DC Parmet's life as Elton John's tour manager for 18 years
Saturday, November 21 2015
When Elton John arrives in Wellington on November 21, 2015, he will be accompanied by tour manager DC Parment, who has been holding the band's purse strings for the past 18 years.
He tells the Dominion Post about first meeting the larger-than-life star, why touring is fun, and his favourite bands.
Why did you decide to work in the entertainment industry?
I didn't really, the entertainment industry found me … I had no idea it was a career option.
Describe your role and why it's important to the tour?
I'm the tour manager, which means that I handle all of the finances for the tour. People on the tour love me, because I make sure they get paid.
What is something that about your job that would surprise people?
The most surprising thing would be that there's a lot of waiting around in rock 'n' roll.
What is one of your favourite memories of travelling with Elton John?
One of my favourite memories is my first encounter with Elton back in the autumn of 1997, when I first started working for him. He said, "You're the accountant? No wonder you look so nervous." It still makes me smile to this day.
What is the best part of touring with him?
Touring with Elton has allowed me to see world and visit places I never would have gone to otherwise.
What is the best place you have visited on tour?
I would say it would be Hawaii or London.
What are the Kiwi fans like compared to other places?
Kiwi fans are awesome! They're passionate, loyal and loud!
What books do you like?
I love reading rock star autobiographies and biographies.
How about music?
My favourite bands would be Metallica, Van Halen, New Order, AC/DC, Rush, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, The Who.
Do you have a favourite song?
My favourite song depends on my mood, where I am and what I'm doing.
What is your favourite film?
It would be the spoof Western movie Blazing Saddles (1974) and golf movie Caddyshack (1980).
If you could invite any four people, living or dead, to dinner who would you pick?
President Barack Obama, Jesus, James Hetfield, who's the lead singer of Metallica, comedian Chris Rock, and Oprah.
Elton John interview in Rolling Stone
Friday, November 20 2015
Elton John spoke to Rolling Stone about 'Wonderful Crazy Night,' steering Ed Sheeran's career and why he feels it's his duty to keep up with new music.
Elton John has spent the past few years making mostly reflective and piano-based albums like 2010's Leon Russell collaboration, The Union, and 2013's sparse, somber The Diving Board. But when he got the urge to make a new album earlier this year, he decided to head in a radically different direction. "I was in Honolulu playing a show with my band, and I said to my guitarist Davey [Johnstone], 'Go out and buy 12-string guitars,'" he says. "'I want to hear lots of them on this record. We're going to make an up record.'"
The end result is Wonderful Crazy Night, which hits shelves on February 5, 2015. Rolling Stone spoke to Elton about crafting the album, raising his two young sons, his upcoming 70th birthday, managing Ed Sheeran, the possibility of playing a special concert packed with rarities and much more.
When you decided to write this kind of an album, what instructions did you give Bernie? I just said that I even wanted the slow songs to be optimistic. I wanted to make a happy record. "Joyous" was the word I chose. Not happy, joyous. I said I want it to feel joyous from beginning to end, and even the slow songs should be joyous.
Bernie told me it's harder for him to write happy songs than sad ones. Is it the same for you? Oh, yeah. I mean, as a pianist, I feel its really hard to write uptempo songs anyway. It's much harder than it is to write a slow ballad because the piano is a different chromatic instrument from the guitar, and so you don't tend to write three-chord songs with the piano. But on this record, because I was in the mood and I knew what I wanted, it came really, really quickly.
I understand where Bernie is coming from. Normally, I could write ballads and sad songs all day. I do like miserable records and miserable songs, but I don't feel like that now. I must say, my band helped me enormously. It's the first record they've made with T Bone. He asked for them to play on it. We'd been playing so well live that it was really just a matter of time before this happened.
The idea and the actual result came together very, very well. I was surprised by how many uptempo songs I wrote. In fact, there's probably two we left off the album, so it actually put the to rest the notion that I can't write uptempo songs. When I look back on Rock of the Westies, which is probably the most uptempo record we did, I wrote them then, but it's been a long time since I've actually made a band record that sounds like a rock & roll record.
Walk me through your process. I know Bernie emails you the lyrics. Do you talk to him before you sit down to write the music? No, I don't [laughs]. I don't even look at them. I mean, I'm sorry, I don't mean to be insulting to him, but it's not what what I want. I want to walk in the studio on the first day with 20 pages of lyrics and then look through them and say, "Okay, I'm gonna start with this one." So I don't have any preconceived ideas until I sit in the studio. The first song we wrote was "Blue Wonderful," and the second song was "Wonderful Crazy Night." We tended to record a song a day and finish it with backing vocals and everything, so apart from the horns on "A Good Heart," it's a very self-contained record.
Before you sit down in the studio on day one, do you do any prep work? No.
Wow. Do you feel pressure to come up with music on the spot in a studio full of people? [Laughs] I do, but I'm not a guitarist and so I don't carry a guitar around with me all the time. I mean, I'm not sitting in a hotel room writing a song. I never touch the piano at home because I do 100 shows a year. And so with songs, I really want look forward to writing them, and so when I haven't written song more or less since the last album, I'm in the mood to write them.
