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Everywhere I look I see Elton John, his new book “Me” (which looks amazing), The Rocketman Film, his final tour…he’s even choosing the ‘Tracks of My Years’ this week on The Ken Bruce Show on Radio 2!!
I’m a huge fan of Elton’s and often listen to his music especially whilst running!! I absolutely love running with Elton as this gives me the opportunity to listen intently to the man’s sheer brilliance. I also love hearing Elton talk about music as his knowledge and passion still run high and are contagious!
I’m currently working with Al Steele and an incredible choir on a very special tribute to Elton. Although I am very excited about this, Al has really taken me out of my comfort zone vocally whilst working on it!! I will share further details in the not-too-distant future!
Without sounding creepy, I feel I’ve “known” Elton John all my life and though it would be cool to write down these, often quite random memories then put them into a chronological timeline, matching up the album that track came from.
This idea came to me whilst training for the Cardiff Half-Marathon which I, thankfully, completed a few weeks back!! I know, it’s geeky!! It did however act as a trigger point to listen to each of his records track by track, in the order on the record. Man, this guy is such an inspiration!
Probably one of the more random blogs. I do hope, however, that one or more of these memories may resonate with you and encourage you to listen to these albums in full!! Here goes….
• 1976 – ‘Song For Guy’ taken from the album “A Single Man”
The first 7” single record I ever bought. Not a bad choice for a 6 year old. How ironic as a singer songwriter that my first single is an instrumental!
• 1983 – ‘I’m Still Standing’ from the album “Too Low For Zero”
One of the most memorable videos of the 80’s and such a great song. For some reason Elton playing up on the lyric…’feeling like a little kid!’ has stuck with me!!
• 1984 – Elton released the album “Breaking Hearts”.
During this year, I can remember Radio 1 stating Elton John had arrived early for his wedding to Renate Blauel at Darling Point in Australia.
Later that year, Elton’s new wife was seen laughing in The Royal Box at Wembley Stadium when Everton scored a goal against Elton’s beloved Watford at the FA Cup Final. I distinctly remember my mother finding this very amusing…
• 1985 – Elton released the album “Ice on Fire”
Elton appeared on the very first ‘Wogan’ show on BBC1 and helped Terry Wogan recover after falling over as her greeted him!! ‘Nikita’ was a big hit for Elton and I remember having a crush on the lady that played ‘Nikita’. Such striking blue eyes! I can also remember pointing out to my school friends that I could hear George Michael singing backing vocals at the end and then feeling rather smug when a radio DJ pointed this out. This was a long time before the Internet!!
‘Wrap You Up’ was a great duet with George Michael, looking back, not long before he recorded the career defining “Faith” album.
• 1989 – ‘Sacrifice’ from the album “Sleeping with the Past”
This was Elton’s first #1 single in the UK. I remember my mother telling me ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ was also a #1, however, this was a duet so it didn’t count!!
I can also remember singing this at a Works Christmas Party after too many beers when I worked for the NHS in Cardiff. Thankfully, in times before mobile phones and YouTube!!
• 1991 – ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’, from “Too Low For Zero”.
Although this was released in 1983, I distinctly remember visiting Cardiff’s oldest pub The Rummer Tavern Pub for the first time after Llanelli (now The Scarlets) had won the Schweppes Rugby Cup. For those outside of Wales, this is the Welsh rugby version of the FA Cup, or Superbowl – a very big deal in Wales at the time!!
The pub was full of their fans who were celebrating wildly, when from nowhere, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” came on the jukebox (remember them?!) and the place erupted in joyful singing. I was only 20 and a little naive but captivated, as I’d never seen anything quite like it!!
Whenever I can, I try to squeeze this song into my solo shows, as it is timeless and still loved. Such a great song!
• 1991 – ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’. Duet with George Michael from the “Duets” album released in 1993.
George Michael played a number of shows at Wembley Arena where he performed cover versions of his favourite songs. I took my girlfriend to the show on the Friday and it was incredible. Mr. Michael and his band were on fire and his voice was electrifying!! HOWEVER, Elton John performed this song at the show the following night; I was absolutely gutted and remain so to this day as I still have not seen him perform live and as Elton’s marathon ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour’ draws to end guess I may never witness it!
• 1992 – ‘Show Must Go On’ Live at Wembley.
Along with George Michael and Axel Rose, Elton absolutely smashed it at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. His duet with Axel Rose was magnificent, however for me, his version of ‘Show Must Go On‘ was stellar.
I have studied this song with my vocal coach, the incredible Louise Ryan, and the range of the vocal is unreal. Rather than trying to copy Freddy’s version, Elton made some subtle adjustments and made the song his own. This gave vocalists like me hope that vocal melody lines CAN be adjusted sympathetically to perform alternative versions within our limited ranges and remain respectful to the original.
• 2001 – ‘I Want Love’ taken from “Songs From The West Coast“.
This amazing album brought Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin back together as co-songwriters. Such a powerful song and such a powerful video with a memorable performance from Robert Downey Junior.
I remember my ex-wife telling me her friend was unconvinced by Downey – saying that “you could see he was miming“, thinking the song was his!!!
Fast forward to 2018, whilst returning from the 1st Black Deer Americana Festival in Tunbridge Wells, Elton John popped up on the radio talking about his “Restoration” album. This is a great record, where Americana and Country artists covered a number of Elton’s songs. I love hearing Elton talk about music his knowledge and passion – even today is still quite captivating.
During the interview he said his only “demand” was to persuade Chris Stapleton to perform “I Want Love“. Thankfully, this happened and I demand you go and listen to this version right now!! It’s incredible.
• 2016 – In the smash US TV Series Nashville, Elton pops up and invites Sam Palladio to perform a duet. I really miss that program such great television.
• 2018 – ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’, taken from the album “Caribou”.
I kept having a mental block when performing ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me’, which I also cover sometimes – if the show is going well and I’m feeling brave!!
It is such a well know classic and I went through a stage of struggling to remember the correct words. As this is such a big song this this could have catastrophic consequences! I’m fine with my own lyrics, as each word of every song is deeply personal – however, it would be an injustice if I got another artists’ lyric wrong, especially Elton’s!
So I asked my vocal coach for help, Lulu, who is simply the best vocal coach on the planet – I love that amazing lady!! Lulu taught me the importance of connecting with lyrics. So, we then went through the exercise of going through every line and each word of ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me’ in order to understand the song better, creating a personal and emotional connection to each lyric. As we did this my heart melted. WOW!! Until then, shamefully, I had never really studied Elton’s and Bernie’s words. Lulu went on to tell me how good singers can knock out the correct words, notes and melodies to other peoples’ songs – however the GREAT singers will connect to every word on an emotional level and will portray that connection in their performance. Big benchmark to aim for – thanks Lulu!!
I must say following this lesson, I enjoy singing other artists’ songs a lot more and hope this is also shown in my performances.
Thankfully, Al Steele, who produced and co-wrote a lot of the songs on my new record, also shares a deep love for Elton John’s music. I enjoyed many conversations about this in the studio and I hope you can hear Elton’s influence in the songs on “My Truths”.
Do you have any favourite Elton John moments? If so please feel share in the below comments box I’d love to hear from you.
Listen to Hegsy’s show “Your 80s with Hegsy” every Saturday on Radio Cardiff between 10am and 1pm UK time.
98.7FM in the Cardiff, UK area / live.your80s.co.uk / TuneIn Radio App for iOS and Android
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