David John DeCouto has been working on a labour of love for many years. He's nearly finished with Captain Fantastic: Elton John in The 1970s, and spoke with Cheryl's Specials about the process and more. . . .
EJW: Is this your first book?
DD: No, I've written two others--one a book of poetry; the second a novel, based loosely on my own experiences.
I'm also working on a Led Zeppelin book with my friend James Fortune. He's taken a lot of Elton John photographs in the past. I remember one from the LA Forum, a wizard sort of photo where Elton's dressed all in silver.
EJW: Why did you decide to write about Elton?
DD: I haven't seen many really thorough biographies. Or they have haven't been done by people who appear to be knowledgeable about Elton's music.
EJW: You've gotten to speak to around 50 people about the singer. Who are some of them?
DD: Clive Franks (before he retired as Elton's engineer); David Larkham; John Carsello, of Caribou Ranch; Gavin Sutherland; Paul Buckmaster; and Judie Tzuke. . . . I talked a bit with Dee Murray, but didn't know he was ill with cancer at the time, and I got to know Gus Dudgeon and his wife, Sheila. They were a great couple.
Linda Lewis, who once opened for Elton, didn't share too much, though, since she's writing her own book (a memoir).
And just the other day, I interviewed Toni Tennille and legendary Chicago DJ Bob Sirott, who told me about being able to play The Bitch is Back in 1974--but not being allowed to say the title on air!
EJW: Like your subject, you are a songwriter and piano player. Was Elton an influence in any way?
DD: Yes, when I heard his music, I wanted to learn to play it. I've been a fan since I was 9 or 10, so attended my first concert with my parents and grandmother.
EJW: More recently, you saw Elton in Las Vegas. What was that like?
DD: I enjoyed it, although I missed Ray Cooper, who's been recuperating after open heart surgery a few months ago. So it's great to know he will be returning to the Million Dollar Piano in February, and possibly this year as well.