elton john and john lennon -- 8/27/21
Today's selection -- from Me by Elton John. John Lennon and Elton John became good friends:
"I first met John Lennon through Tony King, who had moved to LA to become Apple Records' general manager in the US. In fact, the first time I met John Lennon, he was dancing with Tony King. Nothing unusual in that, other than the fact that they weren't in a nightclub, there was no music playing and Tony was in full drag as Queen Elizabeth II. They were at Capitol Records in Hollywood, where Tony's new office was, shooting a TV advert for John's forthcoming album Mind Games, and, for reasons best known to John, this was the big concept.
"I took to him straight away. It wasn't just that he was a Beatle and therefore one of my idols. He was a Beatle who thought it was a good idea to promote his new album by dancing around with a man dragged up as the Queen, for fuck's sake. I thought: We're going to get on like a house on fire. And I was right. As soon as we started talking, it felt like I'd known him my entire life.
"We began spending a lot of time together, whenever I was in America. He'd separated from Yoko and was living in Los Angeles with May Pang. I know that period in his life is supposed to have been really troubled and unpleasant and dark, but I've got to be honest, I never saw that in him at all. I heard stories occasionally -- about some sessions he'd done with Phil Spector that went completely out of control, about him going crazy one night and smashing up the record producer Lou Adler's house. I could see a darkness in some of the people he was hanging out with: Harry Nilsson was a sweet guy, an incredibly talented singer and songwriter, but one drink too many and he'd turn into someone else, someone you really had to watch yourself around. And John and I certainly took a lot of drugs together and had some berserk nights out, as poor old Dr John would tell you. We went to see him at the Troubadour and he invited John onstage to jam. John was so pissed he ended up playing the organ with his elbows. It somehow fell to me to get him offstage.
"In fact, you didn't even need to go out to have a berserk night in John's company. One evening in New York, we were holed up in my suite at the Sherry-Netherland hotel, determinedly making our way through a pile of coke, when someone knocked at the door. My first thought was that it was the police: if you've taken a lot of cocaine and someone unexpectedly knocks at the door, your immediate thought is always that it's the police. John gestured at me to see who it was. I looked through the spyhole. My reaction was a peculiar combination of relief and incredulity. 'John,' I whispered. 'It's Andy Warhol.'
"John shook his head frantically and drew his finger across his throat. 'No fucking way. Don't answer it,' he hissed.
"'What?' I whispered back. 'What do you mean don't answer it? It's Andy Warhol.'
"There was more knocking. John rolled his eyes. 'Has he got that fucking camera with him?' he asked.
"I looked again through the spyhole and nodded. Andy took his Polaroid camera everywhere.
"'Right,' said John. 'And do you want him coming in here taking photos when you've got icicles of coke hanging out of your nose?' I had to concede that I did not. 'Then don't fucking answer it,' whispered John, and we crept back to doing whatever we were doing, trying to ignore the continued knocking of the world's most famous pop artist.
"But I genuinely never encountered that nasty, intimidating, destructive aspect of John that people talk about, the biting, acerbic wit. I'm not trying to paint some saintly posthumous portrait at all; I obviously knew that side of him existed, I just never saw it first-hand. All I ever saw from him was kindness and gentleness and fun, so much so that I took my mum and Derf to meet him. We went out to dinner, and when John went to the toilet, Derf thought it would be a great joke to take his false teeth out and put them in John's drink: there was something infectious about John's sense of humour that made people do things like that. Jesus, he was so funny. Whenever I was with him -- or even better, him and Ringo -- I just laughed and laughed and laughed.
"We became so close that when his ex-wife Cynthia brought their son Julian to New York to see him, he asked me and Tony to chaperone them on their voyage over. We travelled to America on the SS France, this gorgeous old ship, on its last voyage from Southampton to New York. Most of my band and their partners came too. The other passengers were quite snooty towards us -- these rich, enormous American women saying things like, 'He's supposed to be famous, but I've never heard of him,' whenever I walked past them -- but in fairness, I had dyed my hair bright green and brought suitcases filled with suits by the designer Tommy Nutter that were so loud they could permanently damage your hearing. I could hardly complain about attracting attention, adverse or otherwise. They liked me even less when I won the bingo one afternoon, not least because I got overexcited and screamed 'BINGO!' at the top of my voice. I subsequently discovered that the correct way to signify that you'd won on board the SS France was to graciously and demurely murmur the word 'house'. Well, that's not how they teach you to play bingo in Pinner, baby."