On a Thursday morning in his Toronto lodge room, Elton John is in top spirits. He’s 12 months right into a three-year farewell excursion that has bought out arenas and sports activities stadiums world wide, and earned one of the most maximum rapturous evaluations of his 50-year occupation. “The closing time I had notices like this I had a complete head of hair and the author needed to spend part the evaluation explaining who I used to be,” is how he places it. His musical biopic Rocketman has grossed just about $200m on the field place of job. And he’s about to put up his autobiography, Me.
Complete disclosure: I spent 3 and part years running with John at the e book. I used to be each thrilled and impossibly flattered to be requested, however paintings on it were given off to a deeply odd get started. The primary interviews came about at the set of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, wherein he had a cameo function that concerned dressed in one among his outdated level costumes. Thus, I loved the disconcerting revel in of interviewing Elton John whilst he used to be dressed as Elton John in 1974: an outfit fully made up of multicoloured marabou feathers, a headdress lined in jewels and reflected glass, and a couple of silver platform boots with ELTON written on them in large pink letters. “In fact I will be able to stroll in them,” he frowned, once I discussed the latter. “Concentrate, I’ve jumped off pianos in larger platforms than those. It’s like driving a motorcycle – you don’t put out of your mind.”
However then again mind-boggling he seemed, it used to be not anything in comparison with what got here out of his mouth: a succession of news about his existence in 1975 – when he used to be each the largest pop famous person on the earth and horribly depressed – so lurid that I thought they’d by no means make it previous the primary draft. However all of them ended up within the e book. No spoilers, however put it this manner: you’ll by no means take a look at a snooker desk in the similar approach once more.
It set the tone for the way issues have been going to be. I’d trip to anyplace he used to be, he’d discuss his previous with startling candour, hooting with laughter on the awfulness of his behaviour or the sheer preposterousness of his personal luck: “Me and Bernie [Taupin, his longtime collaborator] used to take a look at every different at all times, completely baffled, like, ‘What the fuck is going on to us now?’”
There are many explanation why Elton John has earned nationwide treasure standing, most manifestly his talent to jot down songs that experience turn out to be a part of the material of existence, however top at the checklist is that it’s arduous to consider every other member of the rock aristocracy blessed with the sort of self-deprecating sense of humour, or the sort of willing sense that, from the instant he set foot on level on the LA Troubadour in 1970 – a gig that reworked him into a celeb – his existence has been utterly ridiculous. He talked so much concerning the risk of dropping contact with who he truly used to be – a proficient however shy, music-obsessed boy from a council area in Pinner. However being attentive to him, that used to be what he seemed like: somebody who, for all his ability, couldn’t relatively imagine how it had all grew to become out.
As of late I ask him the questions we’ve been despatched, and he’s charmingly, fan-ishly thrilled that one is from Bob Dylan (Dylan preventing him and Taupin at the stairs of a New York venue and telling them he favored their songs used to be probably the most pair’s first “What the hell is going on to us?” moments). He dissolves into laughter recalling the overdue Freddie Mercury’s approach with phrases, or John Lennon’s makes an attempt to get a hold of his personal drag title. And he’s admirably unfazed by way of the tone-lowering line of inquiry pursued by way of rapper Eminem: as soon as once more, no topic turns out is off limits.
When a excursion ends I’ve a large void of time to fill. What are you going to do when this giant excursion is over?
