Album: US Billboard Top 200 Album Chart Peak Position: #8 UK Album Charts Peak Position: #6
US & UK Singles: Looking Up (US A/C #12/UK Did Not Chart)
About Wonderful Crazy Night:
Wonderful Crazy Night is the 32nd studio album by British singer-songwriter Elton John. It is John’s first album since 2006’s The Captain & The Kid to feature the Elton John Band. John’s long-standing percussionist, Ray Cooper makes his first appearance on any of John’s albums since Made In England in 1995. This is Kim Bullard’s first appearance on keyboards replacing Guy Babylon, and Matt Bissonette replacing Bob Birch on Bass.
Track Listing On Original 2016 Release:
All music composed by Elton John and lyrics by Bernie Taupin. Click on the song title to read the lyrics.
Elton John: Piano Kim Bullard: Keyboards Davey Johnstone: Guitars John Mahon: Percussion Matt Bissonette: Bass Nigel Olsson: Drums Ray Cooper: Percussion
Recorded at The Village, Los Angeles, California
Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For discography of related album issues, singles, reissues and more, visit David Bodoh’s site: Eltonography
February 5, 2016
UK Music News By Maddy Raven
Returning with his 33rd studio album ‘Wonderful Crazy Night’ is the legend himself Sir Elton John. Similar to 2013 LP ‘The Diving Board’ the album was co-produced by T-Bone Burnett and recorded at Village in Los Angeles. After only 17 days in the studio, John had already finished the whole 14 track album. The speedily made LP will make its worldwide release on February 5th, leaving the rock phenomenon’s fans waiting eagerly.
The first track of any album should captivate you and leave you intrigued wanting more. Opening track ‘Wonderful Crazy Night’ does this exactly, with cheeky piano licks hidden here and there alongside a prominent beat. Around one minute into the track the catchy piano begins to grow very tiresome and just repetitive so you’re left waiting for a climax that never occurs.
The style changes drastically as John returns to his late 90s early 00s sound in ‘In The Name Of You’. The gravely texture to his voice shows he has definitely not lost his vocals even after having throat nodules removed in 1987. The short but sweat juicy guitar solo enthrals your ears so that you’re begging for more. The husky vocals adjoining with infectious guitar riffs makes another Elton John classic.
‘Good Heart’ presents the inexhaustible songwriting partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. With a captivating but simple chorus alongside passionate heartfelt verses, the track demonstrates just how perfectly the collaboration has and still is working even after 49 years.
The album continues with four bonus tracks. The first two, ‘Free & Easy’ and ‘Childrens Song’, sound as if John has just discovered the incredible percussion instrument of a sand block. The sound is overused throughout the two tracks and once heard cannot be unheard. Besides this, the bonus tracks are slightly tedious and after a while become indistinguishable.
Suddenly you’re awoken with final bonus track ‘England & America’. From the moment you press play to the final note, the song is bursting with energy. The straight forward lyrics explaining his love for the two countries and the support they’ve given him over the years is so genuine and it’s undoubtable he is only going to gain more after this album. It’s unbelievable that this track is an extra as it holds such feistiness and power, making it one of the best on the album.
It’s always a worry when a musical legend tries to create music for longer than their time but when will Elton John ever reach his time? With incredible lyrical,vocal and composing skills it’s impossible for John to lose his fans or his career anytime soon. The album has certain tracks that lack that zest that John used to own but overall the LP is eclectic and won’t leave the legions of fans disappointed.
Elton John lives a life hardly anyone has lived before, yet lyricist Bernie Taupin dwells on a mythical America(*****) By David Fricke
Elton John opens his 32nd studio album by looking back in delight. “Some things you don’t forget/Some things just take a hold,” he sings with relish in the title song, a jaunty recollection of lasting love at first sight. The music framing that glee – “Loose clothes and a cool, cool drink/A greasy breeze from the chicken stand,” conjured by John’s lifelong lyric partner, Bernie Taupin – is retrospective too. John’s roller-coaster piano figure and R&B solo evoke the glitter-gospel charge of exuberant early-Seventies songs like “Honky Cat” and “Crocodile Rock.” John, 68, has rarely strayed far from that template. But there is a striking vigor and engagement here, especially for an artist of his vintage. He animates Taupin’s images as if they are his memories, with convincing, grateful zeal.
Wonderful Crazy Night is the latest stage in an extended return to form for John – his third straight album with co-producer T Bone Burnett after 2010’s The Union, a sublime collaboration with Leon Russell, and 2013’s The Diving Board. Where the former LP was designed as a tribute to an idol and the latter was heavy on pensive balladry, this record is closer to the swing of moods and earthy hues that marked John’s early classic LPs such as 1970’s Tumbleweed Connection and 1972’s Honky Chateau. “In the Name of You” moves in creeping time to a bluesy piano riff doubled by Davey Johnstone, John’s longtime guitarist. Johnstone also chimes in, literally, on “Claw Hammer,” brightening its swampy aura with Byrds-like 12-string guitar. In “A Good Heart,” John and Burnett turn the pleading in Taupin’s lyrics into a Beatlesque spin on Southern soul with a coat of horns that could have come from Abbey Road.
There is a loose, earnest theme running through most of these songs. The exception, “I’ve Got 2 Wings,” is an effectively restrained country-church tribute to the real-life Louisiana preacher-guitarist Elder Utah Smith, written by Taupin as a first-person memoir from heaven (Smith, who died in 1965, notes the years he spent in an unmarked grave). Everything else – the jangling surrender in “Blue Wonderful”; the liberating certainty of “Looking Up,” with its chopping-piano gait; the allusions to flirting and deliverance in “Tambourine” – examines the hard work of maintaining paradise on Earth: the confession, reassurance and unconditional giving. The songs routinely summon comparisons to John’s greatest hits; it’s easy to imagine “Tambourine” sliding onto 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
But there is a matured pacing and weight to the music and John’s vocal performances that make this record one of his finest in its own right. Wonderful Crazy Night is about what happens after those loose clothes and cool drinks. The final tally: It’s all worth it.
“Wonderful Crazy Night” Of The Soul(****) By Elysa Gardner
“I’ve figured out where I went wrong,” Elton John sings on Looking Up, a characteristically buoyant track on Wonderful Crazy Night. But as those titles and others on John’s new album suggest, he’s not dwelling on mistakes at the moment.
Out Feb. 5 — just in time for Valentine’s Day — Night once again pairs John with producer T-Bone Burnett, his collaborator on 2013’s The Diving Board, a relatively stripped-down, introspective effort widely hailed as a return to form. Night, which John co-produced, can also be thoughtful and serious-minded; but these songs — crafted with Bernie Taupin, John’s writing partner of nearly 50 years — are resolute, almost defiant, in their emphasis on the positive.
There’s an inspirational feel in much of the material, enhanced by the R&B roots that poke through, sometimes subtle but always solid. “It feels like flying when I see your face,” John sings over soul-infected keyboards and sparkling guitar on Tambourine. On the stately A Good Heart, horns purr as John pledges, “I’ll be the moon/Inside your eyes.”
This is not the subtlety-be-damned exuberance that has helped sustain John as a live performer and personality, but the contentment of a survivor relishing his good fortune. Since Diving Board was released, John — who will turn 69 in March — has married his longtime partner, David Furnish, with whom he has two young children; and a curious listener might well perceive a sense of both security and gratitude in songs such as the blissfully nostalgic Wonderful Crazy Night, spiced up by John’s bluesy piano, or Free & Easy, with its still-moonstruck lyrics and lightly baroque arrangement.
Elton John’s new album, the upbeat “Wonderful Crazy Night,” is out Feb. 5.
There are more driving, muscular tunes such as the guitar-fueled England & America, and effervescent fare like the crisply melodic The Open Chord and Guilty Pleasure, a fittingly named bit of jangly pop which seems to tease a lover: “Hold out or still in doubt/What’s it gonna be/Never a chance in a million years/Or you can’t get enough of me?”
Whatever the case, Wonderful Crazy Me has the sound and spirit of a man who’s grown comfortable in his own skin, but is still intent on moving forward. Or as John puts it on Looking Up, “Nowadays I’m thinking that/Life is wasted looking back.”
Download: The Open Chord, Tambourine, Guilty Pleasure.
Elton John’s “Wonderful Crazy Night” (*****) By Stephen Thomas Eriewine
Elton John gives away his game with not just the title of Wonderful Crazy Night but its artwork. Our hero stands against a garish, colorful backdrop, sporting a grin a mile wide, signaling that he’s once again ready to have fun.
The measured melancholy of The Diving Board aside, Elton hasn’t precisely avoided fun since returning to making records for himself, not the charts, with 2001’s Songs from the West Coast, but a certain sobriety crept into the proceedings, particularly when he joined forces with producer T-Bone Burnett for The Union, the 2010 duet album with Leon Russell.
Burnett is back for Wonderful Crazy Night and so is John’s touring band, making their first studio appearance since 2006’s The Captain & the Kid. It’s possible to feel the presence of all of Elton’s collaborators: the band brings a bit of a kick to the proceedings and the ever-tasteful Burnett reins things in, keeping things from being too crazy, while lyricist Bernie Taupin schemes with John to keep things from being too wonderful.
To be sure, there’s a fair amount of joy and swagger here, particularly on the ebullient opening pair of “Wonderful Crazy Night” and “In the Name of You,” two songs perched between a canny, knowing nostalgia and casual craft. As the record rolls on, seams start to appear, not in the performances or production — this is an album that sounds as comforting as a long candlelit bath — but in the compositions.
Often, the tunes appear to be handsome constructions — grand, stately, and well appointed — but their foundations are shaky, constructed from threadbare melodies and words that dissipate not long after they land. It’s an odd mix of lazy and laborious; the songs feeling tossed together in an afternoon and then recorded meticulously.
