Several other artists are mentioned in this article, besides the piano playing rocker that is the 70s Elton that we love a bit more than the later version of Elton on this blog. But whatever your preference, whether it is the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s or 10s version of this man – he has made music that will be played in one version or the other for a whole lot of years to come. Legend.
Mr. Spaceman And The Egg Plant
Elton John talking to Jerry Gilbert
The piano player hobbled up atop four-tier boots – outrageous dress for wearing around the house at mid-day when the last of your party guests from the previous night had only recently tiptoed off into the morning.
Elton`s New Year knees up had closed at dawn; today he was holding court within the portals of Hercules, his spacious home in Virginia Water on the crest of Surrey`s stockbroker belt.
Everything was now beautifully serene – only the props were the same – the giant egg-plant Elton had bought as a young vegetable at the Chelsea Flower Show, which now completely obscured his grand piano and appeared to be growing and twitching by the second. “I`m afraid it`s going to eat me one day”, contemplated Elton as he picked his way tentatively towards the hi-fi.
At strategic points around the house Elton keeps unlikely species of stuffed animals which aside from being eminent focal points, are also highly functional for they provide instant guide lines to the house.
For example the lavatory is situated in the pink fluorescent bathroom and to locate the above you make a left turn at the bison and it`s first on the right after the warthog.
Elton betrayed little that had happened the night before as he sank into the sofa and began to answer questions in his usual assiduous fashion. But every once in a while the phone would ring and he would find himself answering the usual spate of inquisitive aftermath questions that follow such veritable affairs.
“No… no, Marc didn`t come… just wait `til I see the little twerp… he doesn`t really like a knees up you see… not galactic enough for him…”
Suddenly we were on the surface on the moon; Mr. Spaceman in heavy checks and giant platform boots – his new cosmic remedy for weightlessness. The egg plant continued to grow, observing our every move.
The room swelled with the latest album from the gang – a splendid concept called “Don`t Shoot Me I`m Only The Piano Player”, and right now it could be an apt summary of the disputes in which Elton is involved with manager Dick James over the release of the new single “Daniel”.
It`s not quite certain how many times Mr. James tried to contact Elton during the course of our interview but Elton successfully managed to avert, divert, revert, subvert and generally ignore the stream of calls that threatened his telephone.
But what of the album? “We did it at the Chateu d`Herouville again, but the next one we`re doing in Jamaica because there`s a battle to see who owns it at the moment, so it`s being shut down temporarily… and I don`t record in this country”, he steamed.
“Well I can`t go back to doing sessions at Trident”, he qualified after a short pause. “I used to do sessions with session musicians before I made “Honky Chateau” but after the “Madman” album and we added Davey I went through a radical change and I wanted the group to play on the albums instead of using session musicians; so we decided to go over to France last January and do the “Honky” album because Davey hadn`t played with us before.
“It was so nice to get away out of it – I wrote all the numbers out there and the band rehearsed while I was writing them and I`d just never got that involved with a band before. Now I just can`t visualise going back to the normal routine session – it`d just drive me mad.
“In Jamaica people have said that the music will come out sounding a bit dirtier and looser, and quite honestly I`m trying to work towards that now: I`m not unproud of my records but I`m trying to get a bit more balls into it now, I mean we`re quite a heavy band onstage now and gone are the days where I used to sit down and sing half an hour of unaccompanied numbers.”
Elton supports his theory of environmental music by illustrating his alternative homeland – Los Angeles. “You can always tell an LA record – the Eagles, for instance, sum up LA and they sound better in LA than they do anywhere else. Bread and Loggins and Messina are other pure examples of music that sounds great on your car radio while you`re driving along.
“For example in England, no other country in the world apart from Germany could produce a group like King Crimson who are really strange and weird because I don`t think they are capable of doing that in the States. Those new German bands that are coming along are very German for instance… goose step music, y`know”.
Which bands did Elton feel represented typical indigenous English music? “Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Soft Machine… groups like Yes, you could never get a group like that in the States, or Genesis who are so typically English. But in America there are a lot of good bands who don`t seem to believe in themselves. Loggins and Messina are very nice – that guy sounds like me a bit, he sounds like Jose Feliciano.”
Elton has now found a tempo which enables him to commute between London and LA. “We`ve got down to one tour a year here now. We did a three-week tour at the beginning of the year, almost unannounced, to break Davey and now the band has been given a tremendous boost by Davey joining, because it really was on the verge of stalemate before that. We`ll be doing a big tour of England in March and April I hope, but I think one tour is enough.
“I can never work up any enthusiasm for British tours – it`s something I know I have to do. I never look forward to it after America, although once I`m on it, I`m all right. The terrible thing is there`s nowhere to play – you don`t need a 25,000 seater stadium in every town but you haven`t even got 5,000 seaters over here. I don`t even dig the Rainbow too much because there`s such a lack of atmosphere and you just can`t buy atmosphere.
“If it was in Manchester or Glasgow it would probably be incredible but London`s like San Francisco, everyone`s so sophisticated because they`ve seen everything.”
Elton John is a man who always has plenty of surprises under his belt. At the Royal Variety Show he appeared in outrageous red, white and blue and produced a delightful photograph taken with Liberace, in whom he found moral support and by whom he was gloriously outdazzled.
