Read: Me By Elton John
Choosing one’s favourite Elton John story – like choosing one’s favourite Elton song – can feel like limiting oneself to a mere single grape from the horn of plenty. Leaving aside the music for the moment, Elton’s public and maybe even private persona can be divided into two phases: first there was the raging drugs monster, as extravagantly talented as he was costumed. Now that he’s sober, there’s the more conservatively dressed, happily married elder statesman of British pop, a proper establishment figure, albeit one who’s still unafraid to pick fights with everyone from Keith Richards (“a monkey with arthritis”) to Madonna (“looks like a fairground stripper”). Both eras have yielded a steady crop of outstanding Elton anecdotes, often retold by Elton himself, who, possessing the kind of self-knowledge few of his fame and wealth retain, tells his stories better than anyone else. Probably the most infamous of all is the one about the time he’d been up for several days (this, clearly, was from the pre-sobriety era) when he decided something really needed to be sorted out. No, not his devastating drug addiction or his lack of sleep – the problem was the weather. So he called a chap in his office and told him to sort it out: “It’s far too windy here, can you do something about it?”
Such is the wealth of material he has to choose from, this story gets only a passing mention in his outrageously enjoyable autobiography: “This is obviously the ideal moment to state once and for all that this story is a complete urban myth. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that, because the story is completely true,” he writes, with a self-deprecating shrug. And then he moves on to the next tale, which might be about the night he and John Lennon refused to answer the door to Andy Warhol because, as Lennon hissed to Elton: “Do you want him coming in here taking photos when you’ve got icicles of coke hanging out of your nose?” Or it might be about the time Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone nearly came to blows over Princess Diana at one of his dinner parties. That he has celebrity anecdotes to burn is not a surprise. But the self-mocking tone is more unexpected from a musician so grand that at his 2014 wedding party he had one table dedicated solely to the Beatles and their families. Yet while his extraordinary talent justified his personal excesses, it is his self-awareness that has counterbalanced the narcissism and made him such a likable figure. This is, after all, the man who allowed his husband, David Furnish, to make a documentary about him and call it Tantrums and Tiaras.
So it is entirely and pleasingly right that Elton has called his book, quite simply, Me: not for him any pretentious effort to dress up the navel gazing nature of memoir writing as art or courageous truth-telling. It’s just Elton talking about Elton. It quickly becomes clear in Me that few people are more suited to the celebrity autobiography genre, given that he combines the most essential ingredients of the form. First, his life is still hilariously over the top (tabloid photos of Elton, dressed head to toe in Gucci, tootling about on his yacht with his similarly clad family have become as much of a signifier of summer to me as any number of swallows). Unlike other celebrities who act as if their position on the A-list is only provisional and they therefore mustn’t break the rules of discretion among the famous, Elton cheerfully gossips about everyone from Bob Dylan (terrible at charades, FYI) to David Bowie (“don’t know what [his] problem was”) as if they were his neighbours in Pinner, where he grew up. He is Joan Collins mixed with Joan Rivers, and if anyone can think of a more delicious combination they are probably deeper than I am. Best of all, he remembers, if not everything, then certainly a lot – unlike that arthritic monkey, Keith Richards, whose poor ghostwriter, James Fox, “had to do a little sleuthing” to confirm the Rolling Stone’s stories for Life, his 2010 memoir.
In his first and only official autobiography, music icon Elton John reveals the truth about his extraordinary life, which is also the subject of the upcoming film Rocketman. The result is Me - the joyously funny, honest and moving story of the most enduringly successful singer/songwriter of all time.
Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was on his first tour of America, facing an astonished audience in his tight silver hotpants, bare legs and a T-shirt with ROCK AND ROLL emblazoned across it in sequins. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again.
His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with the Queen; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation. All the while, Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade.
In Me Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you, by a living legend.
Me, Elton John