It’s unlikely that many would call Elton’s singing “extremely dull…without any feelings and precious little musical ability.” Yet that was reportedly the opinion of a review panel in 1968 deciding which pop artists got to perform on BBC radio and TV shows.
The scathing review of Sir Elton is revealed in a new BBC Radio 4 documentary entitled Auditioning For Auntie.
According to the report, Elton appeared before the BBC’s now defunct Talent Selection Group and performed three numbers he wrote with Bernie Taupin: All Across the Havens, Lady Samantha and Skyline Pigeon. The panel’s response was: “The items are not songs. Pretentious material, self-written, sung in an extremely dull fashion without any feeling and precious little musical ability. Thin, piercing voice with NO emotion. Not a tuneful voice.”
A BBC producer said Elton “writes dreary songs and he sounds like a wonky singer.”
Luckily for Elton, a tape recording of his audition made its way into the hands of top BBC executives, who agreed to let him perform.
He wasn’t the only artist to feel the musical wrath of the BBC panel. In 1965, David Bowie was dismissed as an “amateur-sounding vocalist who sings wrong notes and out of tune.”
Also that year, The Who auditioned. They arrived 25 minutes late, prompting one member of the panel to remark, “Not endowed with much sense of urgency.” As for the panel’s reaction to the band, the verdict was: “Overall, not very original and below standard.”
And two years earlier, the BBC Talent Selection Group rejected the Rolling Stones as “unsuitable for our purposes.”
Auditioning For Auntie, which also includes discussions about Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, can be heard on Monday, October 21, from 4-4:30 p.m.