Thursday, August 28, 2008

Join the Queen, the Corgis and me...

Elton John and Davey Johnstone

I've been enjoying the songs of Elton John for the past few days, which I do quite often. In my opinion, no entertainer on the planet today can compare to him and his music.

I'll never forget the first time I was mesmerized by one of the British singer/songwriter's songs. It was in 1973, and Suzanne and I were meandering around a book store at Eastland Mall in Bloomington, Illinois. I had just stopped to thumb through Kurt Vonnegut's new book, Breakfast of Champions, when I became aware of a song playing somewhere faraway in the mall:

Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road...

I stopped and looked around: Oh, my goodness! Who is that? The lyrics and music were outstanding; the singer's voice spoke to me.

I bought the album that very day, and I played Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road over and over for months, not knowing, of course, that it would go on to become Elton John's best-selling studio album, or number 91 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. I also had no way of knowing that Elton would become the biggest pop superstar of the early '70s.

In the years since, Elton John has recorded many wonderful songs (charting a Top 40 single every single year from 1970 to 1996!). A few of my favorites are Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Your Song, Sacrifice, Daniel, Something About the Way You Look Tonight. But my all-time favorite is The One, which he recorded in 1992. So romantic!

As you know, Elton is not tall, muscular and handsome, as are many celebrities of today. But I'll take that little fellow in his earrings, odd spectacles and elaborate costumes any day over just about any other singer. Well...Bob Seger does have his place in my heart, as does Elvis. And a few others. But Elton John touches my soul with just about every song he records. They are classics.

Apparently, Queen Elizabeth II feels the same; she knighted him in 1998. (I can see her now, watching the video of Can You Feel the Love Tonight, head back, eyes closed, Corgis draped here and there: Their ears perk up and they begin yelping as the lions cavort across the screen. "Emma! Holly!" HM says, "Quiet, you bloody pooches, quiet!")

I would be remiss if I left out Bernie Taupin, Elton's lyricist. How did Elton find him? Believe it or not, Bernie responded to an ad Elton placed in a newspaper for a songwriter. So he has written many of those great lyrics (bless you, Bernie!), and Elton put them to music. What a collaboration!

I have long wished I could meet Elton and thank him for all the hours of pleasure his songs have given me. It's unlikely I will ever be near him, of course, but I was once near someone who is. And has been for years.

I was in London, along with Mother, Pitty, and my brother, Tony. We stopped at a restaurant in Kensington, that June day in 1996, for lunch. And as I sat in the cozy little restaurant, digging into my delicious meal and enjoying the lovely British accents floating through the air, I noticed a group of several men at a table a few feet away.

They were a lively group, not loud or obnoxious; just a bunch of British chaps chowing down on their fish and chips. They looked a bit different, though; kind of like hippies. Older hippies. One was tall and very thin, with long blond hair. He looked vaguely familiar.

It wasn't long before I realized a big commotion was going on around the hippies' table. Waitresses, faces flushed, were hovering over them, others standing in the doorway of the kitchen whispering and tittering among themselves. The cook peered over their shoulders.

Pitty and I looked at each other, then at the group. "They're really excited," she said, "They must be someone important."

We had finished our meal, and Mother and Tony were headed toward the register, when one of the waitresses rushed out of the kitchen.

I stopped her as she started past our table, "Who are they?"

"Elton John's band!" she said.

"Where's Elton John?"

"He's not with them today."


I gave Pitty my camera. "Act like you're taking a picture of me," I said, "so we can get one of the band!"

I know, I know...I look like a ghost, but I had to lighten the picture so you could see the band in the corner. (The little guy on the right was oblivious to all the activity; he just kept right on eating!)

As the band members were heading out the door, deep in conversation, the blond man hesitated in the doorway. So I grabbed my camera and snapped this picture. (I later learned he was Davey Johnstone, Elton's long-time guitarist.)

I considered asking him to tell Elton how much I appreciate the hours of enjoyment he has given me through the years with his timeless songs. Davey appeared to be a nice, friendly bloke; he would probably have smiled and said he would be happy to do so.

But I didn't. Now, I wish I had.
Be that as it may, if you are reading this post, Sir Elton John (and you probably are), all I can say is keep singing, my friend, and I'll keep listening.

And now, if you have time, relax with the Queen, the Corgis and me, and enjoy Can You Feel the Love Tonight.


mlh said...

Oh no! Now I'm going to be singing Elton John all weekend! This should be fun.

Great post. I'm glad you got pictures of someone sort of famous.

Sandra Ree said...

I'm glad someone else enjoys this type of music! I've always loved Elton John. You absolutely knew what to do with your camera! lol When my daughter was into the Lion King I was so happy that his songs were part of the soundtrack. What a wonderful post, Brenda!

Suz said...

Wow, you were that close to his band! Cool!!

Add me to the list of those who treasure Elton's (OK, Sir Elton's) music. That was underlined for me when I grabbed my CDs and starting burning them into iTunes and then loading the faves onto my iPod. Huge proportion of the tunes: the inimitable EJ, of course.

Rhonda Hartis Smith said...

I've enjoyed Elton over the years, he's been performing for decades! It's amazing the talent that he has. My kids grew up watching him on MTV in the 80's.
Thanks for a great story!

kari and kijsa said...

Great story!
Thank you for all your prayers and blessings!
Have a wonderful Labor Day,
kari & kijsa

Anonymous said...

I love Elton as well -- his early stuff the most.

"So excuse me forgetting but these things I do

You see I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue

Anyway the thing is what I really mean

Yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen."

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley