Ahead of Elton’s historic Dubai gig on October 31, 2002, the Gulf News ran this interview. Elton was aged 55 when this interview was published on October 10, 2002.
Apart from that, the interview did not start auspiciously. We may offer them a masterclass in journalism:
Put yourself in the shoes of Sir Elton John, entertainer extraordinaire, who in terms of record sales and lasting popularity is perhaps the biggest pop superstar of all time.
After 31 years at the top of the charts co-ordinated with outrageous sunglasses, even crazier clothes, wigs, hair transplants, addictions and a knighthood, you would have to concede that he has led a charmed life. Now, however, you would also have to concede that perhaps it’s time to slow down and rest those weary platform-shoe wearing feet.
Not this John. Having followed a career trajectory similar to that of a jet aircraft, our rocket man, now pushing 54, shows no cognisant signs of slowing down. Not yet, thankfully!
As a result of his extraordinary staying power, Dubai music buffs will on October 31 have a unique opportunity to listen to some of his songs that have touched our hearts like the mega-selling Princess Diana tribute Candle in the Wind, and others that are a prominent part of modern pop culture.
I have, over the years, interviewed some remarkable performers, from Bob Geldof to George Benson, but I must say, I was more than thrilled to do Sir Elton.
Few stars could have lived his life of very high spending (clothes, makeovers, mansions), of emotional highs and lows, hits and misses (were there?), experiments and passions. But above all that was an extreme desire to live life to the fullest a sense of joie de vivre, not becoming of most.
The questions I asked him were not meant to explore his star but more to seek out a bookish lad born Reginald Kenneth Dwight who grew up in the 1950s in Middlesex, England.
But I was to ascertain, sadly enough, that piano-playing is Sir Elton’s way of pleasing people and not answering questions tossed at him by some avid reporter way past the bloom of youth.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
Leslie Wilson Jr.: What has been the best part of being Elton John?
Sir Elton John: Being me of course!
How have things changed in the last couple of years?
In which way?
How do you keep it going?
Keep what going? The music? I love what I do. The travel? I enjoy doing live shows, the response from the audience gives me so much energy because the appreciation is so obvious and instant!
Has your career gone according to plan?
I do not plan much in advance. I do my best and like life’s surprises thrown at me.
What do you think will surprise people most about you?
I have no clue. Hope it is a pleasant one though!
What does the future hold for you?
My guess is as good as yours. As I said earlier, I love life’s little surprises.
How does the Elton John of Songs from the West Coast compare with the singer who made Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water and Don’t Shoot Me…?
Songs from the West Coast was done in well, in California, and hence the title. It is something intimate and personal and is about me and my music. It is very simple no dramatisation and going back to the roots to basics.
Guess you would object to being called a rock ‘n’ roll dinosaur?
I have been called a lot of things this is one more name. If it is meant as a compliment, thank you.
How relevant is Elton John in the current music scene?
You know what it is for the people to decide. If I am to believe the audience who turn up at the concerts and the public who buy my records even today (I am currently on my world tour), I think I am doing OK, I guess. Musically, I stick to my style as that is the only one I know.
Has contemporary music been eroded by manufactured pop? It is a shame that music can be manufactured.
What does the future hold for music… and in context, yourself?
Music has existed since the beginning of mankind and will continue to hold sway. It is a life force, so to speak. I will continue to do what I do as I enjoy it tremendously.
Is there still room to go forward… a new sound, a new style, perhaps?
I have not given it much thought at the moment. As I said, I like life’s little surprises and challenges.
What is your favourite record of the moment?
Love too many and cannot pinpoint one. I grew up on classical music.
Which song is most intimate to you?
I am not too emotional about my music as Bernie writes the words!
Like to tell us a secret about yourself?
It is no longer a secret then! Especially to the Press, forget it!
Would you care to reflect on your career?
Not at the moment. There is too much to do and learn.
I have learnt from life and my past lifestyle and moved ahead.
How different are solo performances from playing together with your band?
Playing solo takes a lot of courage… to face the audience as the man himself without falling back on your band to cover you up or on gimmicks to detract the crowd from me. It is pure music. Personally, it is very daunting.
Sometimes you have to be scared to achieve more and push yourself more. The public has been so supportive of it that I have so far completed 200 solo shows. I enjoy the rapport and the intimacy thoroughly. Most important is the spontaneity which can never ever be got with a band as you have to perform to a rehearsed set.
This is more than just a show… it is me and my music pure and simple with the evening unfolding depending on the reaction of the public. The fans hopefully get what they expect.The places I have visited so far want the same show back so I guess I must be doing something right! It is very fulfiling.
From Sir Elton’s point of view, the prospect of more grandmothers and mothers following suit is enticing, not least because it will endure a healthy progression of musicians permanently over the years. But also because you are never too young enough to have a flair for Beatlesque hooks and Tin Pan Alley melodies.
Also, though he may not particularly like the Press, there’s no denying that some of his answers are memorable, so much so that they strengthen the weaker portions of the questionnaire. Now for the concert.
l The Elton John (Solo World Tour) Live in Dubai will be held on October 31 at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. Doors open at 6.00pm and the show will start at 9.00pm. Tickets are priced at Dh220 for standing and Dh475 for VIP Grandstand seating. Every entrant, including infants, will have to produce a ticket. Children are encouraged at parents’ risk but due to the crowd infants are not.