You always think, "Am I gonna be able to write this time?" And you go in there with the usual fears, and you end up writing two or three songs in an hour and a half. That's the way it's worked and it's never changed from the very, very beginning. It's always the excitement of writing the song to his lyrics and then playing it to him. It hasn't changed from the very first lyric he ever gave me. I joke about it in my show, but it's probably why we've lasted so long. It's because it's still as exciting now as it was back in 1968.
That's a pretty amazing thing. Most people can't just sit down at a piano and churn out new music at will like that. I don't know what happens. Something channels inside me. I've never thought about it. I haven't analyzed it. I just think, "Well, that's the way it works." It's so exciting. I'm very lucky, but I'm not one of those people that sort of grind the songs out and it takes forever. When it comes out, it's like it all comes out.
So with a song like "I've Got 2 Wings," you didn't even know the backstory when you wrote it? I didn't know where was such a character until I asked Bernie, "Who is this guy?" And then he showed me it on YouTube. And I'd written the song before I knew who this guy was, and luckily it fitted who he was extremely well. But it was just a beautiful song and a beautiful person that did that in the 1950s. I haven't stopped YouTubing the guy since I wrote the song because I just think it's such a beautiful thing that he did.
It was great to hear Davey's guitar and Nigel's drums on the album. They've been such a key part of your sound for so many years. Yeah, it's great. It's a very powerful-sounding record. I don't thick T Bone's ever made that kind of record before. The band was so up to being asked to record, and they were so looking forward to working with T Bone. And Jason Wormer, the engineer, is fantastic. He had a wonderful drum sound before Nigel started. I thought he was going to be nervous, but he played the shit out of everything. There haven't been many records like this for a long time. It's very old and it's very 1970s, but it's up-to-date and modern. I'm nodding to the past, but I'm playing to the future, if you get what I mean.
You recorded it in just two weeks? We did 14 tracks in 17 days, yeah. But that's [Goodbye] Yellow Brick Road time, as well. That's what we did then, and it hasn't changed. I also did The Diving Board in a bout 10 days. It's because I don't write, and I'm so looking forward to it. Also, I listen to a lot of music. Nothing inspires me more than new music. When I wrote "A Good Heart" I was thinking about St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Paul Janeway singing it. I do my Apple Beats program, and I'm given new music all the time. My life is so full of music, old and new stuff, so when it comes time to record something all that music seems to come together.
It's a good way to work. People that spend six months on a record, or even more, can really overthink the music and kill the songs. You can overcook the egg. You can work on something so much and remix and do it over and over and over again. I've never been someone to do that. It's always been, "If its not done in seven or eight takes, let's come back to it another day," because you lose the energy. You lose the adrenaline, and that's so important. And most of these songs were recorded in two takes, without question.
Bernie told me he's in the studio for some of the process. What's his role in there? He just likes to hang around and feel the vibe. It's good to have him around because I can say, "I need an extra line here" or "I need two extra lines" or "I don't need this — can you change this?" So he's on hand in case I need anything. He's a great writer, but sometimes there are five lines in a verse and sometimes there are six, so sometimes I need to modify that and he's always on hand so that he can fix it straight away so we don't have to waste time.
And he's a musician too. If doesn't like it then I don't like it because I want him to like everything I write. I mean, obviously that's not possible, but I just want him to love everything that I do melodically to his lyrics because he's at the start of everything, and we've got it down pretty pat. We're as simpatico as people having never written in the same room. We just know each other musically and lyrically, and we just know what each other wants, I think, and after being together 48 years, we should.
He was telling me that since you both have young kids right now, your two lives are sort of mirroring each other. Yeah, we're both mirroring each other. I've got two boys, and he's got two girls. One of the songs we left off was called "Children Saw." It's a beautiful song, but it didn't really go with the rest of the album because you can write songs about children all you like and they always end up sounding a little bit twee, so we decided to leave it off, which was a shame because I love the lyrics so much. But I think we're both in a very happy place, and we were both on the same page. We had no doubts in our minds that this was the kind of record we wanted to make.
This is your third straight album with T Bone Burnett. What keeps bringing you back to him? He just understands me. He's a musician. I'm a good musician, he's a great musician, and he's recorded with so many great people. He's good at analyzing a song. He's good at analyzing my vocals. He's quick to critique or change things around, and that's what you need. When you've written a song, you can't actually see the wood for the tree, and he's there to say, "Nuh-uh, do that instead." And I've always needed something like that around. He'll say, "This song's too long. Cut the chorus out there. You don't need two choruses at the end." He plays on "Blue Wonderful," and he just adds a great vibe. Everybody in my band were intimated to work with him because of his reputation, but they ended up loving him. You can tell that it's a joyous record, and you can imagine the fun we had doing it.
I heard that Capitol refused to put it out. I just can't understand that. [Capitol declined to comment for this article.] I don't know. I know if it was politics or whatever. I was gutted, I have to say. I thought, "This is a fucking good record, and I can't understand why they don't want to put it out." But they've done me a favor. I was so upset for about a week, and then I landed on Island's doorstep with David Massey and they are so thrilled. They have a lot of young artists on their label. I am, by far, the oldest artist they have. They have the Killers, who are friends of mine. I'm 68 years old, and I've made 33 studio albums. All I'm asking for at this age is for them to like it, to be enthusiastic and to do their best. I can ask for no more.
