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BACKSTAGE: New Minsley Express

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Rocket Man gives Expressed interview for ABC
Tuesday 19 November 2002 @ 16:00 - GMT

For the benefit of our Citizens, here is the full interview for ABC Network's Good Morning America programme on November 18, 2002:

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS:

"All right, Tony. Thanks. Well, the title of the song that turned him into a musical force was prophetic, Your Song it was called. And Elton John, its been more than three decades creating what would become all of our songs. Elton John with writing partner Bernie Taupin, King Craftsman Of Pop. More than 150 million records sold worldwide, Grammy's, Oscar, Tony, Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame, even knighthood all have come his way. Adding up to one of the most creative, flamboyant, remarkable, enviable careers in the history of popular music, and it's all there on a new milestone release, Elton John: Greatest Hits 1970-2002. And Elton John joins us this morning at the piano in the Townhouse Studios in London. And good morning. It's great to see you."

ELTON JOHN: "Good morning, Diane. It's great to be here."

DIANE SAWYER: "So, we went back to the liner notes and there we saw a picture of little Reginald Dwight. I believe he was sitting at the piano, I'm not sure of the age. But if he had known that three decades of rocking on top were ahead of him, would he have believed it?"

ELTON: "Absolutely no way would I have believed it. I mean, when I was in a band, in a professional band playing organ, I, was, I was really bored with it and I thought, what else could I do? Maybe I could write songs. And, and I was very shy in those days, but took the chance and answered an advertisement in the New Minsley Express. And I said, I can write melodies, I can't write lyrics. And they said, well, this guy from Lincolnshire has sent in some lyrics. Go and write to those. And, of course, they were Bernie's lyrics. So, that was an incredible twist of fate. And then, when people didn't record our songs that we wrote, I was forced to record them. And everything happened really by accident, but it was one glorious accident. And, you know, I wouldn't have swapped it for anything."

DIANE SAWYER: " 'Cause we all like to imagine the mystery of being able to come up with those melodies. I see here that one of your favorite songs is "Tiny Dancer." Now, can you show us a little on the piano? You get the lyric, and what's the first thing you start playing? What's the first fingering you start with?"

ELTON: "Well, usually, usually I try and start with a chord sequence or a riff. So, the beginning of "Tiny Dancer" is . . . "

Elton performs Tiny Dancer live

ELTON: "And I'd start with a, a chord sequence for the, like, one of those from the middle eight. It's just really a, I look at the lyrics, see what kind of song I think it's gonna be, fast, slow, medium. And if I'm lucky, I'll get a chord sequence that goes with it. And in 35, 40 minutes the, you'll have a song. Sometimes, and I just don't, I'm not able to write to the lyric, and then, I, I have to give it up. But usually it's by some quirk of fate, by some, you know, God-given thing it seems to work. And, you know, I usually start with a chord sequence, I, and I read through the lyrics, find out what it, the song's about, how it should feel and we go from there."

DIANE SAWYER: "I want to show everybody a picture of you in 1975, because we went back and we started looking through television appearances. And I think we have an appearance of you on TV, in a year in which we really didn't know, you were with Bette Midler. We had no idea back then at that time the kind of suffering that you were going through. And it was a time that you just seemed on top of the world, you seemed completely exuberant. But, in fact, you have said it was your Woody Allen suicide attempt year. And what came out of that was the song Someone Saved My Life. How did it, who, who started it? Who started it first, that song?"

ELTON: "Well, actually, that, that was the first suicide attempt. In, when Bernie and I first started writing songs together, I was due to get married to someone and I, I went out with my boss, who I was playing for, a guy called Long John Baldry. And he said, please, don't get married. Put your career first, blah blah blah. And I, I went home and said, I'm not getting married. And Bernie wrote that song, "Someone Save My Life Tonight," which came out on the "Captain Fantastic" album. And, and that was an autobiographical album about the two of us. But, 1975 was also the year I jumped into the swimming pool in Los Angeles, and said, right, that's it, you know, in, in front of a lot of people so they could pull me out. As I've always said before, I'm all mouth and no trousers, and they were two pathetic attempts to, to grab attention, really, to the fact that I was very unhappy."

DIANE SAWYER: "Your Song" which started it all, was a song that John Lennon heard and knew that a torch was being passed. Can you tell me the first of the, of the musical lines that came to your head? Can you show me on the piano before we let you sing it coming up?"

ELTON: "It was probably, it was, it would start with the verse, definitely, and it would be, "It's a little bit funny." And then, I would search for the next chorus, see. But then it came, "feeling inside." And then, I'd struggle over the verse, and then it would come. The, the, the, the chorus was easy, it just came straight away. "You could tell everybody this is your song." It's very hard to explain, but it just, it comes so quickly I sometimes can't remember how it was done. I know it was written in my parents' apartment, and Bernie was in the bedroom. I, we, you know, we've never collaborated in the same room. And I, I'd finished it off, and I'd memorized it, and I'd called him in and say, listen to this. And, you know, I don't know if we've written a better song since. And, you know, songwriters are always in, in, in, in search of the next great song. And we've written some other great songs, but this one is a song I sung for the whole of my career. And, you know, when you're in the search for the perfect song, and you've, you kind of have written one, it's a bit of, well, a bit of a millstone around your neck, a lovely millstone. But it, you know, it, it is a kind of perfect song in a way."

DIANE SAWYER: "Well, coming up next, a perfect song about to be sung for us this morning, Elton performs. Stay with us. We'll be back."

There follows a commercial break

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: "I always love to listen to Elton sing, and it's so nice when he can do it on this broadcast. Here's the song that started it all, Elton with Your Song."

Elton performs Your Song live. 

ELTON: "Thank you, New York. Thank you, Diane."

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