In the lead up to Friday's (May 31st) release of his biopic Rocketman, Elton John wrote a massive essay for The Guardian giving his thoughts on his life and how they connect with the eagerly anticipated movie. Elton wrote in part, “Some studios wanted to tone down the sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating. But I just haven’t led a PG-13 rated life. I didn’t want a film packed with drugs and sex, but equally, everyone knows I had quite a lot of both during the 70's and 80's, so there didn’t seem to be much point in making a movie that implied that after every gig, I’d quietly gone back to my hotel room with only a glass of warm milk and the Gideon’s Bible for company.”
He went on to say that he and Bernie Taupin, his lyricist for 52 years, were thrown into the whirlwind of sudden fame and wealth while still in their 20's: “Understandably, Bernie and I had no idea what the hell was going on — y'know, I hadn’t even wanted to be a rock star in the first place, I just wanted to be a successful songwriter — but it just got bigger and bigger over the next few years. I kept a diary the whole time, and it’s inadvertently hilarious. I wrote everything down in this matter-of-fact way, which ends up making it seem even more preposterous: 'Woke up, watched Grandstand. Wrote 'Candle In The Wind.' Went to London, bought Rolls-Royce. Ringo Starr came for dinner.”
Elton explained that he was so dedicated to the movie being honest that he showed leading man Taron Egerton his personal diaries from the era: “I gave my diaries to Taron to read. . . He came to my house, we had a takeaway curry and chatted, and I let him see them. I knew Taron was the right man when I heard him sing 'Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.' I thought it was really important that whoever played me didn’t lip-sync, I wanted them to actually sing the songs.”
Elton explained that ironically Bernie Taupin — the man who imagined all of the lyrics to Elton's classic songs — had an issue with the over-the-top cinematic aspects of Rocketman: “He was apprehensive about the film. He read the script and he didn’t like the fantasy aspects of it. 'But that didn’t happen, that’s not true' — very Bernie. Then he saw it and completely got it. I don’t think he actually burst into tears, but he was incredibly moved by it. He understood the point of it, which was to make something that was like my life: chaotic, funny, mad, horrible, brilliant and dark. It’s obviously not all true, but it’s the truth.”
Elton went on to talk candidly about his alcohol and substance abuse, admitting, “In a way, it’s a miracle I didn’t go off the rails before I did. It took three or four years — and my discovery of cocaine — before things started getting out of hand, maybe because I was working so hard that I didn’t have too much time to think about it. I was always on tour or making a new album. Of course, when I did go off the rails, that happened like a missile as well.”
On reliving the less seemly aspects of his life spread across the big screen, Elton admitted, “It’s strange, I don’t find it painful to watch those parts of the film. They’re truthful and, unlike my childhood, it was my own fault. No one forced me to do drugs and drink. In fact, more than a few people tried to warn me I was out of control. It took a fairly Herculean effort to get yourself noticed for taking too much cocaine in the music industry of 1970's L.A., but I was clearly prepared to put the hours in.”
Elton John, who first started recording in the 1960's, is truly a rock legend who can say they have “been there — done that” to the extreme: “Rock n' roll has given me an incredible life. What I did along the way, I was going, y'know, 'Well, if there's drugs, I'm gonna do them. I'm gonna play the whole game.' And that's a dangerous game to play because you might not come put the other side — and very nearly didn't. I think that's one of my personality traits; I'm a complete addict in anything I do. I do things in excess to everything — and I admit that. I would love to be a minimalist. And I look in magazines and I see minimalist homes and I say, 'Oh, this is so great. This is aesthetically so beautiful' — but I just can't” (laughs)
Elton's John's “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour next plays on Wednesday night (May 29th) in Verona, Italy.