E is for Elton – the Fame years

Friday 30th November

This covers the period from ‘Don’t Shoot me’ and the single ‘Daniel’ to ‘A Single Man’ and the elegiac and beautiful ‘Song for Guy’.  It was a time when Elton could do no wrong, every album was full of wonderful songs, each one seeming to top the last and everything he touched turned to gold.  And he was becoming more and more outrageous on stage, wearing gold cat-suits and Donald Duck costumes, flamboyant glasses and ridiculous footwear – why we never really guessed he might be gay remains a mystery – at the time he just seemed to be taking Glam to new heights.  What we didn’t realise also was that poor Elton was consuming prodigious quantities of cocaine, which may well have helped create a few masterpieces but were slowly destroying him.   Of course, as we now know, nobody can remain at the top forever, and the public’s attention span will always move onto others sooner or later; incidentally the period of Elton’s greatest fame – about 8 years is more or less the same as The Beatles achieved.  And maybe it was a split that ended it too, because he certainly had a rift with Bernie Taupin, his lyricist who had not only written brilliant words but in many ways grounded Elton and certainly inspired his best melodies.   They did get back together again later but never in quite the same way; they no longer actually wrote together as they used to but Bernie would send Elton lyrics which he would write the music to.  And though they had a few renaissance albums such as ‘Too low for Zero’ and ‘Sleeping with the Past’ there was a lot of dross too.

Elton has now settled into the elder statesman of rock role, and is now as famous for being an adoptive father and a celebrity as for his music.  He has become a national treasure, but to his credit he still writes some good stuff, such as ‘The Union’ with Leon Russell, even if his obligatory appearances at Olympics and Jubilees become more and more awful.

I prefer to remember him through his wonderful music, ‘Candle in the Wind’, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’ ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ and ‘Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word’ to name but a few.  And the wonderful anticipation when you brought home his latest release and put it on the Stereo and dropped the needle into the groove, full of expectancy at what he would do this time.  And for a few years we were never disappointed at all.

Elton John