I have my own management company. I follow the charts. I know everything about the business. I know where I stand as far as selling albums. I'm not going to sell a million albums. I'm not expecting to.
I know a few years ago, your label actually told you to cover Motown songs and do a Christmas album, which is just so crazy to me. Yeah. For me, that's the end. I mean, they said. "Oh, Elton's gone to Vegas. That's the end." Well, I went to Las Vegas and did a very outrageous show by David LaChapelle, which garnered incredible reviews and it was very edgy and people walked out. I still want to push the envelope, and I think that at 68 years old, nearly 69, that this record will come as a surprise to people because they haven't heard me rock out so much for years.
I love every second of this album and we're gonna be able to play it in arenas. The last album, as much as I love it, those were theater songs. As T Bone said, I made a parlor record with The Diving Board, and I loved it, but this record is something that we can go out and play. The title says it all: Wonderful Crazy Night.
I think a song like "Claw Hammer" will really work in a big venue. Absolutely. We're rehearsing them in January and we're gonna launch the album in Paris at the Olympia Theater, and we'll see how many album tracks we can squeeze into our set. It's difficult when you have a catalog and an audience expects to hear every song they know, but with these songs, I think they'll become staple Elton John songs, and I think three or four of them will sit inside the set. It's great to go into rehearsals with a whole new album full of material you can't wait to try out on an audience. You'll see which ones work and which ones don't.
Bernie and I were talking about the challenge of introducing people to new music when they're so attached to the old ones, especially since they remind them so much of their own youth. Of course. And you have to respect that. You can't just come out and play something all the way through. I remember in 1975, I was headlining Wembley Stadium and I played the whole of the Captain Fantastic record, which nobody had heard. I died the death. I mean, halfway through the album, I want to kill myself [laughs]. I have to ingratiate the audience very slowly with the new stuff. I'm still playing a track from The Union called "Hey Ahab," and they love that. You know which ones work and which ones don't. I'll be very interested to see how they go with this.
In 2017, you'll turn 70, and it'll be your 50th anniversary with Bernie. Might you do something special that year to honor both those things? I don't know that yet. I'm trying to get to 69 [laughs], and I'll see where we go from there. All I'm looking forward to now is playing this stuff live at the moment. I mean, I'm in a very happy place with my family and my husband, my children, my career. I have a wonderful life. Everything could not be better and to have made this record with so much energy at this age, I am so thrilled.
I heard your kids saw you play live for the first time. Yeah. They know what I do, but they don't give a shit about it. They know my songs. They sing "Rocket Man" and "Bennie and the Jets," and they sing "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," but they're more interested in Lego to be honest with you, and I am very happy with that. They love music. They love "Uptown Funk" and "Happy" by Pharrell and "I Can't Feel My Face" by the Weeknd.
Are you still planning on doing fewer shows now that they're beginning school? Yeah. I've done fewer shows this year. I've had lots of time off with my children, and it's all got to change now that Zachary's starting school. I've got to be off when half-term comes. And I am planning on cutting down my shows to be with my children, because that's what I really love.
Did I read somewhere that you no longer want to play solo acoustic shows? For the time being, yeah. I find it very tiring, but I will do it again someday. I'm just so enjoying playing with the band. For me, my band is like Little Feat. It's so incredibly enjoyable every single day. They're the best musicians, and I just love playing with them.
A lot of people don't realize that you work with Ed Sheeran. What's your role in his career? I've been advising him, and own the company that manages him. He asks me for advice. For example, a couple of years ago, he told me that the record company wanted a follow up to +, but he was also offered a tour with Taylor Swift, 88 shows in America. He said to me. "What should I do?" I said to him, "It's a no-brainer. You do the 88 shows with Taylor Swift. She'll be on top of the bill. You'll be coming on when people are coming in. It's not your audience. It'll give you so much backbone, and you can't buy that experience. And you know Taylor. You like her. Do that — there's plenty of time for a second record."
And on the new album, x, he didn't want to put "Sing" first." He said, "Pharrell has had so much success recently. I'm worried people are going to be burned out by him." I said, "Listen, it's a song that people don't expect from you. If you want to put out 'Don't' first, it's gonna take a while to get up the charts. If you put 'Sing' out first, it will go straight in, and it will be the biggest thing on radio you've had so far." Every record he put out before that, "The A Team" and "Lego House," they took a long time to get up the charts. I think that "The A Team" took a year, and they wouldn't put him on the Grammys. I said to them, "Listen, I'll do a duet with him on 'The A Team.'" That got him on the Grammys because that's what I do. I'm a manager. It was a vital move for him.
But I just give him advice. I've been around for so long and I know the scene. I knew that "Sing" should be the first single, and of course, it worked. He emailed to say, "Thank you so much." He says thank you. He listens. I'm doing it to make sure his career goes the right way. I'm very good at that.
It's amazing that he plays stadiums with just an acoustic guitar and no band. I've never seen that done before. That's unique. I mean, I played Madison Square Garden on my own, but he did Wembley Stadium three nights, which was 85,000 people a night on his own. It's astonishing. It's very brave. But sooner or later, he's gonna have to get some other musicians. He's such a good musician that he will not be satisfied with just playing on his own. I tell him that it's great for a while, but then the novelty wears off. Playing with other musicians will give him a whole new twist, and I think he'll love that, but for the moment he's very happy doing what he does. But putting on my management hat, that has to change soon.