Simultaneously he was undertaking an American tour throughout which he featured the inimitable Legs Larry Smith. “It really went down a storm; we did it to try and get a little English humour over to America, because they really don`t have our sense of humour at all and even the Monty Python film I don`t think has been too much of a success. We just wanted to get a bit of outrage going and the kids really appreciated doing “Singing In The Rain” – it was just English insanity and a nice break instead of presenting the kids with a normal two-hour rock show.
“It seems that not enough people are going out of the way to give people a show, but it`s very hard to plan things – like the Larry thing was planned on the spur of the moment, it was just a one off thing and we won`t do it again, but the nice thing about it is that as a result Larry will probably be able to get his own band together and go out there, which he wants to do. But he cheered me up no end – we both held hands when we were flying because we were both petrified.”
During the course of 1972 more and more bands have gone in for theatricals although Elton was one of the genuine forerunners of camp rock and general stage antics. “It got to the point before Davey joined where I was getting p—– off with everything – playing the piano and the whole jumping up and down bit but now I realise I`m stuck with it and I really do enjoy it.
“When I first started dressing up, everyone said `What a c–t` but then all of a sudden everyone`s dressing up like crazy. I don`t think I was responsible. I think it just had to come. The syndrome of going on stage with a pair of levis… I mean the singer-songwriter syndrome fell flat on its face in 1972, it finally did its last swan song.
“The glitter thing got a bit of a drag actually, so I toned down – it really became awful with all these groups lurexing their way onto `Top Of The Pops` – I really couldn`t take that because they do it seriously – they really think they look good, but I`ve always done it with a sense of stupidness like `Here I am, don`t I look a c–t`. But here I am singing `Rocket Man` with a pair of Z-O-O-M glasses on and I`ve always gone out to send myself up”.
So had 1972 been a good year for rock in general? Elton felt that it had. “It began to get rid of the singer-songwriter and also so many good things happened like Roxy Music, Genesis and Rod Stewart came out with an album that was every bit as good as `Every Picture` which is no mean feat.
“Then there was David Bowie, who I think is amazing, and Roxy Music, which is a perfect example of what we were talking about earlier. In America you had Loggins and Messina, and there you had a 1972 version of Crosby, Stills and Nash; there was the John McLaughlin album which was amazing, but I don`t think there was anything that came out of America in the form of a major force, apart from black music; it became a power again. Black people are beginning to do their own thing and it`s not just five men in a row in satin suits again.
“Glitter rock was a bit predictable and rock and roll came back for its annual visit and that p—-d me off.
Aside from his many TV screen appearances Elton is also featured in Marc Bolan`s film “Born To Boogie”. It was something in which he enjoyed partaking, although he was fairly critical of the way the screen had been used generally to exploit rock music. “I was only in it for a minute – Ringo and Marc just said come down for an afternoon… but I enjoyed it.
“But I do feel television is more interesting for rock music because by the time a film comes out it`s a year and a half old.
“If you saw `Woodstock` now you`d think what a dated film it was, and I think films are more or less a record of what actually happened – I mean the Monterey Film is so embarrassing, it`s hideous. `Born To Boogie` is just a film about Marc Bolan, it isn`t anything else.
“But television is much more interesting and if you had a live show I am convinced that people would watch it if you had it on at 6 or 7 o`clock like `Ready Steady Go` – it would be amazing. `The Old Grey Whistle Test` is OK but it`s on at a ridiculous time and it`s a bit like the BBC 2`s progressive rock show. `Top Of The Pops` is one of the most boring things in the world, sitting around in that studio all day, but I do it because I want my record to sell. I hate the programme but what else is there… I could do so many shows like the `Cilla Black Show` but I turn them down. I still get offers to do `Basil Brush` and `The Val Doonican Show`.
“I think we appeal to all sorts of different people – it`s the same sort of audience that the Moody Blues appeal to which I don`t particularly did because… I`d like to go out there in front of a Greatful Dead audience but that sort of audience have got a prejudice built up against you before you start. I`m sure I could go out on stage and out-rock anybody in the world because when I`ve been second on the bill to anyone I`ve thought `Right you bastards`… I don`t really mean it but you have to go on with that attitude.
“I mean I`ve just got stuck with that string image and being a bit of a plastic person because I write derivative songs… but everyone writes derivative songs. John Prine sounds like Bob Dylan and I`m a John Prine fan. I really love his album but there`s no way he`s a superstar.”
Elton is finding progressively that there aren`t sufficient hours in the day to accomplish all the things he would like. And the fact that he has now formed his own record company – Rocket Records – threatens to occupy a further chunk of his time in 1973.
“It was formed largely because I wanted to get away from the syndrome of the big record company – for example Warner Bros. Columbia and EMI release X amount of records a week and if you`re a newcomer you`re a dead duck.”
“What I really want to find is younger musicians – get a 16-year-old band, they needn`t be that good but at least if they`ve got potential… everybody around has been around for years and you just need a bit of fresh air. There must be young bands somewhere but unfortunately the semi-professional scene in this country has gone down the drain and that`s where all the talents came from originally.”
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: Fairport Convention, Ronnie Wood, Jon Hiseman, Pentangle, Claire Hamill, Ray Davies, Al Kooper, Procol Harum, Hemlock, Graham Bell, Uriah Heep, Brinsley Schwarz, Martyn Wyndham-Read, John Peel.
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