Ed Sheeran, singer-songwriter
I don’t have a clue. I’ve were given every other couple of years to head. What I’d love to do is spend time at my area in Windsor, stroll across the lawn, meet up with pals, spend a while with the lads [his sons Zachary and Elijah]. I simply need to do not anything for approximately six months and meet up with my social existence in England. Whether or not I’ll be capable to do this is every other subject – I’m now not going to pass over travelling, or existence at the highway, or staying in resorts, however I’m a huge fidget. Once I were given in poor health a few years again, I used to be compelled to spend seven weeks at house in Windsor, getting better. It used to be the longest time I’d spent there in years, and I truly loved it: seeing the lads after they were given in from faculty, listening to their information. I be mindful once I got here out of rehab, there’s this factor they discuss known as “the outlet within the doughnut”: how will you fill the time you used to spend ingesting and taking medicine? I had these kind of extravagant concepts about finding out to talk Italian and the right way to prepare dinner, and naturally I by no means did any of them. So I’m now not making plans on anything else like that. I’d similar to to take it simple and benefit from the culmination of spending 3 and a part years at the highway.
Within the track Tiny Dancer, did you’re employed your approach as much as the cathartic refrain regularly, spontaneously, or did you’ve got it concept out from the beginning?
Bob Dylan, singer-songwriter
It is a excellent query. Tiny Dancer has a truly lengthy lyric, an overly cinematic, California-in-the-early-70s lyric, so it had two verses and a center 8 prior to it even will get to the refrain, and it lent itself to a protracted buildup. The center 8 units it up neatly, then it slows down for a second – “once I say softly, slowly…” That line steered a large refrain. I don’t be mindful a lot about writing it, however I do be mindful looking to make it sound as Californian as imaginable. Writing a track like that’s a little bit like having a wank, truly. You wish to have the climax to be excellent, however you don’t need it to be over too briefly – you wish to have to paintings your approach as much as it. Bernie’s lyric took the sort of very long time to get to the refrain, I believed, “Fuck, the refrain had higher be one thing particular when it in the end arrives.” And it’s “right here I come”, actually.
Have you ever used your marriage ceremony present but?
Ah, no. Eminem purchased me and David matching cock rings once we were given married. That used to be his present. They sit down there, just like the crown jewels, on this stunning field on satin cushions. They’re superb to take a look at. I don’t know if any visitors we’ve had have used them. God, I’m hoping now not. They’re roughly sacrosanct. The reality they got here from Eminem makes it even higher. It’s very him, as is this query. I name him up each and every couple of months, and each and every time he choices up the telephone he says the similar factor: “Hi, you outdated cunt, how are you?” Justin Timberlake says the similar factor, in reality.
Over time, you and I’ve talked concerning the want for a brand new ‘championship’ track that may turn out to be a sports activities anthem. How’s it going?
Billie Jean King, tennis champion and founder of the Billie Jean King Management Initiative
Billie Jean has at all times long gone on about We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions by way of Queen being without equal sports activities songs. I couldn’t ask Bernie to sit down down and write a lyric like that – he’s now not that roughly author. We wrote Philadelphia Freedom for Billie Jean’s tennis crew, the Philadelphia Freedoms, however it’s now not truly about tennis; Bernie simply wrote about Philadelphia. And to be truthful, We Are The Champions can’t be crushed: it’s so excellent at what it does, any recreation can use it. Queen had that marketplace sewn up, which used to be hysterical, as a result of Freddie Mercury hated recreation; he knew not anything about it in any respect. For those who’d discussed Arsenal to Freddie, he’d have concept it used to be one thing to do with homosexual intercourse.
Your trail to luck hasn’t at all times been simple. You weren’t born into privilege and also you’ve needed to struggle people’s preconceptions in lots of facets of your existence. How have you ever triumph over those demanding situations, and what drives you when issues appear tricky?
Lewis Hamilton, Components One champion
The demanding situations I had have been shyness and my sexuality. I’ve at all times attempted to be truthful. I didn’t cover my sexuality from myself or folks round me – once I realised I used to be homosexual, I advised everybody I knew; it didn’t give me a hang-up. Shyness by no means truly held me again – numerous ingenious individuals are shy and pull themselves out of that on level. It’s while you come off level and also you’re caught with your self once more that the issues get started. I discovered demanding situations arduous to triumph over till I were given sober, as a result of I didn’t know the way to maintain them.