I talk to lots of artists your age, and virtually none of them ever express real enthusiasm for new music. Why do you think you're different and so interested in what's happening right now? Well, I love the young. I love the youth. I love new music. I love the energy from new music, the adrenaline that you get when you're playing your own music, and so when the punk era happened and then the new-wave scene and then rap, I didn't write it off. I went with the flow and I said, "Something must be good about this." You can't write off a style of music. I've been in the studio with Kanye and Eminem, and so I'm not gonna write off rap music because I couldn't do what they do in a million years. It's fascinating to see these people work. I live for new stuff.
I still buy my CDs every Friday and my DVDs on Tuesday. I buy my books every week. I write lists out of new things coming out — books, DVDs, music — and I make sure I heard them. And in a way, that keeps me plugged into what's going. I have a management company, so I should listen to new things, but I love it. I don't understand people ... I mean, I know the past. When I look at a documentary like What Happened, Miss Simone? on Netflix, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever watched. She's one of the most incredible artists I've ever seen in my life, and I know her work and I know that and I can be reminded of it, but when it gets to new stuff ... I get sent things all the time for my Apple Beats show and I still love buying CDs.
I'm not sure many of my peers would know about War on Drugs or Hudson Mohwake or Grimes or people like that. You have to listen. Rosanne Cash got me into St. Paul and the Broken Bones. It keeps you young. It keeps your relevant. And I love being around young musicians, and I can offer advice. I had lunch with James Blake. I've had lunch with Tom Odell and Sam Smith. I don't manage them. I have no interest. I have no agenda, but I can offer my love and support and my advice because I think what they're doing is fantastic and I just want to make sure that they're okay and they don't do things too quickly and they take their time.
Bernie told me you're getting your vinyl collection back together. Oh, my God. The first thing I did when I got sober was sell my vinyl collection for the AIDS Foundation, sold it all to somebody in St. Louis. Then I just fell in love with vinyl again, and the sound of it. Not just old vinyl, but new vinyl, the new albums. I have John Grant, for example, in vinyl. It sounds so great. St. Vincent, too. When I'm in a car I play a CD, but at home I listen to everything on vinyl.
To wrap up here, I want to name a couple obscure songs of yours, ones you never do in concert. I'll start with "My Father's Gun." That's on Tumbleweed. Yeah, I love that song. There are so many of my songs that I think are greater songs than the songs that went popular. We're gonna make a list and maybe do a program about them. That is definitely one of the songs that I would sing again. There's so many on that album. "Ballad of a Well-Known Gun" is another one that comes to mind. "Come Down in Time" isn't so unknown because I've done it at solo concerts. What's another one?
I really like "Blues Never Fade Away" from The Captain and The Kid. Yep. I agree with you [laughs]. It's just, where do you get time to play all those songs? But one day I want to do them. I write out lists sometimes. I go through my albums because I can't remember all the songs myself and I think, "God, that was a great song. Why don't I play that?" There are different songs on different albums. "Pinky," for example, on Caribou. "I Feel Like a Bullet (in the Gun of Robert Ford)" on Rock of the Westies, "Cage the Songbird" on Blue Moves. There's so many. And even on the albums that people don't like, like Leather Jackets and Jump Up!, there are still a couple of really good songs.
The fans would go insane to hear something like "Razor Face" played live. Yeah! One day, if I get the chance, I'll sit down and do a concert full of songs like that. I owe it to myself. I owe it to the fans, but I owe it to myself.
Elton John and band performed in Yokohama on November 18, 2015
Thursday, November 19 2015
Fan report by Stephan Heimbecher.
Once in a blue moon my business travel conincides with Elton's tour schedule and that's how my 120th Elton show became my first ever concert experience in Japan. A few hours after leaving the stage as a guest speaker at Sony's HDR Seminar event at Inter BEE in Tokyo, I found myself in the pouring rain in front of Yokohama Arena - about an hour train ride from my hotel in Tokyo.
Earlier that afternoon I had met there with Eriko, a long time Elton fan and good friend of mine, which I hadn't seen since February 2005 in Las Vegas. Our first encounter goes back to June 1992 when she was "blocking" the Elton John section in a record store in Notting Hill, London. We have shared many Elton travel and concert experiences ever since.
Once the doors opened at 6 pm, the rain washed in a permanent flow of concert goers into the huge Yokohama Arena, which I will certainly not remember as the place with the best acoustics. However, the performance of Elton and the band was flawless, as has been documented by WOWOW, Japan's first private satellite broadcasting and pay television station.
No surprises though as far as the set list is concerned, not even a mention of the upcoming new album. However, a few songs into the show Elton did mention that he is "very happy to be in Japan" and that he will be "coming back soon". So it looks like Osaka and Yokohama were just a stopover on the way to New Zealand with more shows in Japan being added for 2016.
