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May 30, 2019 42 mins

Elton John interviewed by Disgraceland's Jake Brennan for Icons: Intimate, incredible conversations with the most famous creators and artists of our time. Learn the backstories (and secrets) about where they came from, how they got here, and what’s next.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:14):
Hey guys, it's Jake Brennan, hosting creator of I Heart
Radio's disgrace Land podcast. You're hearing my voice because I
just sat down and spoke with Elton John about his
new film Rocketman, and we thought that this would be
as good a reason as any to pilot a new
podcast I Heart Radio is creating called Icons. Icons is
a show with real talk with the greatest minds and
music and culture. Intimate, incredible conversations with the most famous

(00:38):
creators and artists of our time where you gain insight
into their music and art and learn the back stories
and secrets about where they came from, how they got here,
and what's next. Given the show's mission, you can see
why we thought Elton John would make a good first
episode to make this happen. Years truly headed halfway around
the world to sit down with the Rocketman himself so
we could get this out and into this new feed.

(01:00):
The conversation is raw and inspired, focusing specifically on Elton's
new film rocket Man and the iconic Elton John songs featured.
Winning it all right, let's get into it. Here's me,
Jake Brennan of disgrace Land talking to the one and
only Elton John a true icon. It's coming to Boston again, right,
I'm coming to Boston in the winter, Yes, for the

(01:22):
last but one show. I do Boston and Naso and
then I go to Australia. Wow. Okay, ready, thank you
for taking the time to speak with this, Elton. It's
our privilege. We're here today to talk about Rocketman, your
new movie, and to spend some of the songs from
your career that are featured in the film, and tell
us about the initial idea for the movie and what
you're feeling is millions head out to the theaters as

(01:43):
it opens this week. It's been kicking around for about
twelve years. UM. Initially we were sort of about David
la Chappelle direct here. So it goes back to the
Red Piano in Las Vegas. UM. And it's gone through
a couple of different license then UM and really in
the last three or four years it's come to Fruition,

(02:04):
but most studios turned it down. UM, I think because
of the content, and luckily enough Paramount said we'll do
it and they've been fantastic And so it all started
last year. UM, and it's been an amazing, amazing journey
to get this movie made, and but it's been worth
a weight because I don't think the movie is I

(02:26):
can't find any thought with it myself, and I'm looking
at myself, which is very strange. Um. But I'm loving
every second of it because it's honest and it's truthful.
Or even though it's a fantasy, it's truthful about me.
So many of you saw titles would have worked for
the name of the film, white Rocketman. Um. Well that
was Lee Hall probably, I don't know who came up

(02:48):
with the title. Lee Hall wrote the script, um, and
Rocketman was mooted and I said, that's a great title. Um. Yeah.
There could have been other titles you could have had.
I'm just standing. You could have had the Bitches Back, um,
or don't let the Sun Go down to Me. I mean,
there is so many titles, but Rocketman, I think is
by far and away the best title. It's iconic for sure.

(03:09):
Karen Edgerton, who plays you in the movie, does an
incredible job is acting, is voicing of your classic songs.
He completely hits it out of the park. Talk about
the challenge of finding the right actor to portray you
and how you settled on Arran well, originally the actor
who's going to play me was Tom Hardy, and that
was a few years ago. UM, and time past and
time passed, and I think Tom would have been too

(03:31):
old to play um play me. And also Tom doesn't sing,
and I didn't want the movie to be lip SYNCD.
I wanted someone to sing the songs because then they
take on the persona of being me. And so I
knew Tarn could sing because I'd heard him singing I'm
Still Standing on the sing soundtrack. And then when I
met him on Kingsman two, UM, Matthew Vaughan, who directed

(03:54):
that movie and produced this movie with my husband David Furnish,
said you should hear Tarren sing. He's a man thing.
And so we put him together with Giles Martin, son
of George, and they worked so hard to get this
um soundtrack Riot. And I'm astonished how good he is.
I'm astonished, Um, not for once do I win so
anything he sings. In fact, it's um. It's not only

(04:18):
does he act brilliantly, but he just makes the songs
his own, which is an incredibly difficult My songs, our
songs rather are not easy songs to sing, and he
kind of makes in their own and active genius for me. Yeah,
he kills it. He's incredible. I mean, when you're watching
the movie, you just you want to hear more of him,
which is bizarre because he's playing an akon. Well. I

(04:38):
think that's why the soundtrack will do well, because I
think with The Greatest Showman, people saw the film and
they then wanted to buy the soundtrack so they could
be reminded of the visuals of the film. And I
think this is a very visual film, and I think
people will go and buy the soundtrack after they see
the movie to be reminded of particular scenes that they
really enjoyed. I'm going to get to some of those