Being sober is all about requesting assist to get via demanding situations. You’ll’t simply barrel via and do issues your self – you must succeed in out. It took me a very long time to get the place I’m now: I used to be too trusting, I didn’t like confrontations, so I made dangerous choices, particularly in industry. The worry of war of words went again to my youth, my folks rowing at all times, and it truly held me again. It become much less and no more once I were given sober, however it’s nonetheless there. It doesn’t magically disappear.
Which track from the closing 5 years do you would like you had written?
Charli XCX, singer-songwriter
I wouldn’t have minded writing Lil Nas X’s Previous The town Street, however I believe The Shaggy dog story by way of Brandi Carlile. I simply find it irresistible, I’ve performed it often. It’s simply the type of track I will have written, relatively Elton-ish. It’s the track that introduced her into the stratosphere after seven albums – it used to be nominated for 4 Grammys. She’s a pal, I like her and folks at the moment are giving her the glory she merits.
Out of everybody you’ve labored with, who’s probably the most demanding?
Fats Tony, DJ
Smartly, he wasn’t demanding, however I used to be puzzled once I went to paintings with Timbaland, the hip-hop manufacturer. I did a monitor for him in Las Vegas for his Surprise Price album. I beloved his paintings, so I went to the studio, mentioned hi and simply sat on the piano and wrote this track. He’s clearly relatively shy, and whilst I used to be writing it, he didn’t truly keep in touch with me. He used to be making beats with another man. I’m there for 3 or 4 hours, looking to write one thing truly excellent, and all I used to be listening to in my headphones used to be him messing round with beats, no comments in any respect. He didn’t inform me he favored it, didn’t inform me he didn’t find it irresistible. It used to be complicated; I used to be satisfied I used to be doing one thing improper. Once I left, he simply mentioned, “See you once more”, and I believed, “Smartly, perhaps you received’t”: I used to be crestfallen, a little bit indignant.
Anyway, the following day he rang up and mentioned: “Hello guy, it’s fucking genius. I like you, sorry if I didn’t keep in touch, I’m truly shy.” And the monitor grew to become out brilliantly. It’s known as Two Guy Display. The humorous factor is, the completed track’s were given him going “I love that… yeah… don’t it sound excellent to you, don’t you settle?” over my piano section. So it used to be superb after all. I nonetheless love him to demise.
If it’s good to be one girl alive and one girl from the previous, who would you be?
Cara Delevingne, style and actor
From the previous, I would really like to were Elizabeth Taylor, as a result of (a) she used to be fucking gifted and sensible, (b) she used to be stunning, (c) she had numerous intercourse, and (d) she had probably the most implausible jewelry. And she or he become probably the most global’s largest philanthropists. I imply, it’s a very simple selection. She used to be an overly pricey good friend of mine. She had a fully filthy sense of humour, very British. It’s arduous to pick out somebody from as of late, as a result of there are such a lot of applicants, however I believe I’d select Jacinda Ardern, the top minister of New Zealand. She’s probably the most few politicians that I admire and love – she’s were given dignity and he or she’s humane. I believe she’s doing an excellent activity.
You love to obsessively gather other types of items – artwork, pictures, jewelry. Where did this obsession get started?
Alessandro Michele, Gucci fashion designer
It began when I used to be a child. My ma and pa could be shouting at every different, or shouting at me, and I’d run to my room, the place I had my data, my toys, my books. They have been like my very best pals – they didn’t shout at me. I saved them in pristine situation – I began truly valuing items. Then once I first began earning money, I accrued artwork nouveau and artwork deco. And I’m able to eliminating stuff. Simply prior to I were given sober, I bought the whole lot. However I didn’t prevent amassing, I simply began amassing various things. Pictures, clearly, but in addition serviette rings, china and tablewear, which Gianni Versace were given me into. The true homosexual me got here out when I used to be sober!