With my last Elton show almost exactly one year ago (Munich, 27 Nov 2014) I was a bit disappointed to find the set list to be basically identical. However, there were some fascinating new musical nuances, e.g. the almost never-ending and powerful instrumental finale to "Levon" or the likewise extended intro to "Rocket Man". Another highlight to many fans, especially those in front of the stage, probably was the fact that David helped Elton out on stage when he was signing autographs right before the final encore "Crocodile Rock". But even before his appearance you could tell that David was around, because of Elton's great mood and his many references to love. He also briefly referred to the Paris attacks and "all the violence throughout the world" and said that this can only be responded to with love.
I might not have liked the set list, but let's face it: There aren't that many 68 year old pianists on this planet that can even make a Japanese audience stand during a 2 1/2 hour set of mainly Rock'n'Roll.
Following is the complete set list of the Yokohama show on November 18, 2015:
Funeral For A Friend
Love Lies Bleeding
Bennie And The Jets
Candle In The Wind
All The Girls Love Alice
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues
The One (solo)
Burn Down The Mission
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me
The Bitch Is Back
I'm Still Standing
Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll)
Bernie Taupin interview in Rolling Stone
Wednesday, November 18 2015
Bernie Taupin, Elton John's writing partner since 1967, discusses the duo's creative process and their upcoming album, 'Wonderful Crazy Night.'
In about a year and a half Elton John and Bernie Taupin will celebrate a rather stunning achievement: 50 years working together as a songwriting team. "That makes me immensely proud," says Taupin, phoning in from his California home. "The fact is that we're still actually making records. We're still a viable team. I think we're probably the longest-lasting songwriting team in music history. I guess you could also say Jagger/Richards, if they make a new record, that is."
But the Rolling Stones have only made a single record in the past 18 years (and even then, it was questionable how much Mick and Keith actually wrote together), but Bernie and Elton have never slowed down. Their new record, Wonderful Crazy Night, hits stores on February 5th. Rolling Stone spoke with Taupin about the new album, his life as a painter, his rock-solid friendship with Elton John, why he's never heard a Kanye West song, and why he hasn't even thought about retiring.
How did you first hear that this new record was happening? The idea came up sooner than I expected after [2013's] The Diving Board. I didn't expect Elton to want to go back in so soon. The thing is, it's my tendency to set the tenor for the albums when I'm writing. As you've probably realized from my past work, my tendency is to lean a little toward the more esoteric. I like darker subject matter, but I think that this time Elton felt there was enough pain and suffering in the world without me contributing to it, so he wanted to do something that exuded positive energy.
It was then just a matter of me getting over the fact that he wanted to do it so soon after the last two albums, and it was a matter of me putting on a different hat, though I liked the idea. I like the idea of coming at it from a different angle. We're not the sort of guys who are going to solve the world's problems and write about fracking and corporate greed. I don't particularly have a problem with Starbucks [laughs], so we'll leave that to other people. No names mentioned [laughs].
Tell me how you started. Once I got the idea of it, it was pretty easy. I knew that, basically, it was gonna be a loud, brash pop record. I don't want to say there wasn't a tremendous amount of thought put into the songs, but I certainly realized that we wanted to blow skirts up. We wanted to write songs that were really hook-driven. As I think I wrote in the liner notes, I'm dealing with a guy that's got more hooks than a tackle box.
The combination of the two of us on this different level was a fun adventure that we haven't really investigated since the loud, brash pop-rock we were doing in the mid-1970s. I think it's a natural curve for us to come back to. We're visited our early roots with the last album, and I think it was natural to return to the poppier sound of our mid-1970s work.
Do you find it harder to write happy songs? Oh yeah, absolutely. I always lean towards the darker side. I think any songwriter, and my contemporaries would probably agree with me, thinks its far more interesting to investigate the seamier side of things, the underbelly of life, the heartbreak. Heartbreak is more easily mined than the happy side of romance.
Having said that, you try and find blueprints. You find people that you respect that have a sort of backbeat that drives the energy. You look at people like Tom Petty and his catalog. I'm not saying all of his songs are of a positive nature, but they have a positive groove to them. I was looking for a sound that was definitely West Coast. One of the possible ideas we had was that West Coast, Jim McGuinn, Rickenbacker, ringing, joyful kind of sound. As you can probably tell from the album, that's nowhere to be seen [laughs]. But it was something that gave us an idea of where to start off.
With me, it's all about titles. I love coming up with titles and I work around those titles or first lines, because if you have a title, you can really build a strong chorus behind it. And the song titles that I came up with on this really kind of screamed for big hooks, and I think that's what this album is. It's an album of big hooks. Once I cracked the egg and got the ball rolling, it came fairly easily.
How do you work? You set aside time each day to write and write, or just do it at moments where you feel inspired? No. Bear in mind that most of my life is painting. I paint 24/7. People in the art world are constantly saying to me, "What do you enjoy doing most: painting or writing?" And it's really a moot point because we have a record maybe every three or four years, and it takes a couple of months. I probably set aside a month, or two if I have the luxury of time. If you think about it, I'm only writing songs two months out of every three years. Once I get the green light and I know there's a record ahead, I pretty much go in every day and work for four or five hours a day.
Do you write longhand or by computer? It's almost like a circular motion. I write on a guitar because it gives me a rhythmic sense. It's got nothing to do with how it ultimately turns out with Elton, but I do use a guitar. I play chords and just sort of sing the lines over to myself, so that I feel when he reads them, he can read them in a rhythmic cadence. So what I'll do is have a pad and a pen and a computer and I will just sing to myself on the guitar. I'll come up with something, write it longhand and after I've written maybe a verse or something, I put it onto the word processor because I wanna make sure I can remember it, because I'm scrawling on a pad. So it really goes from guitar to the pad to the computer and back to the guitar again. Again, a circular motion.