As such, Wonderful Crazy Night never lingers in the imagination — there are no hooks to pull a listener back in for another spin — but it sounds just fine as it plays.
Elton John, “Wonderful Crazy Night” By Sarah Rodman
There is something irresistible about Elton John’s unbridled joy on his 33rd studio album, “Wonderful Crazy Night.” If some of the songs aren’t as robust creatively as the British pop-rock legend’s enthusiasm for them, you can certainly hear and feel him giving his all in a way that is typical of his rollicking live performances.
Reuniting with co-producer T Bone Burnett — who worked with John on his 2010 collaboration with Leon Russell, “The Union,” and his darker-hued 2013 album, “The Diving Board” — and bringing members of his veteran touring band back into the studio for a fast and loose recording session had a measurable effect on the songs’ energy. The playing throughout is dynamic, mad genius Ray Cooper’s inventive percussion flourishes in particular, and John approaches his piano with a clear pep in his step, both tempo-wise and in some of the more mellifluous interludes.
Where the proceedings tend to break down, when they do, is in longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin’s lyrics. “Blue Wonderful,” for instance, features some of the most lilting musical sounds on the 10-track collection (12 if you shell out for the deluxe edition). But as John rhapsodizes about the pools of a lover’s eyes, lines like “I dive in, I dive deep, I just swim” feel clunky and corny.
Taupin is stronger and more in his element with one of the album’s peaks, “I’ve Got 2 Wings,” an ambling, countrified narrative about a Southern preacher finding his “sonic church.” Everything great about the John/Taupin partnership can be found in this gem of a song, which harks back to their early ’70s work as they build a character with words and chords. They mine that rootsy territory again on the warm, sentimental closer, “The Open Chord,” and in the surge and swing of “In the Name of You.”
Elsewhere, John is up and rocking on the opening title track, which recalls a wilder time not with nostalgic wistfulness but with a kind of buoyant musical laughter. The fast-talking, Billy Joel-esque “Claw Hammer” finds John in a playful mood, as Taupin writes of breaking down the walls of a button-downed soul.
John and Taupin have long passed the point of having anything to prove, and if “Wonderful Crazy Night” doesn’t offer much in the way of instantly gratifying pop hit-making, it’s got craft and joie de vivre to spare — which for artists of their vintage is admirable in its own right.
Elton John’s “Wonderful Crazy Night” Is Anything But Wild (*****) By Jody Rosen
“What a wonderful crazy night that was,” sings Elton John on the title track of his 33rd studio album — a song that is neither crazy nor, to be frank about it, wonderful. It’s a jaunty piece of piano-pop about a night of youthful abandon, a scenario that’s sketched — as is often the case when the lyrics are by Bernie Taupin — in a mystifying jumble of images. (There’s a “greasy breeze from the chicken stand,” which sounds like a mood killer, but to each his own.) John does his best to infuse “Wonderful Crazy Night” with some giddiness, but the song refuses to get going — it lumbers and sputters.
The same is true of many of the songs on this album of the same name. It’s John’s third consecutive collaboration with producer T Bone Burnett, the man musicians turn to for elegantly made recordings foregrounding traditional pop-rock instrumentation. Burnett is a great producer, and he has brought the right touch to John’s last two LPs, The Union (2010), a genial summit meeting with Leon Russell, and the subdued The Diving Board (2013). On the new set, though, John is aiming for something bigger and more vivacious. He’s reunited with longtime sidemen, like drummer Nigel Olsson, for songs with meaty 1970s AM-rock arrangements. It sounds good on paper, but the album unfolds as an undifferentiated wash of music, without the big toothsome melodies that have lifted John’s music for decades.
It seems unfair to blame a producer when the source material isn’t up to snuff. But you can’t shake the suspicion that Wonderful Crazy Night might have benefited from a more gonzo presence behind the mixing desk. John is aiming to revive the style of albums like Honky Cat (1972), but those records had an outlandishness, a blend of earnest schlock and winking camp, that is beyond the ken of a classy roots-rock whisperer like Burnett. Take the album-closing ballad, “The Open Chord.” The song is dusted with the old John-Taupin magic: a charmingly crackpot lyric full of mixed metaphors (“You’re an open chord I wanna play all day/A new broom sweeping up the scenes I no longer play”), and a shapely chorus that John should by rights blast out like a Broadway showstopper. Instead, he delivers it subtly, demurely, tastefully. Where’s the fun — where’s the crazy — in that?
Elton John’s “Wonderful Crazy Night” Convincing Return To His American Roots (*****) By Jon Dennis
Elton John’s 2010 album with Leon Russell, The Union, signaled a new determination to reconnect with the magic of his early-70s albums that established him as the world’s biggest-selling artist and are still revered by connoisseurs. You’d have to say that on Wonderful Crazy Night he succeeds in recreating the rootsy Americana of his youth, with help from his touring band, co-producer T-Bone Burnett and, of course, long-standing lyricist Bernie Taupin.
It sounds like they’re having a blast. It was recorded in just 17 days, which has perhaps contributed to the urgency of tracks such as In the Name of You. But it has not come at the expense of John’s nose for a hit, with melodies such as that of Claw Hammer proving his pop sensibility is as acute as ever. A Good Heart and Blue Wonderful are classy, mid-paced ballads – familiar territory for Elton John, though there’s a bit more gravel and grit in his voice these days.
February 3, 2016
Elton John’s ‘Wonderful Crazy Night’ has an infectious spontaneous flavor (*****)
His sheer fervour for his craft puts many pretenders a third of his age to shame.
By Tim De Lisle
In 1980, Elton John denoted his age and work rate with 21 at 33, the 21st album of an already prolific career. By the strictest arithmetic, his new release shows a slowing of productivity, since Wonderful Crazy Night could have been titled 33 at 68. But the apparently inexhaustible singer-songwriter – and beneath all the superstar hoopla, that is what he is still proud to call himself – maintains such an unremitting schedule in studio and on stage as to make nonsense of that interpretation. His sheer fervour for his craft puts many pretenders a third his age to shame.
Thus he arrives at the follow-up to 2013’s The Diving Board, an altogether darker affair than this set, which is largely as high-spirited as its title suggests. By his own assessment in a recent encounter, John finds himself at a highly positive stage of his life and work, and Wonderful Crazy Night sees him going backwards to go forwards.
Perhaps ironically for someone with something of a track record for more hirings and firings than most Premiership chairmen, he is also intensely loyal to his fellow musicians. The album represents a reunion with the core Elton John band that has decorated almost his entire recording career, including original drummer Nigel Olsson, longtime guitarist Davey Johnstone and, on five tracks, irrepressible percussionist Ray Cooper. That’s before you consider the extension to 48 years of surely the most remarkable and enduring songwriting partnership of our times, with lyricist Bernie Taupin.
Such a familiar setting, overseen in Los Angeles by a more recent, but frequent, confederate, producer T-Bone Burnett, encourages an infectiously spontaneous flavour to what may be one of the most “live” studio albums in John’s catalogue. The breezy title track may be a relatively lightweight John-Taupin confection, but like many here, it boasts an adhesive piano figure that most writers would pine for.
Such vivid keyboard detail is a recurring feature, as on the brooding introduction to the driving “In the Name of You” and the vaguely psychedelic “Claw Hammer”. The latter also showcases nicely textured electric and acoustic guitars before the inspired introduction of jazz horns, as Taupin’s evocative lyric describes someone “holed up in your house of wax, just waiting for the fire”.
To have such a consummate piano player showcasing the instrument, as he did on his marvelous introductory run of records, adds considerable heft to the album. At times, as on “I’ve Got 2 Wings”, the sense of Americana in sound and imagery recalls the atmosphere of, say, Madman Across the Water, whereas the bare “Blue Wonderful” evokes the Eighties era of Too Low for Zero.
By the time of “Looking Up”, which introduced the album as a pre-Christmas single, we’re back into killer piano motifs and unswerving optimism. Wonderful Crazy Night is not an album of hit singles, but John knows his game is to sit on the sub’s bench these days. But still to be delivering such carefully and enthusiastically forged handiwork says much about his respect for his legacy and his audience.
Elton John lives a life hardly anyone has lived before, yet lyricist Bernie Taupin dwells on a mythical America (*****) By Tim De Lisle
This is Elton John’s 32nd studio album. The question is, can anybody name the 31st? I reviewed it here, but still had to look it up. Ah yes, The Diving Board.
It appealed to the critics, and to the fans (straight in at #3 in Britain), but not to a wider public (sales stuck in five figures). Good enough to keep the ball rolling, not good enough to add to the classics: every old rocker knows the feeling.
At 68, Sir Elton still has a powerful engine.
Tonight, he is playing Las Vegas, for about the 400th time; by Friday, he will be on stage in Paris.
Although he talks about spending more time with his family, another 50 gigs are planned this year, including a midsummer run of the medium-sized outdoor shows that he has made his own (‘Good evening, Longleat!’).
No pop veteran keeps busier. Lately Elton has been acting as a DJ on Apple’s radio station, Beats 1, and writing songs with Lady Gaga. He has been raising money, as ever, for HIV sufferers. He has been falling out with people, also as ever – most recently his long-serving publicist, who apparently clashed with David Furnish. And he has been taking calls from Vladimir Putin, prank or otherwise, to discuss gay marriage.
His appetite for novelty is formidable – until he goes into the studio. Wonderful Crazy Night is yet another album co-written with Bernie Taupin, his partner in rhyme since 1967.
It’s produced by the rock-solid T-Bone Burnett, a fixture since 2010. The big news last time was that Elton had left his touring band out of the process; the smaller news this time is that they’re back. The youngest is Davey Johnstone, who is 64.
