Edited by George Matlock
In a candid interview for Britain’s TV listings guide Radio Times of the week commencing May 20, 2000, Elton talks candidly to Andrew Duncan about his never-ending quest for the perfect song, his gaffes, dislike for tabloid press, knocks the Broadway critics, portrays his disregard for his knighthood, and says no kids.
Not mincing words, Elton also admits: “I can’t live a lie. I’ve made remarks that haven’t been the wisest. I try to be tactful but I’m 53 years old and I’ll say what I think, although never anything bad about other artists. That’s unnecessary.”
[EJW.com: Hmm, you sure Elton?]
Elton adds of the British newspapers: “I don’t trust them. The Daily Mail hates me. They hate everybody, they’re so horrible. Homophobic, anti-single mothers. I ask my mum why she buys the damned thing and she says she likes it.”
Elton also says of criticism: “Certain people will always have a crack at you, but I’d rather be insulted and live in an irreverent society like England than America where they create royalty out of stars and allow them to live in a ridiculously self-obsessed way.”
On AIDA, Elton admits: “People say I shouldn’t admit how quickly I work, but the whole thing was written and recorded in 21 days.”
On the New York critics, Elton exclaims: “They don’t like Disney and want to hang on to the theatre as it was [in old times]. They said there were no melodies or songs, which I find insulting….I think it’s [critics’] elitism, partly because I write to please audiences.”
As well as commenting about his drug abuse, relations ended with John Reid, and upbringing with a bullying father whose funeral he didn’t attend in 1992, Elton tells us his politics.
“I haven’t been involved in politics a lot, but as I get older I’m more aware of its importance,” says Elton. “I voted for Tony Blair and I’m glad I did. I believe he’s a good guy, and the alternatives were dire. I wouldn’t want that job for all the tea in China.”
Elton explains the solo tours: “Performing is my first love. I needed to return to basics, play the piano, sing, and be vulnerable. I’ve done more in the last five years than in the whole of the rest of my career, and loved every minute. I’m increasingly confident, closer to my audience.”
Adding to his recent dislike of the umpteenth awards he “suffers” to collect, Elton comes out with a shocker: “[The Knighthood] doesn’t mean what it did. Usually you got one in your seventies as a reward for lifetime achievement. I was only 50, very young. It breeds a bit of snobbishness in England, but to hell with it. It made my mum happy and I was proud. No one ever calls me ‘Sir’, though.”
On (Sir) Cliff Richard: “Cliff’s an enigma. I get on well with him, and we’ve stayed up till six in the morning drinking and having a laugh. I’m sure he has many flaws. It’s just that mine have been more public than his. Take away all that boring Christianity stuff and listen to him as a singer. It’s such a beautiful voice.”
On his heart bypass, Elton says: “I don’t worry about it. I could have been dead many times…I learnt when I gave up drugs to live from day to day.”
But Elton’s workaholic lifestyle remains, and his days become nights: “Last night, I was performing in Indianapolis and didn’t get back until three (am), but I was up at nine 9 (am). I seize each day by the throat, and I’ve never worked so hard. Aida took five years, and the Road to El Dorado took four and a half, and they both came out within six days of each other, so I was on the treadmill of promotion – not my favourite thing. You say the same all the day and by the end you hate yourself so much you never want to hear your name again.”
On children: “It’s too late and I’m set in my ways. I wouldn’t think of adopting. I don’t want a trophy child. I have enough kids in my life – eight godchildren who I love.
And on old age: “I’ve found balance. Okay, I have the odd grumpy day, but so does everyone. I enjoy getting older, but I’m an eternal child. You have to be to go on stage and perform. It’s abnormal. Showing off, that’s what I do for a living.”
You can hear selected extracts from this interview at www.radiotimes.com
Elton’s May 29, 2000 Woburn Abbey gig is being televised by the BBC, broadcast on BBC Radio 2, and webcast by the BBC’s online service www.bbc.co.uk