Do you send them off to Elton in chunks or do you go one-by-one? In the past I've faxed him things, but now he's been dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century. He actually has an iPad and a computer. Either that, or I've met up with him somewhere and we go through them together, which is what we eventually do. I don't want you to think its a cold connection. We do get together and discuss things.
But I"ll email them and let him ingest them for a while and then we'll get together and I'll say, "Well to me, when I wrote this, it had a kind of Byrds-y feel," or I'll give him sort of an idea. For the most part, he just totally rejects those and goes the way he wants to go with them, but at least I gave it a shot [laughs].
Do you go into the studio to watch the recording process? Oh, yeah, I'm there pretty much 24/7. I mean, I do come in and out because I'm not really a studio rat. I don't like places that don't have windows and you can't see outside. I start to feel a little constricted. And my job is done by that point, but I think that Elton enjoys the fact that I'm there. He likes my presence, though I'm not sure why [laughs]. But yeah, I'm there waving the flag.
It's gotta be gratifying to see your lyrics come to life. Oh, yeah, that's something that never gets old, believe me. I still get a kick out of it, the same he gets a kick out of seeing a new batch of lyrics, so we're both like kids on Christmas.
I know that "I've Got Two Wings" is about the Reverend Utah Smith, [a musical Louisiana preacher who performed around the South in the 1940s with enormous white wings strapped to his back]. What drew you towards that figure? I have this terrible tendency in my work to resurrect the neglected [laughs]. It's great ammunition for songs. I mean, a Louisiana guitar-playing evangelist who wears a pair of wings? What's not to love about that?
Is there any sort of theme to the album? No, none whatsoever. It's just a collection of strong, hook-y pop songs. If it has a theme, it is just one of positive energy.
When you write a song, do you ever try to tap into how Elton is feeling at the moment? He's got such young kids now, and that's obviously making him very happy. Well, I think we have a mirror image on that because we both have young kids. Mine are a little older than his, but it's interesting. That ties us together because we're such radically different characters, but the one thing that ties us together is the kids. We can both understand the perils, pitfalls and joys of raising kids. He's got two boys and I have two girls that are seven and 10. But you draw so much energy from them, and I drew from that in a couple of songs. They're about the feeling you get from raising kids and the things you want to instill in them.
Is "A Good Heart" one of those? Yes, definitely. I can't even remember the other one.
I think the problem that so many veteran artists face is they're always competing with their own past. Oh, you don't have to tell me that!
I'm sure. I mean, when people hear a song like "Tiny Dancer" they're taken right back to the time they first heard it. But when they hear a new song, they simply don't have that emotional connection and often just tune it out. That's a very, very, very astute analysis of it. I absolutely agree. Yeah, there is a nostalgia about our work that can be very debilitating at times. Depending on your mood, you can run into somebody who will be effusive about your older work and not even mention your new work. You just feel feel like ... well, not so like grabbing them around the throat [laughs]. You kinda want to say, "Well, OK, but how about the last record we made?" And they'll go, "Oh, well, I didn't even know you had one."
That can be extremely frustrating. But it's what we have to live with. The thing is, you can be Billy Joel and just give up making records. But the thing is, if you really have the drive and the passion for music and writing, you're going to do it whether it sells or not, because it's there inside you. If you don't get it out, you're going to explode.
Elton and I are incredibly creative people, and if people like what we do, that's just the icing on the cake, but we're still going to put it out there. I don't know how much longer we'll do it, but we still enjoy it immensely. And to shut down and say, "Well, that's it. I'm not going to write anymore." I'm not sure that's a healthy way of looking at it.
Most partnerships in every sort of creative field usually break down at some point. Resentments creep up and people begin hating each other. How have you guys avoided that? Well, that's an easy answer. The fact is, you have to see each other for that to happen. We live such separate lives. We are two separate people. I think had we been the same kind of personalities and been in close proximity of each other these past years, I think there probably would have been a more acrimonious kind of thing between the two of us.
We do talk on the phone a lot, but not a tremendous amount, and it's usually about record collecting. Elton has recently reinvested in vinyl because he sold his collection years ago for charity. Now he's trying to reclaim everything. We'll have these long discussions about it. He'll call me up and say, "Do you still have the first Tiny Tim album?" I'll go, "Yeah, I've got both of them." He'll go, "You're kidding! Really?" It's because I never got rid of my vinyl, so I probably have like 15,000 albums and they're all in, like, immaculate condition. I've pretty proud of that because all I play now is vinyl.
I'm always surprised when he talks about his passion for new music. Most artists I talk to his age haven't bought a new record in decades. Well, yeah. That's a big difference with me. He has his finger on the pulse of everything out there. I mean, let's put it like this: I was just looking at the paper before I called you. I was reading about the CMAs and their Entertainer of the Year is ... Luke Bryan?
Yeah. Now, I've never even heard of him. That's where I'm at. I mean, Elton is just unbelievable. I'm still listening to Louis Armstrong ...