It’s not a crime to be getting on a bit, or to work with your contemporaries. But if you surround yourself with old dogs, you’re not going to learn many new tricks.
On Radio 4 the other day, Elton summed up the new album as ‘like Southern rock ’n’ roll – Little Feat and Canned Heat’. Two bands whose heyday was in the Seventies.
Wonderful Crazy Night could have been made in the Seventies too. Of the musical omnivore who plays Grimes and Hudson Mohawke on Beats 1, there is no trace. But if you don’t mind that, this album has a lot going for it.
After an introspective decade, Elton is stepping up the tempo. Wonderful Crazy Night begins as it means to go on, with a riff; pulsating, insistent, repetitive but not dull. Wedding guests beware: Elton has found his inner dad-dancer.
The first single, Looking Up, is almost rockabilly, with a bar-band guitar lighting the touch paper and Elton piling in on pub piano. He has finally got back to Honky Cat.
If you love him for his mid-tempo chuggers, you’ll revel in the warm soft rock of Blue Wonderful,Tambourine and In The Name Of You. If you prefer a big ballad, you may be disappointed: there’s only one, Good Heart, which redeems its dreary title with a delicious tune.
The weak link is the words. It’s not that they’re bad; it’s that they seldom feel real. As a man with a husband, never mind the boys, Elton is living a life that hardly anyone has ever lived before, yet Taupin would rather dwell on the mythical America they both fell for 40 years ago.
I am the Elder Utah Smith,’ one song begins, and you expect another fable like The Ballad Of Blind Tom. In fact it’s a true story, about a man Elton describes as ‘a wonderful chubby black pastor’. But the lyric is a page from Wikipedia when we could do with an episode of Modern Family.
The only number that touches on kids, Children’s Song, is relegated to the bonus tracks because Elton was afraid it was ‘schmaltzy’. The worry proves to be unfounded.
This is a very decent album, glowing with energy: it would just be more powerful if it came with a dose of real life. Elton remains a giant of his craft, but one best appreciated in concert.
Bernie Taupin on 48 Years Writing with Elton John and Their New LP By Andy Greene
In about a year and a half Elton John and Bernie Taupin will celebrate a rather stunning achievement: 50 years working together as a songwriting team. “That makes me immensely proud,” says Taupin, phoning in from his California home. “The fact is that we’re still actually making records. We’re still a viable team. I think we’re probably the longest-lasting songwriting team in music history. I guess you could also say Jagger/Richards, if they make a new record, that is.”
But the Rolling Stones have only made a single record in the past 18 years (and even then, it was questionable how much Mick and Keith actually wrote together), but Bernie and Elton have never slowed down. Their new record, Wonderful Crazy Night, hits stores on February 5th. We spoke with Taupin about the new album, his life as a painter, his rock-solid friendship with Elton John, why he’s never heard a Kanye West song, and why he hasn’t even thought about retiring.
How did you first hear that this new record was happening? The idea came up sooner than I expected after [2013’s] The Diving Board. I didn’t expect Elton to want to go back in so soon. The thing is, it’s my tendency to set the tenor for the albums when I’m writing. As you’ve probably realized from my past work, my tendency is to lean a little toward the more esoteric. I like darker subject matter, but I think that this time Elton felt there was enough pain and suffering in the world without me contributing to it, so he wanted to do something that exuded positive energy.
It was then just a matter of me getting over the fact that he wanted to do it so soon after the last two albums, and it was a matter of me putting on a different hat, though I liked the idea. I like the idea of coming at it from a different angle. We’re not the sort of guys who are going to solve the world’s problems and write about fracking and corporate greed. I don’t particularly have a problem with Starbucks [laughs], so we’ll leave that to other people. No names mentioned [laughs].
Tell me how you started. Once I got the idea of it, it was pretty easy. I knew that, basically, it was gonna be a loud, brash pop record. I don’t want to say there wasn’t a tremendous amount of thought put into the songs, but I certainly realized that we wanted to blow skirts up. We wanted to write songs that were really hook-driven. As I think I wrote in the liner notes, I’m dealing with a guy that’s got more hooks than a tackle box.
The combination of the two of us on this different level was a fun adventure that we haven’t really investigated since the loud, brash pop-rock we were doing in the mid-1970s. I think it’s a natural curve for us to come back to. We’re visited our early roots with the last album, and I think it was natural to return to the poppier sound of our mid-1970s work.
Do you find it harder to write happy songs? Oh yeah, absolutely. I always lean towards the darker side. I think any songwriter, and my contemporaries would probably agree with me, thinks its far more interesting to investigate the seamier side of things, the underbelly of life, the heartbreak. Heartbreak is more easily mined than the happy side of romance.
Having said that, you try and find blueprints. You find people that you respect that have a sort of backbeat that drives the energy. You look at people like Tom Petty and his catalog. I’m not saying all of his songs are of a positive nature, but they have a positive groove to them. I was looking for a sound that was definitely West Coast. One of the possible ideas we had was that West Coast, Jim McGuinn, Rickenbacker, ringing, joyful kind of sound. As you can probably tell from the album, that’s nowhere to be seen [laughs]. But it was something that gave us an idea of where to start off.
With me, it’s all about titles. I love coming up with titles and I work around those titles or first lines, because if you have a title, you can really build a strong chorus behind it. And the song titles that I came up with on this really kind of screamed for big hooks, and I think that’s what this album is. It’s an album of big hooks. Once I cracked the egg and got the ball rolling, it came fairly easily.
How do you work? You set aside time each day to write and write, or just do it at moments where you feel inspired? No. Bear in mind that most of my life is painting. I paint 24/7. People in the art world are constantly saying to me, “What do you enjoy doing most: painting or writing?” And it’s really a moot point because we have a record maybe every three or four years, and it takes a couple of months. I probably set aside a month, or two if I have the luxury of time. If you think about it, I’m only writing songs two months out of every three years. Once I get the green light and I know there’s a record ahead, I pretty much go in every day and work for four or five hours a day.
Do you write longhand or by computer? It’s almost like a circular motion. I write on a guitar because it gives me a rhythmic sense. It’s got nothing to do with how it ultimately turns out with Elton, but I do use a guitar. I play chords and just sort of sing the lines over to myself, so that I feel when he reads them, he can read them in a rhythmic cadence. So what I’ll do is have a pad and a pen and a computer and I will just sing to myself on the guitar. I’ll come up with something, write it longhand and after I’ve written maybe a verse or something, I put it onto the word processor because I wanna make sure I can remember it, because I’m scrawling on a pad. So it really goes from guitar to the pad to the computer and back to the guitar again. Again, a circular motion.
Do you send them off to Elton in chunks or do you go one-by-one? In the past I’ve faxed him things, but now he’s been dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century. He actually has an iPad and a computer. Either that, or I’ve met up with him somewhere and we go through them together, which is what we eventually do. I don’t want you to think its a cold connection. We do get together and discuss things.
But I’ll email them and let him ingest them for a while and then we’ll get together and I’ll say, “Well to me, when I wrote this, it had a kind of Byrds-y feel,” or I’ll give him sort of an idea. For the most part, he just totally rejects those and goes the way he wants to go with them, but at least I gave it a shot [laughs].
Do you go into the studio to watch the recording process? Oh, yeah, I’m there pretty much 24/7. I mean, I do come in and out because I’m not really a studio rat. I don’t like places that don’t have windows and you can’t see outside. I start to feel a little constricted. And my job is done by that point, but I think that Elton enjoys the fact that I’m there. He likes my presence, though I’m not sure why [laughs]. But yeah, I’m there waving the flag.
It’s gotta be gratifying to see your lyrics come to life. Oh, yeah, that’s something that never gets old, believe me. I still get a kick out of it, the same he gets a kick out of seeing a new batch of lyrics, so we’re both like kids on Christmas.
I know that “I’ve Got Two Wings” is about the Reverend Utah Smith, [a musical Louisiana preacher who performed around the South in the 1940s with enormous white wings strapped to his back]. What drew you towards that figure? I have this terrible tendency in my work to resurrect the neglected [laughs]. It’s great ammunition for songs. I mean, a Louisiana guitar-playing evangelist who wears a pair of wings? What’s not to love about that?
Is there any sort of theme to the album? No, none whatsoever. It’s just a collection of strong, hook-y pop songs. If it has a theme, it is just one of positive energy.
When you write a song, do you ever try to tap into how Elton is feeling at the moment? He’s got such young kids now, and that’s obviously making him very happy. Well, I think we have a mirror image on that because we both have young kids. Mine are a little older than his, but it’s interesting. That ties us together because we’re such radically different characters, but the one thing that ties us together is the kids. We can both understand the perils, pitfalls and joys of raising kids. He’s got two boys and I have two girls that are seven and 10. But you draw so much energy from them, and I drew from that in a couple of songs. They’re about the feeling you get from raising kids and the things you want to instill in them.
Is “A Good Heart” one of those? Yes, definitely. I can’t even remember the other one.
I think the problem that so many veteran artists face is they’re always competing with their own past. Oh, you don’t have to tell me that!
I’m sure. I mean, when people hear a song like “Tiny Dancer” they’re taken right back to the time they first heard it. But when they hear a new song, they simply don’t have that emotional connection and often just tune it out. That’s a very, very, very astute analysis of it. I absolutely agree. Yeah, there is a nostalgia about our work that can be very debilitating at times. Depending on your mood, you can run into somebody who will be effusive about your older work and not even mention your new work. You just feel like …well, not so like grabbing them around the throat [laughs]. You kinda want to say, “Well, OK, but how about the last record we made?” And they’ll go, “Oh, well, I didn’t even know you had one.”
