Elton John described John Lennon ‘dream come true whirlwind romance’
Elton John sings at Princess Diana's funeral in 1997
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On November 28, 1974, John Lennon made his last ever concert appearance, as a guest of Elton John at Madison Square Garden in New York. The two legends performed Whatever Gets You Thru the Night, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, and I Saw Her Standing There. It was the culmination of an intense relationship but also marked the moment Elton would lose what they had together. Five decades later, Elton opened up about that extraordinary two-year period with his fellow music idol to Lennon’s son Sean.
Elton said: “That was the kind of wonderful two or three-year whirlwind romance we had and it was such an important thing in my life, Sean, and it just really helped me. It gave me so much confidence. Your dad was as kind and as generous and sweet, and we just hit it off immediately.”
The two international stars only met in person for the first time in 1973. By then, Elton’s 1970 breakthrough single Your Song had been a top ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic. His 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sold over 30 million copies and the 17 tracks included iconic hits Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.
Yet, he was totally starstruck to meet one of heroes and told Sean he had cycled eight miles to buy the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The conversation on BBC Radio was part of the celebrations for what would have been Lennon’s 80th birthday.
Elton describes an incredible two year period that followed, filled with laughter and creative exchanges where Elton played on John’s fifth album, Wall & Bridges, notably on the track Whatever Gets You Through Night.
John guest starred at Elton’s legendary Madison Square Gardens concert in November 1974 where they duetted on the aforementioned track, among others. WATCH THEM PERFORM IT BELOW.
Elton said of the whole experience: “It was just, for me, it was a dream come true. We laughed so much because we talked about the 50s and 60s and where we grew up, you know, Round the Horne in England, the radio shows we liked, the songs we liked, we didn’t like, and your dad was just a fountain of knowledge.”
Elton added: “It was a hand-in-glove thing and I never thought that would ever happen. There was no attitude. I hate posers and I hate attitude and your dad didn’t have any of it.”
They originally met at a video shoot for the former Beatles’ fourth album, Mind Games.
Elton told Sean: “I was a little bit… obviously I was in awe I was meeting any of The Beatles and they all treated me so brilliantly, but your dad had that edge that none of the other Beatles had kind of because he wasn’t afraid to say what he thought.
“Your dad was as kind and as generous and sweet and we just hit it off immediately. He was so funny. That’s what I loved about him. And we talked about music, we talked about records we loved.”
Sean suggested that his father’s love for Elton would have tempered his behaviour: “I imagine he had… a special love and respect for you so he might not have been the same with everyone necessarily.
“I know for sure that he loved you equally because I read a lot about things he said, and he never really spoke of anyone as highly as you, he really did love you.”
John and Elton’s intense emotional relationship would be loosely called a ‘bromance’ these days, but that clearly is insufficient to describe the bond between the two iconic and world-famous artists.
John had left his second wife Yoko Ono during that time and was dating music executive Mae Pang. Elton was riding high on his first major wave of stardom and success. They clearly both found a safe space with each other.
Backstage after the Madison Square Gardens concert, though, Lennon reunited with Yoko. The couple soon had son Sean, who later asked Elton to be his godfather.
Elton says: “After that and then you were born, I really didn’t hear or see your dad at all and I didn’t mind because you know what, he was so happy being back with your mum, and he was so enchanted having you that it was his life had become another thing and so I didn’t really speak to him or see him that much at all or hear from him.
“And I didn’t mind because it was just the fact that that night was so consequential in the history of his life. The fact that he got back together with your mum and then they had you.”
John remained with Yoko until he was murdered by Mark Chapman outside his New York home at the Dakota Hotel on December 8, 1980. Elton and Bernie Taupin wrote the song Empty Gardens in his memory.
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