor for Sounds from 1974 – 1975. His awards include three BAFTAs for interactive work and three from the Royal Television Society including best TV documentary series. His work nowadays is with something called OurBeeb that runs a site called openDemocracy – for those of you that would like to investigate further, you can go here: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/ourbeeb/
Elton John is well into his current American tour and has been to see the big fight between Ali and Foreman… still quite hoarse he managed to talk to Mike Flood Page.
“You didn`t go to the fight last night did you? We went in Chicago; the atmosphere in the place was incredible. Not one person was shouting for Foreman, the audience was 90 % black and it was all: `Ali! Ali!` I was quite hoarse by the time I came out.”
It is 11 a.m. in Chicago, 5 p.m. in London and instead of telling me the latest Elton John news, all our boy from Pinner can talk about is the big match. With the transatlantic phone rates what they are it`s an expensive time to wax enthusiastic about boxing. Eventually, Captain Fantastic as he appears on the new album, recorded in July, is dragged back to the subject of the current US tour.
E.J. and entourage are around a third of the way through the tour, and have holed up in Chicago for a week using it as a base from which they will fly to gigs. This is the first US tour the band have done where they have sold out every date in advance, often in record time and Elton is understandably happy about it: “We`re playing really well, it`s just tightened everybody up. We have a special stage and I`m really pleased.”
There was a little aggro at one date they were due to play in New Haven Connecticut, firstly there were forged tickets on sale in large numbers and then there was a riot in which the police for once were worsted, as a result New Haven is off and a day has been added in Boston otherwise things are going fine, and Kiki Dee who is opening the show, is also drawing rave responses despite a little nervousness at first.
The new album, “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” was recorded at Caribou before the tour began, but is not due for release until next May to allow a year from the release of Caribou, rather than flood the market with Elton John, as happened back in the days of “Madman Across The Water”. The material for the album was written on the crossing to the US on the S.S. France and Elton describes it as: “Just experiences of Bernie and I, how we got together through the advertisement, and all our experience up to the `Empty Sky` album.”
Did this presage the start of a series of albums, along these lines, I enquired? A sort of instant “History Of Elton John” a mythology in the making? “No! God forbid! We just set it around the idea of our disappointments and things. It`s really not a concept album. There`s a few personal songs in there as well. It`s the first time we`ve written an album where Bernie has had the running order for the songs before I wrote the melodies. That was very strange; but it`s worked out well.”
What did he feel about the new album compared with the last one, also recorded at Caribou, in the light of the highly critical comments producer Gus Dudgeon had made about “Caribou” a couple of weeks earlier?
“Well `Caribou` was made in like ten days, whereas this time we really cooled it and had three or four months off, cancelled the English and European tours because we were exhausted. And when we went over to Caribou this time we booked five weeks studio time which we`ve never had the luxury of doing before. Also with `Caribou` there were a few personality problems; everyone was shouting at each other because we were tired. I still like the album, I prefer it to `Don`t Shoot Me`, but there you go.”
This time there were not the additional musicians that there were for the previous album, although Elton himself plays mellotron and Arp and Ray Cooper is featured more heavily than before. He feels that if anything is added now it will be some Moog synthesiser by David Henshaw, so it seems as if Gus Dudgeon`s hope of a Tom Bell arrangement has fallen through.
There was also the appearance, up at the Caribou ranch, high in the mountains outside Denver of John Lennon, who guests on the new E.J. single, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” due out in mid-November. How had that come about? “I met John last year; and then when I was in New York after getting off S.S. France, I saw him again and he said, `come down to my sessions.` So I did, and ended up doing, `Whatever Gets You Through The Night`, and `Surprise` from the album. And he was going to LA to do a song which he had written for Ringo, and I said:
`On the way back, why don`t you come up to Caribou? `Cos we`re gonna do, `Lucy In The Sky` and he said, `sure`.
And so John Lennon appears on the new Elton John single, while Elton sings with John on his, which looks set for an American number one at this moment. “He had a good time, except he couldn`t get used to the altitude; he had to keep rushing to the oxygen tank. I got on really well with him, `cos he works the same way I do in the studio. We really just had a laugh. I`ve really got a very strong affection for him.”
John Lennon is by no means the only person with whom old Hercules has been collaborating for recording purposes lately. Apart from the well publicised appearance on Rod Stewart`s album, Elton sings with Neil Sedaka on the latter`s new single in the US (where Sedaka is signed to Rocket Records); and plays piano on one of the tracks on Ringo`s next elpee. All a bit of a turnaround for the man who even a year ago, had hardly played with anyone outside his own sessions, since the days when he was a humble pianist doing those sessions which produced the Woolies soundalike records with the likes of David Byron now of U. Heep.
“Well, just now I seem to be the world`s top paid session singer, but no-one ever asked me before! Usually they think: we won`t have him on it, boring old fart! I only appear on people`s records that I know. I`m just beginning to enjoy myself and loosen up a bit.”
The conversation then gracefully wound its way to the subject of the Christmas Show, for the first time this year, Elton`s Christmas party will go out live on TV on Christmas Eve. A spectacular first for Elton and something no other rock artist has achieved. What plans did he have for the show?
“No idea at the moment! We did a gig at the Festival Hall in May when we did a sort of history of Elton John. We played `Empty Sky` and something off every album. We started with a three-piece and added Davey and then Ray, and it went down really well. So I`ve got that sort of concept in mind. I`m not going to do any new songs at all; `cos when the new album comes out we just want to do a special gig where we play the whole of the new album. So at Christmas we`ll be playing numbers from, `Madman` that we don`t play anymore, like `Holiday Inn` and `Levon`.
“I should like to bring the stage over from the States and we`ve got the most incredible new lighting system which it would be nice to use at Hammersmith. It`ll be something special anyway.”
Elton also expressed a keen desire to use a brass section, as he is on the US tour where he is backed up by the Muscle Shoals horns, who are unfortunately not likely to be available come Christmas. He also hopes to encourage Nigel Olsson to come out from behind his drum kit to perform his single, a remake of the Bee Gees classic, “Only One Woman”, which they recorded while up at Caribou working on Elton`s album. Elton`s US tour finishes on December 3 and he will be back the next day “Cos I have to catch the Crystal Palace home game”, and in time to finalise things for the Christmas concerts; and he hopes some dates in the New Year, which are in the planning stages right now.
Ever the discophile, Elton began to go on about the new records he had picked up in the States, such as a song by one Gloria Gaynor which had made number one in the New York soul charts and was nowhere yet in the national stakes. He also anxiously enquired how the Lennon record was performing over here. His last question was direct:
“Is there anybody moving out of England yet?” I passed on what little I knew of those lucky enough to need tax havens. “Well tell everybody that I ain`t moving out. I can`t leave my football team”. And with that he rang off.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ken Boothe, Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, Pete Brown, George Harrison, Roger Glover, David Puttnam, Mott The Hoople, Bad Company, Phil Spector, Thin Lizzy, Janis Ian.
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