(04:59):
themes in a in a minute. This is sort of
you know, we're kind of flowing through here in this
fashion to get all the questions for my heart. Um So,
I apologize if it's a little inorganic. There are a
lot of themes in the film, but the idea of
self acceptance is central throughout. Rocket Man. Can you talk

(05:19):
about the new song that was written for the film,
I'm Gonna Love Me Again in Terrence performance with you
on this track. Yeah, we needed a new song for
the end credit, and I wanted a kind of thing
like I'm still Standing, but not I'm still standing obviously UM.
And I wanted UM to have an up tempo song.
So Berney came up with aric I'm Going to Love

(05:40):
Me Again, which I really loved and when I looked
at it, UM. I wrote it in Atlanta in the afternoon,
but three or four months ago. And I wanted I
got the Supremes track of Comsy About Me, and I
got the tempo from that, and I wanted to be
like one of those old Motown soul records from the

(06:02):
nineteen late nineteen sixties UM. And there's a track in
the film called breaking Down the Walls of Heartache UM,
and it's kind of similar to that. I wanted to
be joyous UM, to go with the lyrics because the
lyrics are joyous and I love the result. And Tarren
we did the duet together in London and did it
as quick as I did amazing. It's incredible. Your science

(06:27):
can be both incredibly cinematic, dramatic, intimate, and sometimes autobiographical,
sort of like music biopics that said, what words would
you use to describe your biopic? It's not a biopic.
It's a fantasy. It's a it's a musical and a
musical fantasy of my life. Um. It's based on events, UM,

(06:47):
but we take liberties with them. UM. For example, I
never played Crocodile Rock at the Troubador and when that
was mute, when that was suggested to me about the
song of the Trueil, I went, oh, no, not crocodile Rock.
But then when I saw the movie and I saw
when people levitate and everything like that, this is the
perfect song to play. UM. So what do I know.
It's like me not wanting to put many in the
jetsats the second um, and it works perfectly. So UM. Yeah,

(07:12):
it's what was the question? How what word would you
use to describe the biopic? But you already did because
you said it's not a biopic, which no, it's it's
a musical fantasy. UM. The music carriers are scene through
the dark side and it gets lifted by the music. UM.
And things like Crocodile Rock, which I never wanted to

(07:32):
be at the troupat or because you know, things are
out of order in the film, they're not in the
right order, they're not chronological. UM. But the scene at
the Trupa or when I play or rock is So Magic,
I'm so magical rather um, and it just gives a
joyous field to the movie. And even the movie has
very dark moments in it, it's ultimately joyous because I

(07:54):
get redemption and the music helps you just when you
go through one bad scene, then the music will lift
you to an that you need that. You need the levity,
you need that fantastical nature to carry the narrative and
don't keep it doesn't keep you barred down in I mean,
for example, when I saw I Want Love, which you know,
I wasn't really written by the time this, and when
they use it at the beginning of the film, when
all my family saying it, I was astonished. I cried

(08:16):
so hard because it was a perfect song to use
that I would never have thought of that in a
million years, you know. And when they when we write
your song, that was kind of how it was in
a way, and you know, and yeah, but I Want
Love just completely. When I first saw the film about
four months ago, and it was very rough. Oh my god,
I wasn't expecting that. And the way everyone sings, oh

(08:38):
my god, Yeah, it's tough, and it's I can watch
myself sometimes and not. Probably it's the little things that
remind me of my childhood, UM, that come through in
the movie, because it's said in rehab and we keep
going back to the childhood and my little little self. UM,
the little boy Matthew Illesley who plays me, and then

(08:59):
Kick Hahna who plays me when I'm a little bit older. UM.
They really that that's the path that I'm so moved by. UM,
because more or less that's true. There's there's particular reverence
and love for your grandmother in the film. Well, like
all grandmother or most grandmothers, she was the matriot of
the family. I was born in her house. Um, she

(09:22):
died at my house, and throughout my life she was
the one person that always stuck up, stood up for me. UM,
when things went wrong. She was the first person I
went to if I was in tears or I felt
that I'd done something wrong. It was my my grandmother
I turned to, and she was absolutely wonderful. UM, And

(09:46):
she was you know, my rock. Is there a particular
song in the movie or just a song from your
catalog that you've written that reminds you of your grandmother
or that or that not particularly. Um, I haven't really
written one about my grandmother, but no, she was just
always there for me. And I said, I'm so happy
that I could give her the opportunity to die at

(10:08):
my house and live a lovely life. Um. When I
was brought up with her and I you know, she
was the greatest cook there was. We never had any money,
but she made things meet. She we never went hungry.
She was always there if I fell over, if I
was ill. It was just you know, my parents were too,
but my grandmother was. You know, I think people's grandparents
were and their children so special and it's she was wonderful.