I’d like to be a minimalist, however I simply have to just accept what I’m. I’m a magpie. You find out about issues by way of amassing – you purchase issues, you learn up about them, you be informed. I imply, I may just write a e book about serviette rings, however I don’t suppose it could be an overly giant supplier.
We had the most productive time on vacation with you and David in the summertime; who’re your favorite vacation partners of all time, except me and David after all?
Victoria Beckham, fashion designer and Spice Lady
Theo Fennell, the jeweller, and his spouse Louise. They’ve been my pals for approximately 35 years and are simply the nicest, funniest folks. When you’ve got folks on vacation with you, you must have humorous folks, and Theo is without doubt one of the funniest folks I do know. I’ve by no means had a lifeless second with them in at all times I’ve recognized them.
For those who have been a Spice Lady, which Spice Lady would you be?
Sam Smith, singer
Clearly Posh. Even supposing, there used to be an aspect of me prior to I were given sober that will undoubtedly were Mel B.
You stored my existence. What number of different lives have you ever stored?
Donatella Versace, fashion designer
I’ve completely no thought. Donatella’s speaking about habit right here. I’m answerable for serving to numerous folks get sober and expectantly to stick sober. That’s your accountability, and it’s a part of the method. You give them your telephone quantity, you are taking theirs, you be sure to telephone them, check out them, see they’re OK – that’s what I did with Eminem.
I be mindful very, really well the evening Donatella determined to head for assist. It used to be an intervention, which isn’t at all times the easiest way of doing issues – if folks aren’t able for it, it turns right into a crisis. With Donatella, I knew she used to be able, as a result of she got here to look me play a display in Reggio Calabria 3 weeks previously. She used to be in a horrible state, and I knew she used to be giving me a message: “I want assist, I want this now, I’m at my lowest ebb.” She didn’t take a lot persuading to head.
Some folks, you check out they usually simply don’t need to know. George Michael used to be like that. He did cross away to Switzerland for some time, however he used to be too cussed. It used to be bizarre; when he died, Ozzy Osbourne mentioned to me, “ what, Elton? I don’t suppose he sought after to be right here any longer”, which turns out like a harsh factor to mention, however I believe it used to be proper. He didn’t need to be right here. He had a call, he knew what he needed to do and he wouldn’t do it. So there you cross.
What are your actual or imagined best 3 drag names?
Tilda Swinton, actor
I’ve were given 3 drag names. My unique drag title, the only I take advantage of probably the most, is Sharon Cavendish. Cavendish got here from a keyboard participant within the 50s known as Kay Cavendish, who used to be at all times billed as Kitten On The Keys. My good friend Tony King got here up with it. Once I’m in France, I’m Régine Pouffe. And once I’m in Atlanta, as a result of I reside in a space known as Buckhead, I’m Tallulah Buckhead. And I’ve been recognized to test into resorts as Chlamydia Schiffer, which David got here up with. You’ll’t select your drag title – somebody has to provide it to you. I like giving folks drag names. John Lennon sought after to be Morag, however it doesn’t paintings like that, so he ended up being Carol Dakota. Freddie Mercury used to be Melina, after [Greek actor, singer and politician] Melina Mercouri. Rod Stewart’s Phyllis.
The sector misplaced an implausible artist to HIV when Freddie Mercury died. Are you able to proportion your favorite reminiscence of him?
Peter Sands, govt director of the World Fund to Combat Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Behind the curtain at Reside Assist, I had an enormous space that I roughly adorned. I made certain there have been seats for everybody, in order that individuals who have been enjoying may just sit down down and feature a natter. Freddie came around after Queen had stolen the display. I mentioned, “Freddie, no one will have to cross on after you – you have been magnificent.” He mentioned: “You’re completely proper, darling, we have been – we killed them.” He used to be so excited. Then he mentioned, “You, however, pricey – you gave the look of the fucking Queen Mom while you have been on level. The place did you get that totally terrible hat?” That used to be very Freddie. He used to be hilarious. Even if he used to be loss of life, he used to be precisely the similar. He used to be mendacity in mattress, too susceptible to face, dropping his sight, going: “Have you ever heard Mrs Bowie’s new album, darling? What does she suppose she’s doing?” I at all times had the most productive time with him.