And he's listening to Kanye West. Yeah, yeah. I mean, of course, I know who Kanye West is. Have I ever heard one of his songs? I don't think so. I mean, I guess I could have and not known about it.
Isn't it crazy to think that you got teamed up with a random musician 48 years ago by a record executive, and that single event changed both of your lives in such profound ways? I'm not a nostalgic person by nature. I live very much in the now. Having said that, once in a while it does kind of hit you on the head. You think, "Well, it was definitely kismet that I did this and he did that and we met in the middle." I am eternally grateful for that, but I don't dwell on it. If things are meant to be, they happen. My personal feeling about it is that if something is meant to happen, it's by the grace of God and I'm not gonna argue with it.
He often needs security when he goes out into public. I take it you enjoy your relatively anonymity. Oh, absolutely! [Laughs] That's one of the things I'm the most thankful for. I mean in the early 1970s, I would get recognized because my picture was on the album covers a lot. My name does still get recognized. I go places and give a credit card or give my name at the airport, and someone will recognize the name and the gushing begins.
But I couldn't live his life. I would rather drill myself in the head with a nail gun than do what he does. And it's what keeps him young. It's what keeps him going. I'm sure he gets very tired at times. It's got to run him down, but he doesn't play to make a living. He plays because he loves to do it. He loves to be in front of that crowd. The more they give him, the more he gives back. That's the drug he's on right now.
It's just so much traveling ... Oh, I can't imagine. I just can't imagine. I think about the band. They're on tour all year outside of two months when they take off in the fall, and we're talking about all over the globe. He flies private, but even that takes it out of you. But I can't imagine what it does to the band flying on regular airlines. I can't even imagine the packing! How do you balance all that out?
Finally, do you see you guys still doing this in 10 years and even beyond? I don't see why not. I mean, as long as he wants to make records, I'll be happy to do it. What kind of records they'll be, I have no idea. Whether there will be anyone to listen or most of our fans have passed away ... No, no. As long as they don't pass away, we won't pass away. They'll stick in for the long haul with us. But yeah, I'm here. I'm feeling good. I've got no complaints. I just create in my studio and when he calls, I'll be there, willing and able.
Elton's Holiday Candle Collection to fight HIV/AIDS
Tuesday, November 17 2015
Just in time for the holiday season, the JEAF is very pleased to announce the return of the popular Sir Elton John Holiday Candle produced by NEST Fragrances.
NEST Fragrances donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each Sir Elton John Candle collection to support the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF)’s lifesaving work.
This year, NEST Fragrances is offering 25% off all Sir Elton John Scented Candles by NEST Fragrances and complimentary standard shipping on your entire order with the purchase of at least one Sir Elton John Scented Candle. Just enter the promo code 2015EJ at checkout. This offer is valid through 11:59 p.m. EST on November 20, 2015.
45 years ago: Elton records "11-17-70" live
Tuesday, November 17 2015
In 1969, Elton released his debut album "Empty Sky," which wasn’t released in the US until 1975. But his self-titled second album quickly took flight stateside thanks to the success of “Your Song” and classics like “Take Me to the Pilot.”
Elton made his American concert debut in the summer of 1970, and in October he released his third album in less than two years, "Tumbleweed Connection." By year’s end, he was back in the States for more shows, one of which would be the setting for his first live LP, "11-17-70."
On November 17, 1970, Elton, along with drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray, gave a performance at A&R Recording Studios in New York City. The show was set up as a promotion for his new LP, and was broadcast live on WABC-FM.
It also served as a document of the first chapter in Elton’s long career. His live band at the time was made up of only three members, even though his records included many more musicians. This show marked the end of the live-trio era, since guitarist Davey Johnstone would soon join the band.
Even though he was signed to the DJM label in the UK, Elton was on UNI Records in the US at the time. But he wasn’t so sure the company was doing everything it could to push him. “UNI is f—ed up, so I’ve been told, but … they really worked for us in the States till it got to be too much, and I told them to f— off,” he said in a 1970 interview. “When you say f— off in the States, they listen. But hey, they’re introducing you to Quincy Jones as the new British superstar, and it takes three days for it to sink in — That was Quincy Jones.”
Elton was never shy about acknowledging his debt to American artists. “My roots are … listening to records. All the time,” he said. “I live, eat, sleep, breathe music. Neil Young, the Band, the Springfield, the Dead, the Airplane. I feel more American than British.” So as he started to make inroads in the U.S., he gave one of his most definitive early performances on 11-17-70. In addition to original material like “Take Me to the Pilot,” “Burn Down the Mission” and “Sixty Years On,” Elton and the band take on songs by the Rolling Stones (“Honky Tonk Women”) and a medley that includes nods to both Elvis Presley and the Beatles. The original performance featured a 13-song set, but when the LP was released the following April, only six of the songs were included. (Later CD versions would add some of the material, but the entire concert has never been officially released.)
"11-17-70" just missed the Top 10, but it helped cement Elton’s reputation as one of the new decade’s greatest performers. More significantly, the album captured the Elton John Band at its earliest stages, before massive success would change everything.
No sacrifice for Elton John fans to buy his former car
Sunday, November 15 2015
It began simply as an opportunity to see something that had once belonged to their hero.