That can be extremely frustrating. But it’s what we have to live with. The thing is, you can be Billy Joel and just give up making records. But the thing is, if you really have the drive and the passion for music and writing, you’re going to do it whether it sells or not, because it’s there inside you. If you don’t get it out, you’re going to explode.
Elton and I are incredibly creative people, and if people like what we do, that’s just the icing on the cake, but we’re still going to put it out there. I don’t know how much longer we’ll do it, but we still enjoy it immensely. And to shut down and say, “Well, that’s it. I’m not going to write anymore.” I’m not sure that’s a healthy way of looking at it.
Most partnerships in every sort of creative field usually break down at some point. Resentments creep up and people begin hating each other. How have you guys avoided that? Well, that’s an easy answer. The fact is, you have to see each other for that to happen. We live such separate lives. We are two separate people. I think had we been the same kind of personalities and been in close proximity of each other these past years, I think there probably would have been a more acrimonious kind of thing between the two of us.
We do talk on the phone a lot, but not a tremendous amount, and it’s usually about record collecting. Elton has recently reinvested in vinyl because he sold his collection years ago for charity. Now he’s trying to reclaim everything. We’ll have these long discussions about it. He’ll call me up and say, “Do you still have the first Tiny Tim album?” I’ll go, “Yeah, I’ve got both of them.” He’ll go, “You’re kidding! Really?” It’s because I never got rid of my vinyl, so I probably have like 15,000 albums and they’re all in, like, immaculate condition. I’ve pretty proud of that because all I play now is vinyl.
I’m always surprised when he talks about his passion for new music. Most artists I talk to his age haven’t bought a new record in decades. Well, yeah. That’s a big difference with me. He has his finger on the pulse of everything out there. I mean, let’s put it like this: I was just looking at the paper before I called you. I was reading about the CMAs and their Entertainer of the Year is … Luke Bryan?
Yeah. Now, I’ve never even heard of him. That’s where I’m at. I mean, Elton is just unbelievable. I’m still listening to Louis Armstrong …
And he’s listening to Kanye West. Yeah, yeah. I mean, of course, I know who Kanye West is. Have I ever heard one of his songs? I don’t think so. I mean, I guess I could have and not known about it.
Isn’t it crazy to think that you got teamed up with a random musician 48 years ago by a record executive, and that single event changed both of your lives in such profound ways? I’m not a nostalgic person by nature. I live very much in the now. Having said that, once in a while it does kind of hit you on the head. You think, “Well, it was definitely kismet that I did this and he did that and we met in the middle.” I am eternally grateful for that, but I don’t dwell on it. If things are meant to be, they happen. My personal feeling about it is that if something is meant to happen, it’s by the grace of God and I’m not gonna argue with it.
He often needs security when he goes out into public. I take it you enjoy your relatively anonymity. Oh, absolutely! [Laughs] That’s one of the things I’m the most thankful for. I mean in the early 1970s, I would get recognized because my picture was on the album covers a lot. My name does still get recognized. I go places and give a credit card or give my name at the airport, and someone will recognize the name and the gushing begins.
But I couldn’t live his life. I would rather drill myself in the head with a nail gun than do what he does. And it’s what keeps him young. It’s what keeps him going. I’m sure he gets very tired at times. It’s got to run him down, but he doesn’t play to make a living. He plays because he loves to do it. He loves to be in front of that crowd. The more they give him, the more he gives back. That’s the drug he’s on right now.
It’s just so much traveling … Oh, I can’t imagine. I just can’t imagine. I think about the band. They’re on tour all year outside of two months when they take off in the fall, and we’re talking about all over the globe. He flies private, but even that takes it out of you. But I can’t imagine what it does to the band flying on regular airlines. I can’t even imagine the packing! How do you balance all that out?
Finally, do you see you guys still doing this in 10 years and even beyond? I don’t see why not. I mean, as long as he wants to make records, I’ll be happy to do it. What kind of records they’ll be, I have no idea. Whether there will be anyone to listen or most of our fans have passed away … No, no. As long as they don’t pass away, we won’t pass away. They’ll stick in for the long haul with us. But yeah, I’m here. I’m feeling good. I’ve got no complaints. I just create in my studio and when he calls, I’ll be there, willing and able.
Elton John Talks Upbeat New LP, Fave Deep Cuts and Advising Ed Sheeran By Andy Greene
Elton John has spent the past few years making mostly reflective and piano-based albums like 2010’s Leon Russell collaboration, The Union, and 2013’s sparse, somber The Diving Board. But when he got the urge to make a new album earlier this year, he decided to head in a radically different direction. “I was in Honolulu playing a show with my band, and I said to my guitarist Davey [Johnstone], ‘Go out and buy 12-string guitars,'” he says. “‘I want to hear lots of them on this record. We’re going to make an up record.’ “The end result is Wonderful Crazy Night, which hits shelves on February 5th. We spoke to John about crafting the album, raising his two young sons, his upcoming 70th birthday, managing Ed Sheeran, the possibility of playing a special concert packed with rarities and much more.
When you decided to write this kind of an album, what instructions did you give Bernie? I just said that I even wanted the slow songs to be optimistic. I wanted to make a happy record. “Joyous” was the word I chose. Not happy, joyous. I said I want it to feel joyous from beginning to end, and even the slow songs should be joyous.
Bernie told me it’s harder for him to write happy songs than sad ones. Is it the same for you? Oh, yeah. I mean, as a pianist, I feel its really hard to write uptempo songs anyway. It’s much harder than it is to write a slow ballad because the piano is a different chromatic instrument from the guitar, and so you don’t tend to write three-chord songs with the piano. But on this record, because I was in the mood and I knew what I wanted, it came really, really quickly.
I understand where Bernie is coming from. Normally, I could write ballads and sad songs all day. I do like miserable records and miserable songs, but I don’t feel like that now. I must say, my band helped me enormously. It’s the first record they’ve made with T Bone. He asked for them to play on it. We’d been playing so well live that it was really just a matter of time before this happened.
The idea and the actual result came together very, very well. I was surprised by how many up-tempo songs I wrote. In fact, there’s probably two we left off the album, so it actually put the to rest the notion that I can’t write up-tempo songs. When I look back on Rock of the Westies, which is probably the most up-tempo record we did, I wrote them then, but it’s been a long time since I’ve actually made a band record that sounds like a rock & roll record.
Walk me through your process. I know Bernie emails you the lyrics. Do you talk to him before you sit down to write the music? No, I don’t [laughs]. I don’t even look at them. I mean, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be insulting to him, but it’s not what I want. I want to walk in the studio on the first day with 20 pages of lyrics and then look through them and say, “Okay, I’m gonna start with this one.” So I don’t have any preconceived ideas until I sit in the studio. The first song we wrote was “Blue Wonderful,” and the second song was “Wonderful Crazy Night.” We tended to record a song a day and finish it with backing vocals and everything, so apart from the horns on “A Good Heart,” it’s a very self-contained record.
Before you sit down in the studio on day one, do you do any prep work? No.
Wow. Do you feel pressure to come up with music on the spot in a studio full of people? [Laughs] I do, but I’m not a guitarist and so I don’t carry a guitar around with me all the time. I mean, I’m not sitting in a hotel room writing a song. I never touch the piano at home because I do 100 shows a year. And so with songs, I really want look forward to writing them, and so when I haven’t written song more or less since the last album, I’m in the mood to write them.
You always think, “Am I gonna be able to write this time?” And you go in there with the usual fears, and you end up writing two or three songs in an hour and a half. That’s the way it’s worked and it’s never changed from the very, very beginning. It’s always the excitement of writing the song to his lyrics and then playing it to him. It hasn’t changed from the very first lyric he ever gave me. I joke about it in my show, but it’s probably why we’ve lasted so long. It’s because it’s still as exciting now as it was back in 1968.
That’s a pretty amazing thing. Most people can’t just sit down at a piano and churn out new music at will like that. I don’t know what happens. Something channels inside me. I’ve never thought about it. I haven’t analyzed it. I just think, “Well, that’s the way it works.” It’s so exciting. I’m very lucky, but I’m not one of those people that sort of grind the songs out and it takes forever. When it comes out, it’s like it all comes out.
So with a song like “I’ve Got 2 Wings,” you didn’t even know the backstory when you wrote it? I didn’t know where was such a character until I asked Bernie, “Who is this guy?” And then he showed me it on YouTube. And I’d written the song before I knew who this guy was, and luckily it fitted who he was extremely well. But it was just a beautiful song and a beautiful person that did that in the 1950s. I haven’t stopped You Tubing the guy since I wrote the song because I just think it’s such a beautiful thing that he did.
It was great to hear Davey’s guitar and Nigel’s drums on the album. They’ve been such a key part of your sound for so many years. Yeah, it’s great. It’s a very powerful-sounding record. I don’t think T Bone’s ever made that kind of record before. The band was so up to being asked to record, and they were so looking forward to working with T Bone. And Jason Wormer, the engineer, is fantastic. He had a wonderful drum sound before Nigel started. I thought he was going to be nervous, but he played the shit out of everything. There haven’t been many records like this for a long time. It’s very old and it’s very 1970s, but it’s up-to-date and modern. I’m nodding to the past, but I’m playing to the future, if you get what I mean.
You recorded it in just two weeks? We did 14 tracks in 17 days, yeah. But that’s [Goodbye] Yellow Brick Road time, as well. That’s what we did then, and it hasn’t changed. I also did The Diving Board in a bout 10 days. It’s because I don’t write, and I’m so looking forward to it. Also, I listen to a lot of music. Nothing inspires me more than new music. When I wrote “A Good Heart” I was thinking about St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Paul Janeway singing it. I do my Apple Beats program, and I’m given new music all the time. My life is so full of music, old and new stuff, so when it comes time to record something all that music seems to come together.
