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Taupin's Take on ''The Big Picture,'' ''Me,'' And Other Projects

Written by Chief Editor.

This Web site recently reported that Bernie Taupin shared some thoughts about the biopic, Rocketman, with Variety.com. Below is more of the interview in which the lyricist talks about Elton's book, bad music, and future plans. . . .

Elton’s recent memoir was, like, the most relentlessly readable rock book ever. Did you come away with any impressions you could share?

Oh, I loved it, man. I thought I knew him well, but I told him there were some things in there that I wasn’t aware of. The thing that I loved about the book was it was so damn funny. I literally laughed out loud about six or seven times — I mean, gut-laughed out loud. And I think that’s because he’s so brutally honest — he hides nothing — but the way he worded things was so funny. I also love it because it is kind of a counterpoint to the movie, where the movie is obviously a total fantasy, and everything geographically and chronologically is all over the place, for good reason. So you can go see the movie {Rocketman} and see the fantasy, and then read the book and see how it really was.

So you weren’t bothered by things in the movie that are chronologically way off, like how you’re in Dick James’ office in the ‘60s, and basically hand him a sheath with all your greatest hits you were writing well into the mid-‘70s?

No, that’s the whole point, you know? I mean, it wasn’t like it was just one part of the film that was that way. The whole movie was a mishmash of time travel. That was the intention of the movie all along. Well, actually, I don’t know if it was all along — probably not from day one. But when it became that, then that’s when I think the movie became special. Had it been (scrupulously factual), I don’t think it would have been so special.

In the memoir, Elton is as honest when it comes to your work together as he is about everything else. Did you always agree with him? Like, when he’s declaring “Leather Jackets” is one of the worst albums ever made?

Yeah, he’s got that right. I don’t know if our picks for best and worst are necessarily in tandem. I mean, he says “Leather Jackets” (from 1986). I would say “The Big Picture” (from 1997) was one of the worst records we ever made. I don’t think the songs were that bad; I just think it was incredibly cold as a production. I remember the sessions for that being very miserable. It was just so much sort of what I call icicle technology. It just did not benefit the songs. I’m not pointing any fingers, but it never worked for me. But our output has been so extraordinary… There isn’t one artist alive who every album they’ve made has been stellar. Everybody’s had their moments in the mud pit. Even the Beatles, with doing “Magical Mystery Tour” (the film) — not that the music was bad. But Dylan or anybody, they’ve all got their clunkers somewhere.

There’s a common belief, fostered by Elton himself, that starting around the time of “Songs from the West Coast” in 2001, there was kind of this renaissance where you guys found the path again. Is that how you think about it, and do you feel like you’ve been on a roll since?

Yeah, absolutely. I think we’ve really found a rejuvenated sense of spirit in our writing. Up to that point, for maybe a decade, we were sort of coasting. You think that you’re doing good work, but then you realize that in retrospect, probably your heart wasn’t in it, as there were probably musical changes taking place around you that were pushing you into a corner. Ultimately I think we kind of took a look at each other and said, “We’ve got to find the spark again, man. We need to rethink this whole game.” And I think we did that with “Songs from the West Coast,” which is one of my favourite albums that we’ve ever done. I love that record. And since then… One of my favourite albums we’ve done recently is “The Diving Board” (in 2013). I’m very proud of that record. It’s very literal. It’s very grown up.

It’s like old age is like a nice, comfortable glove. We’ve slipped into it and reassessed our songwriting. And I think what our songwriting is now, in general, has a much more adult take on it — something much more befitting gentleman of our age.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately because Elton is in Australia and wants to do some writing, because he’s got a rented house and he’s there for three months. The good thing is there’s no pressure on us. It’s not like we’re Taylor Swift where everybody’s waiting for our next record. We’re elder statesman, and we can take our time, and when we put a record out, we want to be really, really proud of it. I’m really enjoying writing right now. I think he’s looking forward to working in the way that we probably did in the first place, where he’s not writing in the studio. He’s not taping, you know, putting things down (as demos). He wants to write things that, if he remembers them, then we’ll know they’re good. If he doesn’t remember them, then they weren’t worth it in the first place.

We’re seeing a lot more of you guys together because of awards and things like that. Of course, traditionally you’ve had your “two rooms at the end of the world.” Do people overestimate or underestimate the amount of time that you actually spend together?

I’ve been to a lot of the farewell shows because I wanted to make a specific point of doing that. I want my kids to be able to see a lot of those shows I want them to know what their dad did and what their Uncle Elton did, so that’s very important to me. But I always spend like 10 or 15 minutes with him alone in his dressing room before he gets dressed for the show. And those are really, really special moments for me. It’s not like we’re terribly reflective. Neither one of us lives in the past by any means. But I think it’s the one time that it’s just me and him and we don’t even have to say anything. We’ll just hang out together. And it does kind of go all the way back. You reflect on the fact that this was us when we started — it was just me and him, literally; it was us against the world. And so to be in that situation where then 53 years on… Yeah, there’s something very heartwarming about that. And I guess that’s where you do get a little bit nostalgic. Because we’re both very proud of each other’s achievements. We’re both very much individuals; we have different ideology. But it’s that old thread of music, man. That’s what ties us together and always has.

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