But when two Elton fans went to look at a car which the singer had once owned and which was up for auction, they could not resist the spending impulse for which the star himself is renowned. Donna Fairweather, of Drayton, and Jan Rust, from Hellesdon, had gone along to the classic car auction having read in the EDP that Elton’s Mercedes Benz S600L was up for sale.
As devoted followers of the singer, the 55-year-olds had no intention of bidding, but just wanted to have a look at the vehicle. But the pair – who have seen the singer more than a dozen times between them – left the sale £9,000 lighter, having been unable to resist the temptation of getting involved in the bidding. They outbid a handful of other interested parties to get their hands on the ultimate collector’s item.
Miss Rust said: “We never dreamt we would actually buy it. We simply went along to have look.” Mrs Fairweather added: “As soon as they brought the car out we knew we just had to have it. Something like this is a one-off.”
The vehicle, which comes fully equipped with heated seats, television screens and a refrigerator, has been attracting attention from friends, family and neighbours alike. Miss Rust said: “Everybody wants to look at it and ride in it; it’s created a great deal of fascination.”
The car’s new co-owners now intend to share their lavish purchase with others, making plans for the vehicle to be used for functions such as weddings and civil partnerships in the future. Mrs Fairweather said: “Something like this doesn’t come along every day. How often do you see something that once belonged to somebody so famous in this region? Elton is such a talented musician and it’s amazing that I now get to sit in a seat he has sat in. Sadly, I’ve never been lucky enough to meet him in person.”
The sale, on October 3, took place at the East Anglian Motor Auctions, in Wymondham.
Elton Paris tributes: “Only love will drive out hate"
Sunday, November 15 2015
Elton John has led tributes to those affected by the deadly attacks in Paris by affirming “only love” can drive out hate.
The musician quoted an emotional speech from Martin Luther King after an all-star music marathon being broadcast from the foot of the Eiffel Tower was suspended in the wake of the deadly attacks. He was due to perform alongside Bon Jovi and Duran Duran on the line-up for 24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth in aid of climate change.
Taking to his Instagram page, Elton wrote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Former US Vice President Al Gore pulled the plug on the benefit five hours into the streaming show on November 13, 2015 evening when the coordinated series of terrorist attacks tore the city apart, killing more than 150 people. U2 have also cancelled their concert scheduled for this evening as a result of the ongoing state of emergency across France.
Speaking from Paris the band said: “We watched in disbelief and shock at the unfolding events in Paris and our hearts go out to all the victims and their families across the city tonight. We are devastated at the loss of life at the Eagles of Death Metal concert and our thoughts and prayers are with the band and their fans. And we hope and pray that all of our fans in Paris are safe.”
Paris Climate Live Stream featuring Elton suspended after shootings
Saturday, November 14 2015
A Paris webcast of an all-star marathon event about climate change was suspended after the deadly attacks in that city on November 13, 2015.
"Out of solidarity with the French people and the City of Paris, we have decided to suspend our broadcast of 24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth," read a statement on the concert's website Friday night. "Our thoughts are with all who have been affected and the entire nation of France. We send our condolences to the families of those who have been killed or injured." More than 135 people have been killed in a series of shootings and explosions across the city.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore was due to host the 24-hour live webcast from the foot of the Eiffel Tower to drum up attention for this month's international climate summit in Paris. Besides Gore, who helped negotiate the 1997 climate treaty that failed to control global warming, the broadcast was to feature musical performances by Elton John, Duran Duran and others. Other concerts were to be broadcast from locations around the globe, from Rio de Janeiro to Miami, Sydney and Cape Town.
Gore's aim is to raise awareness about global warming a few weeks before world leaders gather for the COP 21 Paris climate summit opening November 30, 2015. French President Francois Hollande and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan are among other officials scheduled to take part in the event.
Elton celebrates Ukrainian LGBT law
Friday, November 13 2015
Elton has congratulated Ukraine on passing a landmark LGBT anti-discrimination law.
The law, which has been on the agenda for some time in Ukraine, updates the country’s Labour Code, to protect against discrimination. It specifically says workplace discrimination on the basis of “race, colour, political, religious and other beliefs, sex gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic, social and foreign origin, age, health, disability or suspected presence of HIV/AIDS, family and property status, family responsibilities, place of residence, or participation in a strike.”
Elton, who has visited Ukraine multiple times and spoken on LGBT issues there, posted to his Instagram page with a message of support for the country. He wrote: “AMAZING NEWS!!! Back in September, I flew to the Ukraine to speak to business leaders and President Poroshenko about improving rights for LGBT people. One of the things I asked was to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace,” he wrote. “Yesterday the Ukrainian Parliament passed a law supporting this!!”
The LGBT protections were only added to the bill on a sixth vote, after Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Hroysman had already said that the Parliament “stand[s] for family values and will never support gay marriage.” It is widely believed that the move to outlaw LGBT discrimination is due to Ukraine wishing to join The Schengen zone, which aims to bolster free trade across Europe and allows visa free access to the EU for Ukrainian citizens.
However, the European Union has made it clearthat one of the prerequisites for Ukraine joining The Schengen Zone is an anti-LGBT discrimination law. Ukraine has a history of rejecting LGBT people. A group of LGBT activists were attacked after holding a meeting after a planned pride march had been banned.