It’s a good way to work. People that spend six months on a record, or even more, can really overthink the music and kill the songs. You can overcook the egg. You can work on something so much and remix and do it over and over and over again. I’ve never been someone to do that. It’s always been, “If its not done in seven or eight takes, let’s come back to it another day,” because you lose the energy. You lose the adrenaline, and that’s so important. And most of these songs were recorded in two takes, without question.
Bernie told me he’s in the studio for some of the process. What’s his role in there? He just likes to hang around and feel the vibe. It’s good to have him around because I can say, “I need an extra line here” or “I need two extra lines” or “I don’t need this — can you change this?” So he’s on hand in case I need anything. He’s a great writer, but sometimes there are five lines in a verse and sometimes there are six, so sometimes I need to modify that and he’s always on hand so that he can fix it straight away so we don’t have to waste time.
And he’s a musician too. If doesn’t like it then I don’t like it because I want him to like everything I write. I mean, obviously that’s not possible, but I just want him to love everything that I do melodically to his lyrics because he’s at the start of everything, and we’ve got it down pretty pat. We’re as simpatico as people having never written in the same room. We just know each other musically and lyrically, and we just know what each other wants, I think, and after being together 48 years, we should.
He was telling me that since you both have young kids right now, your two lives are sort of mirroring each other. Yeah, we’re both mirroring each other. I’ve got two boys, and he’s got two girls. One of the songs we left off was called “Children’s Song.” It’s a beautiful song, but it didn’t really go with the rest of the album because you can write songs about children all you like and they always end up sounding a little bit twee, so we decided to leave it off, which was a shame because I love the lyrics so much. But I think we’re both in a very happy place, and we were both on the same page. We had no doubts in our minds that this was the kind of record we wanted to make.
This is your third straight album with T Bone Burnett. What keeps bringing you back to him? He just understands me. He’s a musician. I’m a good musician, he’s a great musician, and he’s recorded with so many great people. He’s good at analyzing a song. He’s good at analyzing my vocals. He’s quick to critique or change things around, and that’s what you need. When you’ve written a song, you can’t actually see the wood for the tree, and he’s there to say, “Nuh-uh, do that instead.” And I’ve always needed something like that around. He’ll say, “This song’s too long. Cut the chorus out there. You don’t need two choruses at the end.” He plays on “Blue Wonderful,” and he just adds a great vibe. Everybody in my band were intimated to work with him because of his reputation, but they ended up loving him. You can tell that it’s a joyous record, and you can imagine the fun we had doing it.
I heard that Capitol refused to put it out. I just can’t understand that. [Capitol declined to comment for this article.] I don’t know. I know if it was politics or whatever. I was gutted, I have to say. I thought, “This is a fucking good record, and I can’t understand why they don’t want to put it out.” But they’ve done me a favor. I was so upset for about a week, and then I landed on Island’s doorstep with David Massey and they are so thrilled. They have a lot of young artists on their label. I am, by far, the oldest artist they have. They have the Killers, who are friends of mine. I’m 68 years old, and I’ve made 33 studio albums. All I’m asking for at this age is for them to like it, to be enthusiastic and to do their best. I can ask for no more.
I have my own management company. I follow the charts. I know everything about the business. I know where I stand as far as selling albums. I’m not going to sell a million albums. I’m not expecting to.
I know a few years ago, your label actually told you to cover Motown songs and do a Christmas album, which is just so crazy to me. Yeah. For me, that’s the end. I mean, they said. “Oh, Elton’s gone to Vegas. That’s the end.” Well, I went to Las Vegas and did a very outrageous show by David LaChapelle, which garnered incredible reviews and it was very edgy and people walked out. I still want to push the envelope, and I think that at 68 years old, nearly 69, that this record will come as a surprise to people because they haven’t heard me rock out so much for years.
I love every second of this album and we’re gonna be able to play it in arenas. The last album, as much as I love it, those were theater songs. As T Bone said, I made a parlor record with The Diving Board, and I loved it, but this record is something that we can go out and play. The title says it all: Wonderful Crazy Night.
I think a song like “Claw Hammer” will really work in a big venue. Absolutely. We’re rehearsing them in January and we’re gonna launch the album in Paris at the Olympia Theater, and we’ll see how many album tracks we can squeeze into our set. It’s difficult when you have a catalog and an audience expects to hear every song they know, but with these songs, I think they’ll become staple Elton John songs, and I think three or four of them will sit inside the set. It’s great to go into rehearsals with a whole new album full of material you can’t wait to try out on an audience. You’ll see which ones work and which ones don’t.
Bernie and I were talking about the challenge of introducing people to new music when they’re so attached to the old ones, especially since they remind them so much of their own youth. Of course. And you have to respect that. You can’t just come out and play something all the way through. I remember in 1975, I was headlining Wembley Stadium and I played the whole of the Captain Fantastic record, which nobody had heard. I died the death. I mean, halfway through the album, I want to kill myself [laughs]. I have to ingratiate the audience very slowly with the new stuff. I’m still playing a track from The Union called “Hey Ahab,” and they love that. You know which ones work and which ones don’t. I’ll be very interested to see how they go with this.
In 2017, you’ll turn 70, and it’ll be your 50th anniversary with Bernie. Might you do something special that year to honor both those things? I don’t know that yet. I’m trying to get to 69 [laughs], and I’ll see where we go from there. All I’m looking forward to now is playing this stuff live at the moment. I mean, I’m in a very happy place with my family and my husband, my children, my career. I have a wonderful life. Everything could not be better and to have made this record with so much energy at this age, I am so thrilled.
I heard your kids saw you play live for the first time. Yeah. They know what I do, but they don’t give a shit about it. They know my songs. They sing “Rocket Man” and “Bennie and the Jets,” and they sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” but they’re more interested in Lego to be honest with you, and I am very happy with that. They love music. They love “Uptown Funk” and “Happy” by Pharrell and “I Can’t Feel My Face” by the Weeknd.
Are you still planning on doing fewershows now that they’re beginning school? Yeah. I’ve done fewer shows this year. I’ve had lots of time off with my children, and it’s all got to change now that Zachary’s starting school. I’ve got to be off when half-term comes. And I am planning on cutting down my shows to be with my children, because that’s what I really love.
Did I read somewhere that you no longer want to play solo acoustic shows? For the time being, yeah. I find it very tiring, but I will do it again someday. I’m just so enjoying playing with the band. For me, my band is like Little Feat. It’s so incredibly enjoyable every single day. They’re the best musicians, and I just love playing with them.
A lot of people don’t realize that you work with Ed Sheeran. What’s your role in his career? I’ve been advising him, and own the company that manages him. He asks me for advice. For example, a couple of years ago, he told me that the record company wanted a follow up to +, but he was also offered a tour with Taylor Swift, 88 shows in America. He said to me. “What should I do?” I said to him, “It’s a no-brainer. You do the 88 shows with Taylor Swift. She’ll be on top of the bill. You’ll be coming on when people are coming in. It’s not your audience. It’ll give you so much backbone, and you can’t buy that experience. And you know Taylor. You like her. Do that — there’s plenty of time for a second record.”
And on the new album, x, he didn’t want to put “Sing” first.” He said, “Pharrell has had so much success recently. I’m worried people are going to be burned out by him.” I said, “Listen, it’s a song that people don’t expect from you. If you want to put out ‘Don’t’ first, it’s gonna take a while to get up the charts. If you put ‘Sing’ out first, it will go straight in, and it will be the biggest thing on radio you’ve had so far.” Every record he put out before that, “The A Team” and “Lego House,” they took a long time to get up the charts. I think that “The A Team” took a year, and they wouldn’t put him on the Grammys. I said to them, “Listen, I’ll do a duet with him on ‘The A Team.'” That got him on the Grammys because that’s what I do. I’m a manager. It was a vital move for him.
But I just give him advice. I’ve been around for so long and I know the scene. I knew that “Sing” should be the first single, and of course, it worked. He emailed to say, “Thank you so much.” He says thank you. He listens. I’m doing it to make sure his career goes the right way. I’m very good at that.
It’s amazing that he plays stadiums with just an acoustic guitar and no band. I’ve never seen that done before. That’s unique. I mean, I played Madison Square Garden on my own, but he did Wembley Stadium three nights, which was 85,000 people a night on his own. It’s astonishing. It’s very brave. But sooner or later, he’s gonna have to get some other musicians. He’s such a good musician that he will not be satisfied with just playing on his own. I tell him that it’s great for a while, but then the novelty wears off. Playing with other musicians will give him a whole new twist, and I think he’ll love that, but for the moment he’s very happy doing what he does. But putting on my management hat, that has to change soon.
I talk to lots of artists your age, and virtually none of them ever express real enthusiasm for new music. Why do you think you’re different and so interested in what’s happening right now? Well, I love the young. I love the youth. I love new music. I love the energy from new music, the adrenaline that you get when you’re playing your own music, and so when the punk era happened and then the new-wave scene and then rap, I didn’t write it off. I went with the flow and I said, “Something must be good about this.” You can’t write off a style of music. I’ve been in the studio with Kanye and Eminem, and so I’m not gonna write off rap music because I couldn’t do what they do in a million years. It’s fascinating to see these people work. I live for new stuff.
I still buy my CDs every Friday and my DVDs on Tuesday. I buy my books every week. I write lists out of new things coming out — books, DVDs, music — and I make sure I heard them. And in a way, that keeps me plugged into what’s going. I have a management company, so I should listen to new things, but I love it. I don’t understand people … I mean, I know the past. When I look at a documentary like What Happened, Miss Simone? on Netflix, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever watched. She’s one of the most incredible artists I’ve ever seen in my life, and I know her work and I know that and I can be reminded of it, but when it gets to new stuff … I get sent things all the time for my Apple Beats show and I still love buying CDs.
