EJW SPECIAL: Behind The Scenes of a New Book Focusing on Elton’s Early Days
The author of the new Tin Pan Alley: The Rise of Elton John has spoken with EJW and suggests that another volume could be on the way. Keith Hayward also offers a look at his experiences while writing the biography.
EJW: How did the idea for the book come about, and how do you feel it differs from other EJ titles?
KH: I was working for the author Nigel Goodall on a book he was doing called Elton John: A Visual Documentary. My research was mainly through the press and Internet and I came across a lot of characters who played a significant party in the performer’s career. I decided that it would be good to get their real stories and so I planned a book around those interviews. Through the interviews I began to realise how Tin Pan Alley played a big part in the story and how it was now a forgotten street as far as the music business in the UK was concerned. I decided to write about its part in the EJ rise to fame. My story was originally planned to cover the early period until 1979, which is where most of the contributors played a significant part in Elton’s rise to fame, and it coincided with some significant changes in Tin Pan Alley and the music business. Stories have not been told in this amount of detail before but to include all the material in one volume would have made the book as big as a house. So we decided to have two volumes and Tin Pan Alley: The Rise of Elton John is the first volume, and if it does well the Volume Two may be released, which will cover significant detail of EJs successful years and will include a three hour interview with John Reid.
EJW: Music business journalist, Nigel Hunter, who worked in Tin Pan Alley himself, penned the preface and afterword, while David Larkham, the man responsible for many of Elton’s classic album covers, designed your book’s lovely cover. How did they end up getting involved?
KH: I interviewed both David and Nigel for the biography and they were so interested and excited in what I was doing that they volunteered to help me in the production of the book. Both have produced work that is nothing short of brilliant.
EJW: What did you learn from your interviews that you hadn’t known before?
KH: It is the amount of detail that is startling to me. When I was being told the story through the eyes of my collaborators it was as if I was really there with them and watching it all happen, and I hope the book provides the same feeling to the readers. The story of the Corvettes and Bluesology and the role played by Hookfoot are highlights for me but the chapter on Linda Woodrow is intriguing also. I particularly enjoyed meeting Bryan Forbes and Terry ONeill but their stories are told in Volume 2.
EJW: Did you personally visit many of the establishments you wrote about? Which ones stand out for you, and why?
KH: Yes I went to all that are still in existence, (the Bag ONails has gone now for instance). I really enjoyed meeting Skaila Kanga at the Royal Academy of Music and seeing the rooms where Reg had his classes. Walking along Tin Pan Alley, (Denmark Street), is still a thrilling experience just for the sheer music history and more so now that I know in some detail what went on there at its peak.
The paperback copy of Tin Pan Alley: The Rise of Elton John is available through Amazon. But there’s also a collectable souvenir for fans, a strictly limited edition hardback which really shows off David Larkhams jacket to best advantage. It’s only available through Soundcheck Books.
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