(10:33):
And I even mortialized her in your film, which is
pretty special. It's pretty great. UM. Simple question, how did
you decide which of your many hit songs would be
featured in Rocket Man. I didn't have anything to do
with it, really. I never had anything to do with
the musical choices or anything that was entirely down to
the director, UM Giles Martin who did the music and

(10:55):
Tarran Um. One thing I did. They they said, what's
a fast number we should put in? They had a song,
I can't remember which one it was, and then I
they said what about Herkeys, and I went, oh, yeah,
that's great, do Hercules instead. And they consulted me if
there was something like that, but I just stayed away
from it. I had, you know, as I say, I
didn't know what songs were going to be in it,
and I didn't care. That's a lot of creative trust

(11:18):
to put in your team. Well, I think if you
a team of people who trust each other, and you've
got a brilliant creative team. I've always worked like that.
I never tell Bernie what to write. I never tell
what my band want to play. Um. The great thing
about musicianship and collaboration is someone always comes up with
something you would never have thought of, and it always
usually comes up to be Trump's And certainly with the

(11:41):
music and this, I'm flawed by the way the music
sounds and the way they've done it. And you know,
these are very well known songs with well known arrangements,
and what Giles, Martin and Town have done with them
and has left Bernie and Iron and in a state
of elation. Rocket Man, your new film touches upon many
different chapters in your life, and the one constant in
your career has been Bernie tappan, And let's talk about

(12:04):
meeting him, what he's meant to you, both personally and professionally.
And is there a particular song of yours that best
reflects your collaborative nature creatively with him that you'd like
to play a favorite of yours. Well, meeting was souendipity.
I mean, I answered an advertisement in the News Express
for the singers and songwriters. Um. I went to the
office at Liberty Records in London when they were just

(12:26):
opening their label in England, and I told the guy,
Ray Williams, that I couldn't write lyrics, but I could
write melodies. And I'd written two songs sort of for
my Bad Bluesology. Um. And we made two records. But
then it was there was real to real tapes. It
was the end of the ninety sixties. There were no
cassette just the office was full of real to real

(12:46):
tapes and bundles and bundles of envelopes. Of all the
envelopes he gave me, he just said take this one.
He never looked at it. It could have been anyone.
If he hadn't a beat, that one, I wouldn't. I mean,
it's an extraordinary story, um, so that, and then when
I met Bernie after I started writing his lyrics, he
came down and it was like we got on. Like

(13:07):
the scene in the restaurant where we're both seeing streets
of Laredo in the film, Um, it was exactly like that.
It was it was brotherhood at first sight, and he
was the brother I never had. He was a friend
I always wanted. And you know, it's last year, over
fifty two years and it's been in the film. It's
the glue that holds the film together. It's the love

(13:28):
story between both of us. Um. And you know, I
mess it up, um and then like if you love somebody,
you get it back together. And I think that's one
of probably one of the most poignant things, especially towards
the end of the film, which really chokes me up,
when I'm in rehab and he comes to visit me
and he gives me more music and I start writing
I'm still standing um. Um. It's a wonderful performance by

(13:52):
Jamie Bell, and it's completely counteracts my lunacy and craziness.
But that's how Bernie was. There wasn't a He was
the the calm and I was in nutcase. Oh Murray, Robbins.
I gotta know, just how did you guys get all
that country music? Then? Over in England we got everything
in England. I mean Marty Robbins. I first heard al

(14:16):
Passo and that's one of Bernie's favorite records. And Marty
Robbins was Bernie's hero. But I knew about Marty Robins
and all those people, Jim Reeves, all the you know,
Hank Williams, all those people. You know, we got the records. Um.
You have to remember, American records were so much better
than British ones. So anything American we tried to find
and listened to, whether it was country, jazz, blues, rock

(14:36):
and roll or whatever. And I grew up in the fifties,
so I grew up on Guy Mitchell and Johnny Ray
and Um, Doris Day and K Star Um and that
was great. But then of course when Elvis came in, UM,
it exposed us to country in Western blues, gospel, and
of course the whole world changed. Um. But because living

(14:59):
in England, you all ways well after American music because
you just you knew that was where that's where it
came from. So it was a real deal. Switch gears
for a minute, and talk about your Farewell Yellow Brick
Road Tour. You noanced it early last year and it
got underway last September. And how's it been going so far?
It's amazing. This week we'll do our nineties show. Um.
It's been the biggest tour of my life. I mean,