I’m not sure many of my peers would know about War on Drugs or Hudson Mohwake or Grimes or people like that. You have to listen. Rosanne Cash got me into St. Paul and the Broken Bones. It keeps you young. It keeps your relevant. And I love being around young musicians, and I can offer advice. I had lunch with James Blake. I’ve had lunch with Tom Odell and Sam Smith. I don’t manage them. I have no interest. I have no agenda, but I can offer my love and support and my advice because I think what they’re doing is fantastic and I just want to make sure that they’re okay and they don’t do things too quickly and they take their time.
Bernie told me you’re getting your vinyl collection back together. Oh, my God. The first thing I did when I got sober was sell my vinyl collection for the AIDS Foundation, sold it all to somebody in St. Louis. Then I just fell in love with vinyl again, and the sound of it. Not just old vinyl, but new vinyl, the new albums. I have John Grant, for example, in vinyl. It sounds so great. St. Vincent, too. When I’m in a car I play a CD, but at home I listen to everything on vinyl.
To wrap up here, I want to name a couple obscure songs of yours, ones you never do in concert. I’ll start with “My Father’s Gun.” That’s on Tumbleweed. Yeah, I love that song. There are so many of my songs that I think are greater songs than the songs that went popular. We’re gonna make a list and maybe do a program about them. That is definitely one of the songs that I would sing again. There’s so many on that album. “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun” is another one that comes to mind. “Come Down in Time” isn’t so unknown because I’ve done it at solo concerts. What’s another one?
I really like “Blues Never Fade Away” from The Captain and The Kid. Yep. I agree with you [laughs]. It’s just, where do you get time to play all those songs? But one day I want to do them. I write out lists sometimes. I go through my albums because I can’t remember all the songs myself and I think, “God, that was a great song. Why don’t I play that?” There are different songs on different albums. “Pinky,” for example, on Caribou. “I Feel Like a Bullet (in the Gun of Robert Ford)” on Rock of the Westies, “Cage the Songbird” on Blue Moves. There’s so many. And even on the albums that people don’t like, like Leather Jackets and Jump Up!, there are still a couple of really good songs.
The fans would go insane to hear something like “Razor Face” played live. Yeah! One day, if I get the chance, I’ll sit down and do a concert full of songs like that. I owe it to myself. I owe it to the fans, but I owe it to myself.
Elton John on Christmas songs, retirement and his ‘joyous’ new album By Mark Savage
Pop star Sir Elton John talks about his “joyous” new album, and insists he will never retire.
Sir Elton John’s work rate might have slowed since the 1970s, when he regularly released two albums a year, but the star shows no signs of stopping.
Somehow, amid the charity tennis matches, phone calls to Vladimir Putin, Aids initiatives and 94 concerts he’s undertaken this year, the star has found time to write and record his 33rd album, Wonderful Crazy Night.
And he says he couldn’t imagine abandoning his first love.
“Some people don’t make records any more, like Billy Joel,” he tells the BBC. “They still have wonderful careers but I’m not like that. I want to be creative. It keeps you young.”
“I’m not retiring. I’m still enjoying myself so much. I’m 68 and I feel like I’m in the prime of my life.”
The star says the hit-strewn success of his 1970s purple patch means he has the “freedom to do exactly what I want”.
“I don’t have to worry about the record company saying, ‘You need a hit single,’ and that’s a wonderful position to be in.”
But the musician admits he has come under pressure to copy his friend Rod Stewart by putting his spin on the great American songbook.
“I’ve been asked to do Motown covers, Christmas records. It’s not going to happen,” he says.
“I don’t want to sing standards. They don’t mean anything to me. They’re music from an era gone by. If I want to hear them, I’ll put on Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and I’ll enjoy them.
“But I couldn’t sing them because that would just be a commercial exercise and I don’t want to do that.”
“I’m not keen on modern hi-tech studios. They have to be kind of funky.” Instead, the 68-year-old immerses himself in new music. His current playlist includes alt-rock singer St Vincent and Scottish electro wizard Hudson Mohawke, while his album of the year is Blur’s The Magic Whip.
“Why wouldn’t you want to listen to someone with a new idea?” he asks, genuinely puzzled.
Yet his latest album marks a return to his roots as a vaudevillian rock star. Packed with pop riffs and vamping piano chords, Wonderful Crazy Night is designed to be slotted into the set list of his Las Vegas residency.
“It needs to be played loud,” the star laughs. “It’s not Enya.”
The album was written and recorded in at Los Angeles’ Village Studios in a 17-day flurry of activity.
“I don’t like messing about,” Sir Elton says. “Studio time is valuable, it’s expensive. I like to go in there and make the most of my time.
I think 42 minutes is the perfect length for an album because people don’t have the attention span they used to.
“I won’t beat about the bush – it’s a very odd way of doing things compared to everyone else. But the moment that music all comes together and the red light’s on… It’s just something very, very special. Instantaneous. Adrenalin-driven. That’s why I love doing it.”
The star began the way he always begins, with 20 pages of lyrics from his writing partner Bernie Taupin.
“I don’t see the lyrics before I go in the studio,” he says. “And it’s wonderful because I don’t know what I’m going to get.
“Then I sit down at the piano and look at them, and it just comes out. I don’t know how it happens. I just look down and I come up with the riff. Something comes through my fingers.”
Sir Elton and Taupin have an almost telepathic relationship after 48 years of working together – and, this time around, both men found themselves taking stock of their good fortune.
“I wanted to do something joyous because I was so happy with my children and my husband. Happy with everything,” the star says.
The artwork for Wonderful Crazy Night was shot by Jurgen Teller inside Sir Elton’s house.
Lyrically love-struck, he sings of happiness and devotion on tracks like Blue Wonderful, In The Name Of You and The Open Chord (“you’re the open chord I want to play all day”).
There is a lazy assumption, he says, that songs can only be autobiographical if they’re downcast.
“It’s easy to be miserable. And I love being miserable. As a keyboard player, it’s much easier to write miserable songs.
“So the challenge on this one, as a piano player, was to say, ‘right, I’ve got to write up-tempo songs and I’ve got to try and write them in guitar keys like A, B and E, and not write in flat keys,’ which is what I normally do.
“It’s great for my guitarist. It saved a lot of time for him.”
Indeed, the record sees John bringing his touring band into the studio for the first time in nearly a decade.
The line-up includes drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone, who have been playing with the musician for more than five decades, while T-Bone Burnett produces.
Of the 14 tracks they recorded together, 10 made the final cut.
“I think 10 tracks is the only way to go,” he says. “Jill Scott had 17 on her new album, and I love Jill Scott, but I can’t wade through that.
“I think 42 minutes is the perfect length because people don’t have the attention span they used to.
“In the old days it was different – you could put out double albums and people would sit there and really listen. They don’t do that any more. They download, they listen to two minutes of a single. Times have changed.”
He is ruthless about editing his music, insisting the four rejected songs simply “weren’t as good” as the rest.
“There was a song about my children and Bernie’s children, called Children’s Song, which was really sweet. But it’s very hard to write a song about children without feeling a little saccharine. It’s too schmaltzy. You’ve got to be careful.
The release of Wonderful Crazy Night next February will be accompanied by a world tour, which reaches the UK in June.
But a long-proposed biopic of the musician, starring Tom Hardy, may not arrive as planned.
“It’s in limbo at the moment,” admits John. “To give a really honest answer, it’s going to take $60m to make this film the right way and, at the moment, the film industry has had a few flops musically – Jersey Boys, James Brown.
“They’re like sheep and lemmings. They’re like, ‘Oh no, we don’t want to do music any more’. Then they suggest doing it for $30m. I’m not doing it for $30m. I want to do it for $60m.”
The star’s film company is currently making a sequel to the hit animation Gnomeo and Juliet – with Johnny Depp playing a puntastic new character called Sherlock Gnomes. John says he “hopes” profits from that movie can be ploughed into filming his life story.
“It’s still got Tom Hardy attached to it. It’s still a viable proposition. But only if we can do it the right way.”
Wonderful, Crazy Night is out on Virgin EMI in February 2016.
Elton John, Still Rocking Out (and Speaking Out) with a Flourish By Melena Ryzik
LOS ANGELES — After 47 years in the spotlight, more than 250 million albums sold, six Grammys, a Tony, an Oscar and a knighthood, Elton John still gets the jitters when he steps onstage. Striding to his piano at the Wiltern here in a blue, rhinestone-dusted suit to play songs from his new album, “Wonderful Crazy Night,” for the first time, he surveyed the crowd of die-hard fans and music-industry insiders fretfully.
“When you’re playing new things,” he said afterward, “you’re thinking: Are they going to the toilet? Are they liking it? It’s impossible for them to like it right away, because compared to the other stuff, it’s not going to sound as good.”
He filled his two-and-a-half-hour set at the club, an Art Deco theater that’s a tenth the size of the arenas he normally plays, with that “other stuff”: hits like “Bennie and the Jets” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” standing and strutting around the piano, the consummate showman. “Nobody rocks out anymore,” he said, exhorting the audience. “They’re all bed wetters. I wanted to make a proper rock ’n’ roll album for all the bed wetters!”
A few days later, at his ’60s-Modernist Beverly Hills home, he said he enjoyed the concert, “but I wasn’t relaxed.” He shrugged amiably. “If you don’t have any fear anymore, then you have to give up.”