I in finding you to be probably the most very best soul singers of all time. Which singers impressed you and helped you in finding your personal voice?
Lenny Kravitz, singer
Within the 60s, I used to be in a band that performed soul song – we began out enjoying blues and switched to soul. I used to sing My Lady by way of The Temptations, and we were given to play because the backing band for Lee Dorsey, Main Lance, Patti LaBelle and Billy Stewart. I discovered so much simply by looking at them each and every evening. I by no means consciously attempted to mimic soul singers – you must be original in what you do. But it surely’s my favorite form of song, I’ve at all times beloved it. It has the most productive singers – Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack, Levi Stubbs from The 4 Tops, the Detroit Spinners, the Stylistics – and clearly I’ve listened to such a lot of it, a little bit bit rubbed off. I’ve had 3 data at Number 1 on america R&B chart: Bennie And The Jets, Philadelphia Freedom and Mama Can’t Purchase You Love, which used to be extremely flattering.
Have you ever ever thought of what existence would were like had you been born a woman and grown up in 1950s England. Do you suppose you might have adopted your instincts to make song?
Kristin Scott Thomas, actor
It used to be very tricky to be a woman within the 50s. I didn’t benefit from the 50s a lot – it used to be all folks peering out from in the back of their web curtains and being judgmental. For a lady, sexuality wasn’t mentioned – if she were given pregnant, she used to be despatched away in shame. It’s more difficult for girls, duration, however particularly within the 50s. They have been seemed upon by way of boys as intercourse items and not anything extra – you understand, “I will be able to’t wait to get a little bit of tit.” I had feminine pals in class, and I clearly didn’t take a look at them as a possible little bit of tit, however that’s how they have been noticed.
If I had the similar musical needs, after all I’d have attempted to observe them, however it could were such a lot more difficult. There have been no function fashions for feminine musicians on the time – boys had dozens, however the entire feminine artists have been singers; there have been no function fashions for songwriters and musicians. There used to be Honey Lantree, who performed drums in The Honeycombs, and that used to be it. My dad concept it used to be disgraceful that I sought after to get all for rock’n’roll. Are you able to believe what it could were like if I used to be a woman?
Considered one of your first items to improve the struggle in opposition to Aids used to be donating all your vinyl assortment to the Terrence Higgins Believe. Are we the place you concept we might be within the struggle in opposition to HIV now – and have you ever changed the gathering?
Ian Inexperienced, leader govt, THT
Smartly, we’ve the drugs to prevent the illness, which is what we want. We don’t have a vaccine or a remedy, however there’s little need for any person on the earth to be suffering from this illness any longer. They may be able to reside a protracted and wholesome existence, the similar as any person else, in the event that they get examined and identified early sufficient. However the aggravating factor remains to be the stigma. Individuals are afraid of having examined, as a result of they’re ashamed, or as a result of their households will throw them out. That occurs in Africa and jap Europe, but in addition in rural The usa, which is incredible in 2019. We will prevent the unfold of the illness now – it’s extra treatable than diabetes, for Christ’s sake. We want folks to get examined, know their standing and personal their standing. We want extra function fashions like [former rugby player] Gareth Thomas to come back out and say they’re HIV sure so individuals are much less afraid. That’s the place we stand. And feature I changed my vinyl? Sure. I began purchasing once more about 5 years in the past. I’ve most definitely were given extra now than I had then.
Did fairytale archetypes take hold of you as a kid? What tale couldn’t you get sufficient of?