(15:21):
we could probably two for five years. It's it's been
extraordinary the amount of people we played to the you know,
the sellouts have been so quick. Um. I'm having a
great time because it's the most visual show I've ever done.
UM on the road anyway, UM, And I'm just having
a great time. I really the set list was worked

(15:41):
out first because you had to because then you have
to get the graphics behind it. What are you gonna do? Um?
And I'm loving every minute of it and it's not
become boring yet. And then you know, nearly a hundred
shows and within third of the way through it, and
I've got a long, long way to go. Um. But
the great thing about it is I'm really really enjoying it,

(16:02):
and I the way I wanted to do. I wanted
to go up with a huge bang, and that's what's happening.
It sounds like you're having a time to fine playing.
Are you gonna have regrets when it's over, when you're
not on the stage anymore. I'd be so glad not
to slip. I've always said. When I did my press
conference about the try, said, I'm fed up slipping. You know,
I'm By the time I finished, I'll be seventy four, seventy. Um.

(16:23):
I have two children, two young boys. I would like
to do something else different. Um, with the rest of
my life, I'll be writing, and I'll be making records. UM.
I have two musicals already written, UM, and one of
them starting workshopping in in June in New York. UM,
I will be making records. But I just would like

(16:43):
to spend some time not getting in a plane, UM,
not getting in a car. And I've been sitting in
a van since I was sixteen or seventeen. And you know,
musicians are gypsies, and it's part and parcel of one's life.
But for the last you know, a few years of
my life, I'd like to do something different. And I
think I've earned that. You have for sure. The film

(17:06):
does an incredible job of recreating seventies Hollywood, particularly with
the use of the songs and Marina, which is also
my wife and my wedding song, So thank you very much.
And Crocodile Rock. Have you decided where and when your
tour will end yet? And what are the chances it
ends back at the Troubador in Hollywood where it all
began for you in America? I don't know. We haven't
thought about the end yet, um, but just getting through

(17:27):
the first part and then we will this year, in
the next three or four weeks, we'll be sitting down
and planning the end of the two in two thousand
and twenty one. And what we're gonna do. Where it's
going to be we don't know yet. Should be Boston, Boston, Boston, Boy,
of what you're doing that we live. I had a
show like stage in my podcast Live Not. But you've

(17:52):
already won the football, you've won the you've won the baseball,
and about to win the hockey right now. I had
to put one in Roger Stadium, would be nice, I
put in for that. Okay, we're almost through here. Um,
thanks for your time. We appreciate it. So obviously, it's

(18:13):
impossible to cover your entire life in two hours in
a film. Into that end, what was the decision process,
like as to what had to go in and what
had to be cut out. Um, we had more characters
in the film. Um, we had different characters that unfortunately
ended up on the cutting room floor. They are the
film would have been four hours more. I mean it's
it's exactly the right length. And they didn't really add

(18:35):
that much to the story. Um. You know, when you
make a movie or you make an album, you have
to know what to leave in and what to leave out. Um.
There was a lot of people wanting things in and
wanting things out, and it was a committee in the
end that decided what should be in and what should
be out. Um. And it's a shame because there were

(18:56):
so many great sequences that hit the cutting room floor,
but it at the end of the day, you've got
to get it to two hours or less. And and
so those decisions weren't mine. Um. And as I say,
it just it covers those twenty years. And by looking
when I look at the film, I think I did
all that in twenty years, and you and I did

(19:17):
even more, but that's not in the movie at all.
So it just covers the importance of when you're young, UM,
feeling inferior, having an inferior to company not having sexually
or twenty three, um, and then making up for lost time.
And boy did I make up for lost time? You

(19:39):
certainly did. I feel like a lot of that was
a lot of the Hollywood making up for last time.
Harry Nelson Ringo star was all kind of left out
by the way, which is probably a good thing. Um.
You said he became emotional while watching it. Can you
elaborate which scenes? Um, Well, beginning the beginning of the movie, Um,
when my family saying I want love, um, my father,
I start singing. My father started seeing it, my mother

(20:02):
and my grandmother, and it's a brilliant idea. I mean
I would never thought that, and that the first time
I saw that, I was just a mess um Um,
because my childhood was you know, it took me a
long time to break out of my childhood. And then
when I broke out of my childhood, Um, it all
happened so quickly that I didn't, you know, there wasn't

(20:24):
anything in between my childhood and becoming Elton John. So
that was what led to my downfall. Really. But I
think that scene, the scene when I'm writing your song
with Bernie. Um, the scene where the blood is dropping
out of my nose and Madison's gren onto the tissue
or the towel that reminded me of so many horrible things.

