On a wet night in London, September, 19, 2000, Bernie Taupins original handwritten pencil lyrics for Crocodile Rock sold for £7,000 at auctioneers Sothebys.
The item was one of the highlights at Sothebys annual Rock N Roll auction at Hard Rock Café in Park Lane, London - the fifth at the venue. A packed room of 150 investors (and not an Elton t-shirt in sight!) heard a total of 58 lots come up, four of which were Elton-related.
The lyrics, made extra special as the clarion call for Elton fans to jump up from concert seats and join Elton stage-side for the last section of the recent solo tour, literally went for a song. The lyrics had a book value of between £6,500 and £7,500 (US$9,800/US$11,300).
The auctioneer started bids on Lot 24 at £3,200, and this soon escalated. Within 70 seconds the item was braced for what appeared to be a matched bid on a phone called bid, but an investor in the second row at the venue was the lucky bidder.
"I think it sold very comfortably indeed and better than I thought it might" Stephen Maycock, Sothebys chief valuer for rock n roll memorabilia told me after the auction.
"I cant think of any other lyrics from Bernie which have come on the market at the time of composition. This ones dated April 1972, and has only tiny amendments from the final version which Elton recorded," Maycock added. (Fans will recall that Sir George Martins and Eltons original score for Candle In the Wind 1997 was previously sold by Sothebys).
Other items which sold included Lot 2, a white matte Gold sales award for the album Honky Chateau which contains our famous anthem Hercules! It commanded a substantial pound;1,300, after bidding started at £500. The catalogue value was £700 to £1,000.
Also, Lot 12, a platinum sales award for album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was hammered for £500, after bidding started at £220. It reached its low point of the range £500 to £700. Meanwhile, Lot 30, a platinum sales award for Elton Johns Greatest Hits from 1975 went the same way as the other album sold for £500 after a start at £220 and identical value range.
The cream came near the end, when Jimi Hendrixs oriental-style green jacket from 1967 went for a topping £30,000, well above the range of £18,000 to £20,000.
It doesnt end there. An online auction at www.sothebys.amazon.com runs now until September 28, 2000, and contains more Elton John items, including a pair of 1970s spectacles valued at up to £2,200. The website, launched in November 1999, has attracted larger average bids than venue bidding made possible, Maycock told me.
Already a steady flow of bids for Elton items has been recorded, but Maycock is banking on it being early days!
The bias to items for bid at Hard Rock Café was those which are more visual, such as clothes. And is Elton gear selling better after Eltons watershed year 1997? Eltons always in the papers, but less so musically. Hes not so much promoting albums and singles as he used to. And theres not the same hysteria as there was in the 1980s.
Some of the items online are making their second appearance at Sothebys, having first been auctioned at Eltons inaugural and historic auction in September 1988. Fans, listen in good: Maycock said it is possible that items on the website will fetch lower prices than they did in 1988.
"Its not impossible that sellers could make a loss. Some investors may have decided that they have enjoyed the items for 12 years and perhaps lifestyle changes necessitate their sale," he said.
"Such items are already second hand when Elton sells them. So, what does that make them when someone resells them? (In the past few years) prices paid arent as high as we saw in 1988, but Elton remains very popular, and Im not really surprised that Bernies lyrics commanded such a good bid tonight."