Sophie Dahl, creator and previous style
I favored Alice In Wonderland, and I favored Peter Pan. I lived in my creativeness so much, and I beloved to learn: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Moby-Dick, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. That used to be what allowed your creativeness to run revolt – books and being attentive to the radio. There used to be no TV, or no less than we didn’t have one at that time, so that you have been compelled to visualize stuff your self. And I believe that helped me once I become a songwriter. With Bernie’s lyrics, I may just put photographs to his phrases in no time, as a result of I had an excellent visible creativeness. So with one thing like Tiny Dancer, I may just see the track, I may just believe what used to be occurring instantly.
How do you stay traveling a laugh while you’re now not on level?
Billie Eilish, singer
When I used to be more youthful, the whole lot about traveling used to be extremely thrilling. We have been working on adrenaline and the whole lot used to be a brand new revel in, even getting on a airplane. Now I attempt to come house after displays as frequently as I will be able to. If I’m staying within the town I play in, I am going to pictures galleries, museums. I go on a spree, I see pals for lunch. It’s arduous in the event you’re in the midst of nowhere – but when that’s the case, I at all times take a e book of crosswords.
Your lovers would possibly not have recognized about your classical coaching on the Royal Academy of Track till they noticed Rocketman. For those who had your time once more, would you continue to undergo it?
Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, most important, the Royal Academy of Track
In a heartbeat. I knew I wasn’t going to be a classical pianist – my fingers are too small and I sought after to be a rock’n’roll participant. But it surely used to be a good looking position, even though it used to be stuffed with concern – it used to be strict, they hated anything else that wasn’t classical song, despite the fact that it’s very other now. I discovered such a lot from being within the choir, from the opposite musicians, from the academics. You’ll pay attention it within the Elton John album: The King Should Die, The Largest Discovery, Sixty Years On. I’d advise any person to get formal coaching, as it teaches you the rudiments – chord construction, melody. It introduces you to song that’s stunning and miles clear of what it’s possible you’ll do. It fills your intellect with choices.
Any ghost sightings at your manor in recent times?
Kacey Musgraves, singer
My manor! Woodside, my area in Windsor, is supposed to be haunted, however I’ve by no means noticed a ghost and I’ve lived there since 1974. David noticed her, regardless that. It used to be a Victorian woman. She sat at the mattress and requested him if he may just prevent the noise out of doors – there have been deer rutting within the park. David used to be very calm. I’d were apprehensive to demise!
I did see a ghost as soon as, in a lodge in Belgium that was a convent. I went to mattress and felt one thing urgent down on my chest. I used to be too terrified to transport. So, strictly talking, I haven’t noticed a ghost, however I’ve been sat on by way of one.
The place did your love of soccer and Watford FC come from?
Troy Deeney, Watford captain
My cousin, Roy Dwight, used to be a qualified footballer. He performed for Fulham, in order a child I used to sit down at the touchline at Craven Cottage and watch him. That is how outdated I’m – Jimmy Hill used to be enjoying for Fulham on the time. After which my dad took me to look Watford, as a result of they have been our native crew. I used to be six or seven. I fell in love with the entire revel in. And that used to be it. You’ll’t shake your crew: it’s for your blood and your bones, even if they’re utterly shit. Clearly, after they’re doing neatly it’s superb, however the different week they misplaced Eight-Zero to Manchester Town and I sought after to move slowly right into a hollow and die. However you’ll’t improve any person else. Watford are my crew, and I’m happy. I by no means concept I’d finally end up proprietor of the membership, or a director, however Watford stored my existence. Running with them saved me grounded when my existence used to be going utterly loopy – it jogged my memory of my roots, of who I truly used to be. I’m endlessly thankful to them. Excluding after they lose Eight-Zero. I’m now not very thankful then.
• Me by way of Elton John is revealed by way of Pan Macmillan on 15 October at £25. To reserve a duplicate for £18.75, cross to guardianbookshop.com. Loose UK p&p on all on-line orders over £15.
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