(20:47):
And then of course the end scene in Rehab and
the boys Both boys, um was so brilliant, and the
scene of the Academy, which I have such fond memberies of,
and the cost of the main one at the end
is when Bernie comes to rehab and I'm mopping the
floors and he turns up when I'm so happy to

(21:07):
see him because the last time I've seen him in
the restaurant, I was really horrible to him. Here's a
great line, he says, I'm surprised you know how to
do that. This is your life story, which is serious
at times, obviously, but the movie is highly entertaining in
the way the film uses your songs to advance a narrative,
super creative. Which musical scene from the film is your favorite? Um,

(21:33):
that's difficult. I love Saturday nights all right, for fighting
I love And I only noticed this the third time
I saw the movie. When I'm in the restaurant, I'm
talking to Bernie and I'm going back every diner is
seeming very softly. His story seems to be the hardest word.
It's sad, so sad. Um. A tiny Dancer is brilliant. Well,
I'm so obviously upset that burn has gone off with

(21:55):
a girl and I'm sitting here on the greatest night
of my life on my own. Um. That is very
thought provoking for me, because that was a very you
know that kind of did happen. Um. But to be
honest with you, I love it. I love it all.
But those those are the highlights for me. Um. And
then when Renard when I sing down at the son

(22:17):
go down on me and rented only in the film
for a very short time, this is my wife, um,
and it just covers it so quickly. But so it didn't.
We didn't need to elaborate. It was a mistake. It
was my mistake, and it covers it in about five
minutes we've seen don't let the song go down on
Me together, um, And I think it's somebody suggested not

(22:37):
having it in the film. I could not leave the
fact that I got married and it was a gay
man out of a movie. UM. And I wanted it
to show her has been loving and I made the
mistake and so that scene is quite beautiful as well.
When we start singing the duet makes the movie better.
How he does Okay, a couple more here, who have
we done? Um? When the film all been is you're

(23:00):
a young shy boy, but midway through your leading Dodger
Stadium through a raucous sing along a rocketman decked out
in a bedazzled baseball uniform with twenty plus in the
palm of your hand. Can talked about the transformation from
shy kid to the fearless showmen and landish costumes. Well,
there's a tradition of English bands because we have a

(23:20):
huge vaudeville influence in England. U English artists like the
Rolling Stones, Mick rod Stewart Um, Freddie Mercury, Um, Mark
bolan Um. We've always dressed up and we've always got
our outfit on for stage. It's part and part of
my ritual. I'm in the dressing room, say it's seven o'clock,

(23:41):
and I'm on stage at eight. And then until I
put my costume on, I don't become Elton. And then
when I come off stage and I take the costume up,
I leave Elton on the state and we were never
really taken Elton home with me. Um. Um, even though
I dressed flambiloyantly in public as well. Um. I the
ritual of just getting dressed and showing off, which it is, um,

(24:04):
is so much fun. And there haven't really been many
American bands that have done that. They've always been Americans
have been the land of the you know, Bob Dylan
in the jeans and Bruce Springsteen and the Joan bayaz
Is and the Donan Mitchells who come on you know,
very very simply, um, Whereas in Britain, UM bands tended
to be much more flamboyant. The who Pete downs end
in the Union Jack outfit. Um. You know, even led Zeppelin,

(24:28):
you know, with Robert Plant his leather and his swayed
and he's you know, they are dressing up was part
and parcel of it. And I it just made me
feel good. Um. It just was exciting. It still is.
Which is the costumes, the classic ones from the film
do you remember most? Finally? Um? God, I mean there's
not an exact one. UM. I really like the one

(24:49):
at the beginning of the film when I'm stomping into
treating with the Devil's horns, and Um, I was that
The costumes in the film are just remarkable because they're
not exactly the same, but they are kind of what
I wore. UM. And I love that outfit because it
plays apart throughout the whole film until you know, it
takes a bit of it off, and still he's sitting
there in a little robe and a pair of slippers

(25:10):
and that's all he has on, basically a pair of underpants. UM.
I think what I did when I did go into rehab,
I couldn't wear any jewelry I had. I had wear
basic tracks, so I couldn't be Elton. I had to
be me. And that's as he in treatment. He's going
back to being rich and and stripping himself of all
the excess and going back to basics. Um. And I

(25:32):
think when I got sober, when I got clean, that's
exactly what I had to do. And it took me
two or three years to start learning to walk again. Um.
You get so strung out, and you get so um
out of touch with reality and so kind of insane
that normality was. You know, it was a welcome relief, um,

(25:54):
But it took some getting used to. In the film,
there's this tension between you as Reginald Wait the name
of your parents gave you, and Elton John the stage
name you gave yourself, and the Prissana you too, Khan.
Are we talking to Elton now? Are we talking to Redg?
And we're talking to Elton now that Elton m Redg happened.
REGI was up REGGI and Elton were two separate things

(26:16):
until I got sober and in the film and I
hug him and I say to him, I'm Alton Hercules
John to my manager. And that's when I accepted who
I was and started working on myself. And you know
it's I've been twenty nine years now this year. So um,
it's been a journey which has been exceptionally exciting and rewarding. UM.

