Earlier this week, this Web site announced that Bill Shelley was holding a one-night-only event of rare performances featuring Sir Elton at Long Island's Cinema Arts Centre.
The 2-hour programme, which included TV appearances and promotional films, focused on the early years of Elton's career, from 1969-1979, and looked at some of his songs written with Bernie Taupin, including Levon, Honky Cat, Bennie and the Jets and Daniel.
Afterwards, the archivist, who clients have included the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and VH1, discussed his career with EJW.
EJW: What sort of items do you own?
BS: I have early films and cartoons dating back as far as 1895, that I bought and found in stores, yard sales, friends' attics and businesses which were closing.
There's also rock and roll material, which came from the Brill Building's clearance, closing ad agencies and catalogs. That is how I gained the actual footage. The performance rights are owned by the entertainers and distributors, a fact I always make clear to anyone who approaches me about use of archival materials.
EJW: Have you spoken about Elton at other events?
BS: This was the only time that I have shared the Elton John programme. There are no plans to show it elsewhere at this time. I am an expert on film preservation, not on the Beatles, Yes or any of the other groups in my collection. Therefore, I have not been involved in any Elton John books or other activities. I have, however, been an advisor for several research books geared for college libraries, and I've been involved with several documentaries spanning topics as diverse as silent cowboy movies and Whitney Houston. In all of these cases, it was the collection that was important because other copies were not easily obtained or found. Mostly other people supplied the research data about the topic.
EJW: Are you an employee of the CAC, and how often do you hold presentations there?
BS: I am not employed by the centre, but began the Tuesday evening series in 2009. It's a monthly event, usually the third Tuesday of the month, with a few exceptions due to holidays.
EJW: What do you hope to achieve at your lectures?
BS: I share musical performances of those who have given permission, with the hopes of demonstrating the importance of preserving the old films. Once they are trashed, they are lost forever. Future generations will forget these wonderful artists without the sound and visual images capturing these performances.