As Elton John continues on his publicity tour for his riveting autobiography Me, out now, he stopped by iHeartRadio’s intimate theater in Burbank, Calif., Wednesday night (Oct. 16) for an interview with on-air personality Jim Kerr to share stories from his life and perform selected songs in his vast catalog.  John, clad in a Carolina-blue embroidered jacket, pink pants and Gucci sneakers, easily toggled between the interview chair and the piano bench. In the midst of his three-year farewell tour, John sounded incredibly strong-voiced, masterfully playing snippets of “The Greatest Discovery,” “I Need You To Turn To,” “Border Song," “Take Me To The Pilot," “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Bennie & The Jets,” “Skyline Pigeon” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”

Among the other highlights from the evening:

John and lyricist Bernie Taupin Wrote Together Before They Ever Met
After their mutual publisher handed a young John an envelope with some of Taupin’s lyrics in the late ‘60s, John took the train home from London, sat at the piano and poured forth melodies to match the words. It was only after the first writing sessions that the two actually met in a cafe. “His words always tell stories,” John said, “So when I look at the title and the lyric, a little movie came into my head…and it’s been the same ever since the first lyric. It’s the same now. We don’t sit in the same room. I read the lyric. I write the song, he comes in and says ‘yea.’ He never says ‘nay.’ He’s thought ‘nay,’ but he’s never said ‘nay.’ I can’t imagine having had someone else to do it. It would have been awful.”

He hosted John Lennon’s last night on stage
After John played piano and sang backing vocals on John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” John told Lennon that he had to come on stage with him if the song reached No. 1, which it did, making it Lennon’s first solo No. 1. In his last major performance before his death six years later, Lennon joined John on stage at Madison Square Garden in November 1974 (though John recalled it as 1975 during the iHeart interview).  “He loved New York, he loved America,” John says of the evening, which also led to Lennon’s reconciliation with Yoko Ono. The pair played “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There” as well as the new hit. “John was such a fun person. He was one of the naughtiest people I ever met and we got on like a house on fire,” John said. “He had a great sense of humor.” 

His memory is astounding
John wrote the music for 1975’s Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy sailing from England to America without ever writing down a note. “You didn’t have tape recorders in those days, so when I wrote a song, I played it over and over until I knew the chords so I’d remember the words and everything,” John said. “I took a voyage from Southampton, England to New York on the SS France and I wanted to write the Captain Fantastic album. I had the lyrics. I had booked the music room for an hour and a half [each day] while the opera singer, who had booked the whole music room, went to lunch. In that time, I wrote the whole Captain Fantastic album and I remembered all the songs so that by the time I got to New York and left for Colorado [to record], I had the songs imprinted in my mind. Pretty amazing….”  John is going to try to make lightning strike twice. He is headed to Australia and New Zealand for 42 shows. “I’m going to write some songs to [Taupin’s] lyrics and see how it goes and I’m going to try to remember them. I’m going to see if at 72 I can remember the same I did when I was 26.” 

He’s Not Going Away
After the 350-show farewell tour ends, John pledges he’s not going away. “It’s not to say I’m going to stop doing  things. I’m going to make records, I’m going to write musicals and I will do the odd show, here and there, maybe a residency, but it won’t be traveling,” he says. “I will never be in Australia again or all over Europe. I'll be in England or America and that’s it but I don’t know where, I don’t know when and I don’t know if it will even happen… Life throws curveballs at you.”

He’s Just Like Us—Only Fancier
As his fame grew, John found himself living in a bubble, surrounded by sycophants, who left him incapable of performing the most basic of duties. The realization came to a head when he went into rehab 20 years ago. “There are times when you do lose touch and you have people who suddenly start to do everything for you and you lose the ability to do things for yourself and keep up a routine and suddenly you realize 'I can’t even function’ or do anything for myself and that’s a very dangerous thing,” John said. “It happens a lot to people who become famous…Suddenly you rely on people and you lose all sense of your own faculties and your own responsibilities and your self-esteem. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t work a washing machine when I went into treatment. I wasn’t ashamed that I [was an addict], I was ashamed I couldn’t operate a washing machine. Normalcy is important for everyone. I lead an incredibly blessed and luxurious life, but at the end of the day I like to do the washing up, I like to put the plates away, I like to do the same thing everyone likes to do,” John said, pausing a beat before adding, “I just like to do it in a grander way.“


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