(26:36):
But I think up to that point, I was still
two people. You know that there's a great story. I
can put Elton on in an instant. I can become
Elton as Trueman Compody walking out him n Row down
Fifth Avenue and she's just very dressed, very down pair
of jeens, just a little coat, and he said, I
can't believe no one's looking at you, and she goes,
do you want to see her, and you know that's it.

(26:59):
You can switch on this alter ego. Um. As I
get older, I just don't like you know, I don't
like fame so much. I like a claim, but I
don't like fame. And I don't like the cult of personality.
What's become the cult of personality? Um. So I'm less
comfortable with going out in public now than I used

(27:21):
to be. You know, I just had so much fun
when I with the other I go to anything, and
I have great time. Nowadays I do rather stay home
with my children. And you know, and you know and
appreciate what I've got. I've worked so hard for it.
I've never seen it. You have worked hard at it
And one of the things that the movie gets at
is your hard work in the beginning of your career
and honing of your craft. And can you talk a

(27:41):
little bit about your piano playing in the piano players
who may have influenced you. Um, I'm I've been influenced
by so many different piano players. UM. I think when
I first heard little Richard Juley Lewis, um, that was
a big turning point. And Ray Charles and Fats Domino,

(28:03):
they you know, the Revolution ied. Piano playing for me
and Hockey Cat is a mixture. I became obsessed with
Leon Russell. He was my island in late sixties, early seventies. Um,
and I love that kind of funky you know the
band Leon Russell American a type piano playing. Um. There's
all sorts of influences my piano playing, classical influences from

(28:27):
when I was at the Royal Academy, Little Floyd Cramer
here on Leon Russell. Um. Um, There's so many wonderful
piano players that I've drawn inspiration from. In the movie,
there is an important scene with Hockey Cat playing. Can
you tell us a little bit about that? Well, Honkey
Cat is when I and I start to live with

(28:48):
my manager, John Reid. Um. And it's when I start,
you know, enjoying my money and buying so many paintings.
You know, I didn't buy paintings like that. It's just
a it's a high arobolic visual description of what I
was like. Um. But I you know, I got the
big house and everything like that, and I started to

(29:08):
enjoying myself. I've always liked to collect nice things, and
I've always liked to improve my intelligence by you know,
learning about art and culture. So that was the the
moment I think in that song that I became Elton
John Superstar. The superstar hom happened in tandem with the

(29:29):
drug and alcohol abuse says those things normally go and
do you want to talk a little bit about the
darker side of your addiction in fame No. I started
really being addicted to UM drugs in about seventy six. UM.
I could take them for a period and give them
up for a long time. UM, And I wasn't always
stoned out of my mind for sixteen years. There were

(29:51):
periods when I stopped, but I always went back. And
when you go back, you do more and you drink more.
So I hear my bottom in seven eight nine, UM,
when I was just taking drugs. And the reason I
like cocaine it was the opened me up and I
could talk, even though it was a lot of well rubbish.

(30:12):
He got bla and in the end the drug that
opened me up closed me down. I just spent the
last two or three weeks before I went to rehab
on my own in my house in London, with nobody there. UM.
I took me half an hour to walk to the
door because I was afraid someone might hear me, but
there was nobody there. Insanity, so um that was that

(30:34):
was the real rock bottom for me. And there's a
scene in the movie when he's doing that and he
falls down the stairs after he's adding a heart attack.
The isolation of doing the drugs and the madness, I
would have seizures and a half an hour later I
would be doing it again. Its absolutely insanity. So I
hope also but when people see this it helps him
get sober and clean. I hope it realizes that there

(30:57):
is help there for people if you ask. It took
me a long time for ask her to ask for it,
but for me, it's just wonderful to see that I
don't have to do that anymore. It's like I did this.
It was part of parslor who who I became, and
I wouldn't be the person I am today if I
hadn't gone through that and survived and then learned a
different way of life. So in a way, I had

(31:21):
to go through that to become the person I am today,
But looking at it, I wish I didn't have to
have gone through that. It was like if I had
My advice to anybody is do not touch them. Do
not touch drugs even weird, you know, don't it's you know,
it's so strong nowadays, it's ridiculous. Switching gears a little
bit and getting back into the film was a part
of the movie that uses tiny Dancer. Can you tell