Fading out is not the Elton John way. “Wonderful Crazy Night,” due from his new label, Island, on Friday, Feb. 5, is his 33rd studio album. He’ll be 69 in March, as he mentioned more than once, and next year will celebrate 50 years with his songwriting partner and lyricist, Bernie Taupin, a near-singular act of rock ’n’ roll endurance. Like his 1970s compatriots Fleetwood Mac and Billy Joel, he could be forgiven for a little late-career coasting on his greatest hits, especially as he’s relishing family life with his husband, the film producer David Furnish, and their sons Zachary, 5, and Elijah, 3.
Instead, Mr. John has injected himself ever more forcefully, and candidly, into pop culture — and art, and politics. He’s continued his activism and advocacy for gay rights and AIDS research while on an endless concert tour, which outgrossed the teen juggernaut 5 Seconds of Summer last year and Miley Cyrus the year before that. He’s probably the only musician to have scored both a show on Apple Beats 1 Radio and a phone conversation with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia within a few months. He beefs like a rapper, and mother-hens younger artists. Lately, he’s even started collecting vinyl records again — on an extravagant scale, of course. As an artist and a personality, he lives in the flourish.
“His nature is to do things when he thinks about it,” Mr. Taupin said. “And he certainly is not painting by numbers now; he’s doing it because he loves it. I think if he wasn’t on the road, he’d be bored to tears. I think the stage is his life.”
Mr. John — born Reginald Dwight in Pinner, a hamlet outside of London — couldn’t disagree. Sitting at his dining-room table, surrounded by a formidable art collection (Keith Haring, Willem de Kooning, William Eggleston, the Chinese pop artist Wang Guangyi) and ignoring a fresh cappuccino brought by a housekeeper, he sermonized about the value of performing.
“If you want to be in the game, you’ve got to be good live, and you’ve got to do it regularly, to improve your chops,” he said. “‘Wonderful Crazy Night,’” he added, “is an example of the energy I have at this very moment in my life, which I’m very grateful for. I don’t want to wallow in nostalgia.”
After “The Diving Board,” his darker, more intimate 2013 album, he craved something upbeat. “I said to Bernie, you’re in a good place, I’m in a good place,” he recalled. “Let’s make the album jingly-jangly, and as happy as we can.” Hearing 12-string guitars on a trip to Hawaii even influenced Mr. John to write, atypically, for the guitar.
But jingly-jangly does not come easy. “It’s not in my nature,” Mr. Taupin, 65, said. “I had to put my happy cap on.” Mr. John, too: “As a piano player, I find it very hard to write up-tempo songs. You can write ballads coming out of your wazoo. This was a challenge for me.” The album has love songs both languorous and “jovial,” as Mr. John put it, and one, “Good Heart,” lyrically inspired by the musicians’ children.
Mr. Taupin, who composes on guitar, sometimes gives his partner a song’s back story, but just as often Mr. John prefers to leave it a mystery and creates a different melody. “Tiny Dancer”? “Rocket Man”? “I find out what they mean about 30 years later,” Mr. John said.
Their songwriting process is idiosyncratic. Mr. Taupin, who’s also a painter, lives with his wife and young daughters on a ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif.; Mr. John, he said by phone, had been there “once in 25 years.” They email — sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly — mostly about music. For “Wonderful Crazy Night,” Mr. Taupin wrote lyrics for 24 songs, which Mr. John first saw when they got in the studio together, with his band. He writes and records, analog, in days — “I don’t pore over things,” he said.
Mr. John, above, with his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, at a ceremony in 1973 to award them gold records for four of the albums that they had written together.
Their relationship is one of the great flukes in songwriting history: They were matched at random by a record label in London in the 1960s. It took five years, Mr. John said, “to become Elton John,” and then a string of seven No. 1 albums — what he called his golden period — followed. Two of his bandmates from that era, the drummer Nigel Olsson and the guitarist Davey Johnstone, remain with him. (Early on, Mr. John said, he gave them royalties.)
Though they took breaks, the John-Taupin partnership is equally ingrained. “He was my first-ever friend,” Mr. John said. They buddied up at movies and concerts; shared books and records. “He introduced me to ‘Lord of the Rings,’ and to Bob Dylan, really.” But their tastes, and lifestyles, diverged. Mr. John once spent $100,000 on tablecloths in Italy with Gianni Versace; Mr. Taupin likes to lasso cattle.
“It’s not soppy or silly to say this,” Mr. John said. “Because we haven’t lived in each other’s back pockets, we still love each other. To me, he’s like a brother.”
Mr. Taupin agreed that their differences kept their union strong, though he was sometimes annoyed by Mr. John’s flamboyance. “Donald Duck in Central Park, hello!” he said, referring to Mr. John’s 1980 performance of “Your Song” in a duck costume.
Mr. John in avian phase, performing before an estimated 200,000 people in Central Park in 1980.
Sober since 1990, Mr. John has toned it down considerably. At home, he wore a black-and-gold Adidas track suit, sneakers and rose-hued glasses, though he had eye surgery years ago and now has 20/20 vision. In conversation he can be sharply funny, and unsparing. Of Demi Lovato, who joined him on “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” at the Wiltern: “The song was in the wrong key for her, so she had an unfortunate time.” “Artpop,” the last album by his friend Lady Gaga? “It was unfocused, and went down the E.D.M. dance-routine thing, and I thought she already made that record,” he said. (He is serving as a sounding board, at least, on her new tracks.)
“He doesn’t hold anything back,” Mr. Taupin said. “There is no one that wears their heart on their sleeve more than him, and sometimes not just his heart. Sometimes you go, ‘Elton, keep your mouth shut!’
“But,” Mr. Taupin continued, “he’s certainly one of the best. And that’s why I’m still here.”
Mr. John’s obsession, besides music, is art: On his album cover, he’s grinning in front of a photo by the Brooklyn artist Mariah Robertson; his video for “Blue Wonderful” was inspired by a Gregory Crewdson image. He has a piano at some of his homes, but “the kids play more than I do,” he said. Yet he was fist-pumpingly excited about his vinyl collection, now numbering about 3,000 records, from Nina Simone to the country star Chris Stapleton. And he pays close attention to new artists, inviting songwriters like Sam Smith and James Blake to lunch.
“He’s a huge influence,” said Tom Odell, another young British musician whom Mr. John counsels. They discussed career moves and his coming second album. “We can talk about records for hours,” Mr. Odell said. “I don’t think he ever stops. He’s got more passion than some of my friends who are 23 who are making music.”
In an email, Adam Lambert said, “When I was in the final stages of ‘American Idol,’ Elton hand-wrote me a note wishing me luck and praising my run on the show.” Mr. Lambert, who came out after his “Idol” season ended, added that as a kid, when he first heard Mr. John’s music in “The Lion King,” “I remember the label ‘gay’ being used, but it never sounded like a negative thing. It was just a matter of fact. The focus was on his music.” Only later, he said, did he realize how groundbreaking that was.
After a year in which he lost both Ingrid Sischy, the cultural critic and a close friend who was writing his biography, and his compatriot David Bowie, Mr. John understandably has legacy on his mind. The gay community is still stigmatized in Africa, Eastern Europe and elsewhere, he said. “I’m going to try to help see if I can change those things. I probably won’t, in my lifetime, but I’m going to try. I might get ridiculed, or I might get laughed at— I’m prepared for that. But I know I have the ability to bring people together, so I have to try.”
First, he hopes to parlay his phone conversation with Mr. Putin — a call the Russian president made after pranksters impersonating him conned Mr. John into a plaintive conversation about Russia’s dismal record on gay rights — into a face-to-face meeting. “I’m not going to go in there and say, ‘Hey, Mr. Putin you’ve got to do this,’” he said. “I’m going to have a cup of tea and I’m going to talk to him, and schmooze. It’s all about schmoozing.”
Towering artistic achievement was also on his mind. Among recent highlights, he said, was the clip of Aretha Franklin performing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center Honors. “When she sat down with that fur coat and that clutch bag, and started singing, I went nuts,” he said. “I watched it four times in a row.”
The bar for electrifying performance has been raised. “I will definitely, when I’m 75, be having a fur coat like that, and coming in with a clutch bag too,” Mr. John said. “And throwing my coat off. And in a fishtail dress.”
Elton John Celebrates the ‘Mystique’ of David Bowie in L.A. By Katie Atkinson
“We know David Bowie the figure, the singer, the outrageous performer, but actually, we don’t know anything about him – and that’s the way it should be in music,” he says at SiriusXM Town Hall taping.
After taking a group picture with fans at a SiriusXM Town Hall taping Tuesday night (Jan. 12) at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, Elton John swiveled around on his bench and began playing his red piano. “Ground control to Major Tom,” he sang, breaking into a lush piano version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” as his band was still setting up their instruments and the crowd of only 50 fans and reporters remained hushed.
It was just the night’s first tribute to his musical peer and kindred spirit, who died Sunday at age 69 after a private, 18-month battle with cancer.
“There are so many incredible words written about him in the last couple of days,” John told veteran rock journalist David Fricke, the night’s moderator. “It’s so wonderful. We all know how inspiring he is. We all know that his music stands. We don’t have to say anything about the music: It speaks for itself. He was innovative, he was boundary-changing, and he danced to his own tune – which in any artist is really rare.”
“But what I loved about him towards the end was his incredible privacy during what must have been 10 years of incredible bad luck with illnesses, heart attacks, cancer, whatever,” he continued. “He kept it private in an age we’re living in with Twitter when everyone knows everything about everything – he kept it to himself.”
“He made two albums without anybody knowing he was making them. He had treatment for his illnesses without anyone knowing or anyone saying anything. And that is the mystique of the man, because we know David Bowie the figure, the singer, the outrageous performer, but actually, we don’t know anything about him — and that’s the way it should be in music and should be in any art form whatsoever.”
