Gene Pierson (Giancarlo Salvestrin) interview with Elton John 1971

What Elton John's like live - wild!

by GENE PIERSON, who caught Elton’s show during his Qantas round-the-world pop investigation.

Whatever you do, don’t miss Elton John when he visits Australia. The guy really is a superstar, even though he detests the term, and his rock-piano act has to be seen to be believed. We caught them at the Troubador in Los Angeles, a sort of super-Chequers disco, with a second floor. It cost $3.50 to get in not bad to hear a star of Elton’s calibre but they hit you for drinks — about $2550 a time.

Hookfoot, the English rock group who supported him in America did a good, all original-material act; they won’t be coming to Australia, though, I believe.

Then Elton and Bernie Taupin take over. Bemie is best known as the guy who writes the words for Elton ’s songs, but he is part of the act, does the introductions and sings, too.

They did quite a few numbers, from their records “Your Song”, and a few other quiet numbers. But then Elton goes into his big rock section, getting onto the funkier stuff like “Take Me to the Pilot". And he’s sensational, really pounding that piano, kicking up from it, leaping onto the top, Jerry Lew Lewis style, playing with his feet..Then he’s down lying on the stage, and still playing with one hand up over his head.

It's great crowd-pleasing stuff And, of course, Elton wears way-out gear just to add to the effect. The night we saw him, Elton had a shirt with the stars all over it, right across his midriff and down his pants.

A lesser star couldn't get away with it. But Elton John can do it, because his piano is so strong and funky; and the songs are likewise. I’ll never forget their “Bum Down The Mission” which wound up the show it was really wild. Elton, incidentally, doesn’t talk to the audience. Bemie Taupin did all the talking the night we were there, but he and Elton were throwing off at each other all the time. I had a chance to meet Elton later. They say he’s shy, but he was full of boyish enthusiasm the night I talked to him, dancing round the room in his Mickey Mouse shirt!

He commented on some of his albums. “Empty Skies”, never released here, was an “early disaster full of clumsiness and lyrics that would not blend neatly”. (It was made not long after Bernie and Elton were first matched after answering advertisements for songwriters). “Elton John”, the second and best selling album, “was nice because I liked writing songs for orchestration and many instruments. But like to be funky and simple. “Tumbleweed Connection” is much simpler and funkier. But eventually I ’d like to get back into creating an orchestrated album”.

Elton and Bemie are two superb songwriters (though I object to some of Taupin’s lyrics) and two super-plain guys two fellows who like to write songs and that's it. The fact that Elton has a strong vocal performance is because he’s the kind of songwriter who believes he can render his tune better than anyone else. And he probably can. In this case it's the song, not the singer that matters, and I think Elton may feel the same thing, for when his record company began billing him as a superstar he commanded them to stop that kind of advertising. After all, Bemie’s lyrics and Paul Buckmaster’s arrangements have a lot to do with it too.

Elton and Bernie are two fortunate songwriters who were granted the liberty to create the way they feel like creating. Not everyone gets that break but when "someone makes as good a use of it as they have, you just have to sit back and applaud.