(31:42):
us about that scene? What tiny Dancer in the film
is when I played the troupad Door for the first
night and everyone goes crazy, and then Doug Weston says,
come on, let's celebrate. There's a party at Mama Cassy's house.
And I did go to a party at Mama Cassy's house,
maybe not on the opening night of the Troupa Door,
but I did go there and there were so many
wonderful people that um but is when Bernie meets Heather

(32:05):
and they kind of meet at the Troubador and then
they go to the party and then Burnie said, do
you mind if I go off? And I go no,
that's right, And of course I am devastated because I
want to be with him to share my you know,
to share my joy in the evening. And and even
though Bernie and I would never sexually a couple, of course,

(32:26):
not there was I had a love, deep love for him,
and it was like losing my best friend at a time,
and I wanted to celebrate. And then that's when John
comes in, which wasn't the case in real life. But
you know, I wandered through the house and the feeling
of loneliness during that song, and then suddenly all my
dreams come true because I don't I stopped being a virgin,

(32:48):
and here I go into the world of sex and drugs.
Sex and drugs in rock and roll and Saturday Nights
all right, for fighting is one of your greatest straight
up rock songs, and to me, it's one of the
greatest scenes in the movie. He tell us a little
bit about that. Yeah, well, Saturday Night starts in the
pub when I'm playing as like a fifteen year old,
fourteen year old, fifteen year old when I was at school,

(33:09):
and then you know, there's a fight starts in the
pub and then I jump out the window as a
played by Kit Connor um as a little boy, a
teenage boy, and then I go through the fence and
I come out of Taron Edgerton and then there's this
fantastic dance sequence or Saturday Night, which is a big grease. Um.
I would think It's like the film is like Grease

(33:32):
meets All That Jazz meets Tommy. Um. It's a wonderful
sequence and it comes right at the beginning of the
movie practically um, and it just lifts you up. It's like,
what a great way to to start. And Tarn when
he comes into the shop, looks so much like a
star and looks so much like me. We've had a
couple of reviews in England, We've had fantastic reviews and

(33:54):
a couple of viewers I said turn looks like Phil Collins.
There was one like, no, oh, um, he looks so
much like me as ridiculous um, and that he's too
pretty to play me. Well, you know I he and
I at those times. If you compare photographs of me
and him at that time, and we look pretty much alike.
And when he comes into shop for Saturday Night and

(34:14):
you see him and Kit Connor disappears and Tarn comes
into the frame. Wow, a bit like seeing John Travolta
and Saturday Night. It's a great scene. Also loved the
scene with Betty and the Jets. He tell us about
that song's release. It's not covered in the film, but
that songs rise has an interesting backstory, and you didn't
think it could be a hit. Correct. Well. I was

(34:35):
making UM, the follow up to Goodbye Little Bit Road
at Cariboo Ranch, which was Cariboo, and in those days
we were making records when the other one just came out.
We did two albums a year, so we'd already had
UM Saturday nights to write for Fighting With the first single,
Goodbye Yellow bick Row was the second, and the rest
of the World Can't Let the Wind was the third single.

(34:55):
But in America they wanted to put out Betty in
the Jets, and I kept saying no, and they kept
ringing me up Pipolo from the promotion amount of Universal,
and in the end I kept saying no, and he said, listen,
let me tell you a story. This record is the
number one record on black radio in Detroit, and I went,
when you mean R and B. They said yeah, and

(35:17):
it's number one, and I went, oh my god, I'm
a white boy from Pinner and this is the music
I've loved in my life. So put it out, and
of course it became not only a huge hit on
black radio, but also on pop radio, and it was
the theme song for the Detroit Pistons for quite a
long time. It's one of your biggest hits, but your

(35:38):
first big hit, your song making it that song is
pretty special, and it's portrayal on the film is pretty tender.
Can you talk a bit about that scene and more
about that too. You're saying in the movie, it's pretty
much like how he wrote it. Um, except my mom
and Graham weren't there, But um, it was the first
lyric I got from Bernie for the Elton John album

(36:02):
that I just morris played all the way through. I
mean it just in the film, he starts it and
then he it all comes together very quickly, and that's
the way it kind of happened in real life. And
I couldn't believe how excited I was when I knew
when I finished writing that song that we've written a
great song. And I could not wait too. It was

(36:22):
the perfect marriage of words and music. And I couldn't
wait to get him in from the bedroom because we
you know, he never we never, he's never in the
same room as me. And I got him in from
the bedroom and played it too, and we just we
knew that we had something special there, and we knew
that we'd take a huge taken a huge leap in
our songwriting ability. And when you think that that's the

