Despite a long, wild and sometimes debauched life, rock legend Elton John has never previously published an official memoir. Until now. Today sees the publication of Me.
Anyone who saw the movie Rocketman may be familiar with the basics of Elton’s life, but Me goes deeper and covers areas not touched upon in the movie (such as his marriage and fatherhood).
But you want to know the gossip, right? Here are some of the more eye-opening, shocking or WTF moments. Click away now if you want to avoid all spoilers.
1. As anyone who saw Rocketman will know, Elton’s mum had a temper and he was terrified of her. It was a fear that stayed with him throughout his life.
She potty trained her son by hitting him with a wire brush and tried to cure his constipation as a child by laying him on the kitchen draining board and putting carbolic soap up his arse: something his nan went mad about when she found out.
2. He stopped masturbating as a teenager because his father told him he’d go blind. Young Elton had already damaged his eyesight by wearing glasses all the time because he thought they made him look like Buddy Holly. Fearful of doing himself any more damage, he simply abstained.
3. His breakthrough album, Elton John, was recorded in just four days ahead of its April 1970 release. It includes the classics ‘Your Song’ and ‘Border Song’.
4. Elton was still a virgin at the age of 23 – up until the night he went to bed with his first partner, John Reid. Reid went on to manage the singer for many years and their romantic relationship lasted until the mid-70s.
Reid and Elton would go out for nights at London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern and the Sombrero gay club in Kensington until Elton’s fame made this not possible. He even went out for a night at the Sombrero in the very early 70s with David Bowie but says he always found Bowie somewhat aloof towards him.
5. He’s much better friends with Rod Stewart, who he refers to with affection throughout ‘Me’. Their nicknames for one another are ‘Sharon’ (Elton) and ‘Phyllis’ (Rod). Freddie Mercury’s nickname was ‘Melina’. Elton immediately took to Mercury when they first met and loved his camp sense of humor, recalling this was sometimes directed to Mercury’s bandmates.
“Have you seen the guitarist, darling?” Elton recalls Mercury asking him in the early days. “Mrs May? Have you seen what she wears onstage? Clogs! Fucking clogs! How did I end up on stage with a guitarist who wears fucking clogs?”
6. He likes collecting things and refuses to feel guilty about it. He has 1,000 candles in a closet in his home in Atlanta: “I suppose that is excessive … but its the best-smelling closet you ever been to in your life.”
7. Elton is not always the best judge of his material. He fought against his US record company releasing ‘Bennie and the Jets’ as he thought it wasn’t a good choice for a single. He also hated ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me’ at first and wanted to give it away to Engelbert Humperdinck. He was talked out of it.
8. He first took cocaine in early 1974 at a studio in the Rocky Mountains with John Reid. It made him vomit but he took to it immediately, returning from the bathroom to ask for some more. He says he instantly enjoyed the jolt of confidence it gave him.
Unlike most users, he also says he found cocaine to be an aphrodisiac: he could maintain an erection on it and stay hard for prolonged periods.
9. After splitting with Reid, Elton went through a series of “disastrous” relationships and was prone to falling hard for straight men who were not interested. He got up to all sorts of things with guys at his Los Angeles home, often taking lots of Polaroids of them engaged in sex acts on his snooker table.
He admits, “I was never actually into fucking that much. I was an observer, a voyeur.” He got off on getting 2-3 guys together who wouldn’t normally have sex together, and watching them, “but I didn’t really participate.” He credits this as the reason he never acquired HIV.
10. In the mid-70s, Elton once refused to open his New York City hotel room door to Andy Warhol as he and John Lennon were spending the evening bingeing on cocaine inside the room. John Lennon warned that Warhol brought his Polaroid camera everywhere and would end up taking pictures. When Elton looked through the spyhole and saw that Warhol did indeed have his camera with him, they kept quiet until Warhol went away.
11. Around the same time, Elton and drag queen Divine were refused entry to NYC’s infamous gay club, Crisco Disco, because of their clothing. Divine was wearing a kaftan and Elton a brightly colored jacket. “Whaddaya think this is? Fuckin’ Halloween?” asked the door person.
12. Elton’s favorite poppers in the late 1970s were a brand called Cum, which he’d snort at Studio 54. He managed to get Rod Stewart, who normally resisted dancing, on to the dance floor using them.
“The only time he stopped [dancing] was when he wanted another sniff: ‘’Ere, you got any more that Cum, Sharon?’” asked Stewart.
13. In 1984, Elton married studio engineer Renate Blauel. He genuinely thought the marriage might work and bring him the happiness he’d been missing in his relationships with men. He soon realized it was a mistake.
14. Elton says he still dreams about cocaine on a near-weekly basis, despite it being nearly three decades since he got clean.
15. He’s Eminem’s AA sponsor and helped to get both Rufus Wainwright and Donatella Versace into rehab.
One person he failed to help find help was George Michael, and the two eventually fell out because Elton kept suggesting to Michael that he get help for his addictions.
16. When Elton and David Furnish first began dating they sent each other a card every Saturday to commemorate that they’d met on a Saturday and would listen to Tony! Toni! Toné!’s ‘It’s Our Anniversary’. Bless.
17. The famous photo of Princess Diana comforting Elton at the funeral of his dear friend, Gianni Versace, was not quite what it seemed. Diana was reaching for a mint that David Furnish offered her.
“The warm words of comfort coming from her lips at that exact moment were actually, ‘God, I’d love a Polo’,” recalls Elton.
18. He once tried to tour with Tina Turner but it didn’t work as they had a very different approach to performing: he and his band liked to play loose and improvise while she preferred things to be note-perfect.
It didn’t help that Turner instructed Elton to stop wearing Versace because it made him look “fat” and recommended Armani instead. Elton loves Versace.
Me is a great read that will make you fall in love with Elton, and his back catalog, all over again.
The titbits above only skim the surface. There’s much more where this comes from, including the reasons he fell out with Madonna and Billy Joel; Elton mistaking Bob Dylan for his gardener; partying with Britain’s Royal Family; how he proposed to David Furnish; and his long and lasting friendship with Bernie Taupin.
Most of all, the book a testament to one of the most incredible rock careers and a story of survival.
And that’s without even mentioning the story of the guitarist who said he enjoyed sex with chickens…
Me, by Elton John, is out now via Pan MacMillan.