John also recalled how Bowie’s music connected him with his early collaborators. “If it wasn’t for David Bowie, I would never have found my original producer Gus Dudgeon and Paul Buckmaster, who arranged the first three albums for me,” he said. “Because when I heard ‘Space Oddity,’ I thought it was probably the most incredible record I’d ever heard and for a long time after that point.”
“And the production and the arrangement of that song, I said, ‘Whoever did that, I really want to work with them.’ And so I got in touch with Gus Dudgeon and Paul Buckmaster, and we made the Elton John album together and many more albums, so I’ve got David to thank for that.”
The full SiriusXM Town Hall With Elton John – celebrating the release of John’s Wonderful Crazy Night album (out Feb. 5) – will air on The Spectrum, channel 28, on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 5 p.m. ET.
John performed five songs before sitting down for the Q&A: three from his new album (“Looking Up,” “Blue Wonderful” and “A Good Heart”) and the classics “Tiny Dancer” and “Bennie and the Jets.” Before launching into the iconic, chugging “Bennie” intro, John talked about how proud he was of his first hit on Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles chart (the song peaked at No. 15 on the chart, which is now called Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs).
On Monday, John took to Instagram to remember Bowie, sending condolences to his wife Iman and their family.
Elton John Cranks Up the Hype Machine at the Wiltern By Mikael Wood
What does it mean when a veteran pop superstar plays a venue several times smaller than the arenas and stadiums he usually fills?
When the venue is in a media capital like Los Angeles, it means he has a very special new album to promote.
At least that was the case Wednesday night at the Wiltern, where Elton John performed a handful of tunes from “Wonderful Crazy Night,” due next month, for a crowd of industry insiders and fans who’d paid $200 each to be there. (For $800 the fans could’ve gotten a backstage tour as well.)
This type of ground-softening event, often referred to as an underplay, is common to rollouts of albums with a story an artist might feel the need to explain. The implicit hope is that his sympathetic audience might spread the word ahead of the album’s release.
For “Wonderful Crazy Night,” the story is how eager John was to make a “joyous record,” as he described it at the Wiltern. His last album, 2013’s stripped-down “The Diving Board,” was “very introspective,” he said, but this one is “rock ’n’ roll like it used to be.”
“Nobody rocks out anymore,” he added. “They’re all bed-wetters.”
After listening to the album and watching John and his trusty five-piece band crank out half of it, I can’t say that “Wonderful Crazy Night” is likely to restore anyone’s faith in rock ’n’ roll. It’s melodic and upbeat, but the songwriting by John and Bernie Taupin is far less vivid than on “The Diving Board.”
You hardly envision a generation of bed-wetters hearing this thing and being shaken out of their frailty.
But that didn’t make Wednesday’s concert a bust. Beyond its power to create buzz, a superstar in a mid-size theater means a welcome opportunity to focus on aspects of a performance that are harder to grasp in a more spectacle-prone environment.
There was John’s voice, still flexible at age 68 in the new tunes and especially the old classics – including a roaring “Philadelphia Freedom” and a tender “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – with which he filled out the two-hour show.
There was the almost psychic connection between the singer and his musicians, a deep chemistry that allowed them to slow the groove of “Bennie and the Jets” by just a few beats per minute each time they finished the song’s chorus.
And there were the appealing bits of show-business background that John dropped into the show, such as when he explained that he’d hired Gus Dudgeon to produce his self-titled 1970 album after he heard David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” which Dudgeon also produced.
“I have David Bowie to thank for that,” he said, before dedicating “Rocket Man” to “the Starman himself,” who died last week.
Among his other shout-outs were those to his husband, David Furnish, whom he said recently “weeded out all the horrible people” from John’s life, and his new record label, Island, which signed on to release “Wonderful Crazy Night” following the end of John’s brief pact with Capitol.
Draw your own conclusions about the shade he was throwing here.
To the label he dedicated “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and if that wasn’t a clear sign that he’s looking to the label to keep him in the pop conversation in 2016, consider the three Island acts he brought onstage for perfunctory duets: Shawn Mendes (in “Tiny Dancer”), Demi Lovato (in “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”) and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy (in “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”).
Did it matter that the guy standing next to me leaned over to ask who Stump was? Only if I hadn’t just told you about it.
Elton John Honors David Bowie, Duets with Demi Lovato at Intimate L.A. Gig By Steve Appleford
Sitting alone at the piano on Wednesday night, Elton John paid tribute to the late David Bowie with an extended instrumental reading of “Space Oddity.” The moment came during a special two-hour concert at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, and John stretched out with both delicate melodies and pounding keys, before leading into his own “Rocket Man” with a full band.
It was a mash-up that fans and musicians have attempted for years, but John made it elegantly real, dedicating the moment to “the Starman.” As the song ended, the singer-pianist stood and walked across the stage, and was handed a bouquet from the front row. John also spoke of an early connection in the two artists’ recording careers, pointing to his search for a producer and arranger to help with his self-titled second album from 1970.
Elton John performed beloved hits and upbeat new songs in L.A. on Wednesday.
“The songs were very classically orientated,” he said of Elton John, which included the career-defining “Your Song,” among other hits. “I didn’t know who I wanted to use. Then I heard a record which blew me away. It’s called ‘Space Oddity.'”
The producer of that single was Gus Dudgeon, with arrangements by Paul Buckmaster, and both ended up as key figures during John’s first decade of recording. “I have David Bowie to thank for that amazing collaboration,” John told the crowd. Earlier this week, he’d posted a note on Instragram, describing Bowie: “An amazing life. An amazing career.”
A day earlier at the Wiltern, John recorded a stripped-down performance and interview for a small crowd of fans and guests for a SiriusXM Town Hall taping to air on February 4th. Speaking with Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, John said of Bowie: “He was innovative, he was boundary-changing, and he danced to his own tune — which in any artist is really rare.”
On Wednesday, John wore a sparkling black jacket, the five-man band coats and ties. The occasion was the coming release of a new album Wonderful Crazy Night — out February 5th — but the two-hour concert was heavy with hits, from “Bennie and the Jets” to “I’m Still Standing.”
Producer T Bone Burnett watched the show from near the soundboard. And John was joined during the two-hour performance by a trio of younger hit-makers as singing partners, beginning with Shawn Mendes on “Tiny Dancer.” Demi Lovato stood center stage to sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” John’s 1976 duet with Kiki Dee, and matched John in volume and energy.
Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, in black leather jacket and fedora, joined on the rocking “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” He spent the entire song looking over at John, one hand gripping the mic stand as the bandleader pounded the keys and shouted the lyrics.
Much of the night was devoted to the new album, which John called “a labor of love.” From Wonderful Crazy Night, he performed the understated ballad “A Good Heart,” but most were up-tempo songs: “In the Name of You,” “Blue Wonderful” and the title track.
There were many more hits (“The Bitch Is Back,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” etc.), and the night closed right where John’s career as a hit-maker began, with 1970’s “Your Song” — and that small debt owed to David Bowie.
“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” “Bennie and the Jets” “I’m Still Standing” “Levon” “A Good Heart” “In the Name of You” “Tiny Dancer” [with Shawn Mendes] “Philadelphia Freedom” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” “Space Oddity”/”Rocket Man” “Wonderful Crazy Night” “Blue Wonderful” “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” [with Demi Lovato] “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” “Burn Down the Mission” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” “The Bitch Is Back” “Looking Up” “Your Sister Can’t Twist (but She Can Rock ‘n Roll)” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” [with Patrick Stump] “Your Song”
Elton John Shuts Down Sunset Strip With Pop-Up Show, Duets With Lady GaGa By Morgan Greenwald
Saturday afternoon’s alright for a free pop-up Elton John show on the Sunset Strip.
Fans from all over Los Angeles gathered for John’s performance outside of the old Tower Records building on Saturday, Feb. 27, which was also live streamed exclusively on AOL.com. John performed an hour-long set of old and new hits alike under the blazing Los Angeles sun to thank the city of West Hollywood for its support of his AIDS Foundation and its Academy Awards Viewing Party.
“The City of West Hollywood has welcomed the Elton John AIDS Foundation and our annual Academy Awards Viewing Party with open arms for many years, providing us with the perfect environment to host a really fun and special evening,” Elton John said in a statement. “We are profoundly grateful for their generous support, so I wanted to do something special just for them by giving our West Hollywood fans and supporters a surprise concert. Thank you, West Hollywood!”
In an interview with Sharon Osbourne for AOL, the English legend said that the idea for a pop-up show was entirely his husband David Furnish’s.
“[David] thought it would be great the day before the Oscar party to do something to thank the city of West Hollywood, who have been so amazing to us over the years,” John said.
To help him properly thank the city, the godmother of John’s children, Lady Gaga, also made her way to the Sunset Strip for the free concert. Gaga came out at the end of the concert to help John perform his 1974 hit “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
John’s Sunset Strip was full of thankfulness — not just for the city of West Hollywood, but also for his agent, who he dedicated his performance of “Your Song” to, one of the songs John first sang when he started out in Los Angeles.
“I first came to Los Angeles in 1970 and I played on Santa Monica Blvd. at the Troubadour, which I’m very glad to say is still there,” John said. “And my agent when I came over was a man called
Howard Rose, and here we are 46 years later and he’s still my agent, so I’d like to thank him and dedicate this next song to him.
John’s pop-up concert comes just one day before his annual Academy Awards Viewing Party, which will take place this year at West Hollywood Park.
“The Bitch Is Back” “Bennie and the Jets” “Looking Up” “Blue Wonderful” “Levon” “Rocket Man” “Your Song” “Tiny Dancer” “A Good Heart” “Wonderful Crazy Night” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (with Lady Gaga) “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”