(36:43):
first hit I had it and it was such a
song that's lasted for so long. Usually sometimes you can't
follow that up, and it wasn't the case for us.
Although in our early albums, you know your song was
a hit from your song from Elton john where there
was no singles from Tumbleweek, we were out Martyrs, there
was a tiny Dancer and leave on from Madman, but

(37:03):
they weren't big hits. And then when I added David
Johnson to the band and got my band to play
on the records, which was Honky, it moved the sound
of the band into another direction and hence you've got
Rocketman and Honkey Cat. Because it was mostly banned, it
was an orchestral and so you know it's it was
the song that gave us the confidence to to reach

(37:25):
with the Stars and Marinas a deep cut that makes
it into the film. But can you talk about the
origin of that song and why it makes sense for
the particular It's always been one of my favorite songs.
It was the only songing Dog Day Afternoon. It's a
very different kind of a tumbled with a very American album.
We've been discovered the band and you know we wanted

(37:46):
to This was Bernard's Cowboy record and and I just
I've been very influenced by Van Morrison on the vocal
of that. Um. I can hear him singing that song. Um,
it was just you know, we were on a roll
and that album was written pretty quickly as well. We
were writing that album when we were making the Elton
John record, so we had a bat We had a
bunch of songs. They were completely different songs of the

(38:08):
Elton John record. Um, but a Marina was There's a
few songs like that in my catalog which I love,
the piano sound, the piano solo. Um, there's a song
called Mellow on Honky Chateau which I just love so much. Um,
they're not the big hit songs. And one day when
I do do a concert again, which won't be a

(38:28):
traveling concert, it will be a you know, maybe two
weeks in London or something like that, those are the
songs that I'm going to play. I like that. One
of my favorite songs in the film is Bitches Back.
You tell us about that scene. Um, right at the
beginning of the film. The first dance sequence in the film,
the first piece of music really um, when I'm Matthew

(38:48):
Ilsey who plays me as a little boy, and he
comes and confronts me or teases me while I'm in treatment,
gone into rehab, and I chase him out and we
end up in the street where I was brought up. Um,
and there's a kind of it's not a long sequence,
but it's a choreograph sequence. And then that's when you

(39:10):
meet my mother, and then that's when you hear the
first of Reggie. The film does an amazing job of
playing off the tension between you and Bernie and how
the two of you quote unquote never had a real argument.
There's tension that he would. It was deafening silence more
than an argument. It was like Bernie would just you

(39:32):
know what, I'm screaming him back at the Albert Hall
saying I've sold this, I've done this, and you just
write the lyrics, Bernie and let me do the stuff
and then stomp towards the stage and come back and
I go sorry about that. He goes, yeah, I know.
And that's how it was. We didn't have arguments, but
there could be silences, or he would bring me up
the next day and say, do you remember what we did?
I go no, And it was more of an admonishment.

(39:54):
But never arguments and never one never never had a
stand up blazing row. There was never the was a
little bit of jealousy involved when he went to write
for other people and did we built the city and
these dreams? Um? But because I missed him, but I
was pleased for him. He needs. If I'd have said
to him, you can't write with anybody else with me,

(40:14):
that would have finished our relationship. And I was very
savvy enough to know that would be the case. Um.
I had to let him go to get him back,
and he needed that. And if I hadn't have done that,
we wouldn't have continued as a as a writing partnership.
And I was intelligent enough to know, as much as
it hurt and I would miss him, I had to
do that. So the film comes out this week, it's

(40:36):
the end of May, and you have a book coming
out in October. Tell us a little bit about the book.
The book is incredible, I said, modestly, but it is. Um,
it's um incredibly honest, and I'm so happy with it Um.
It's now been finished. UM. I'm waiting to get a
galley and it comes out in October. It's called me

(40:59):
Um and Um. The film will have the book up.
If you're saying the films out there you went to
you would read the book. That's great. Thanks for your time,
Thank you, I really appreciate it. Special thanks to Elton

(41:31):
John and David Furnished for making this happen. Check out
Elton's new film Rocketman, in theaters now, and check out
my podcast, disgrace Land, a rock and roll true crime
podcast about musicians getting away with murder and behaving very badly.
Musicians who aren't Elton John. Elton John is a sweetheart,
but musicians like Snoop dogg, Amy Winehouse, Jerry Lee, Lewis,
Ike Turner, their stories are a little more complicated. You

(41:52):
can hear all about them and a host of other
rock stars on disgrace Land, hosted by me Jake Brennan
and available on Apple podcast, I Heart Radio Up or
wherever you get your podcasts. M
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