Catching Up With One of Elton’s Former Backing Vocalists—
Posted by editor_usaTuesday 25
September 2012 @ 16:43
Last week, a singer-songwriter who contributed to Tumbleweed Connection and Honky Chateau performed at the Archangel in Frome.
The event included some reminiscences, and Tony Hazzard tells EJW:
”The gig went really well: a very responsive and supportive audience.
”I usually do mention working with Elton but can’t recall whether I did or not on this occasion.
”I have another show in November, in conjunction with an acapella group with whom I used to sing, in a small mediaeval hall in Cornwall belonging to friends.”
Last year, Tony completed Songs From The Lynher, his first new record over three decades. Prior to the release, he
was primarily involved with counselling and running a drug and alcohol rehab.
EJW: Did you ever perform in concert with Elton?
TH: We were at London’s Royal Festival Hall around 1971. It was the only live work I did with him, although I’d done lots of recording sessions.
EJW: How did you come to meet him?
TH: I was part of an ensemble who sang on quite a few sessions for other artistes and ‘Reg Dwight’ was part of that group. The others included Lesley Duncan, Liza Strike, Kay Garner, Tony Burrows, Neil Lancaster, Sue & Sunny, and Madeline Bell. In fact, some of us, Elton included, used to sing on cheap versions of hits, often on the Embassy label, which tended to be sold in Woolworths. It was a small world. So when Elton started recording in a big way, after Empty Sky, it was a natural progression for some of us to sing backing vocals for him.
EJW: What was Elton like?
TH: I remember the Elton John sessions at Trident Studios were happy ones, with the piano player and Gus Dudgeon (the late producer) displaying the same sense of humour and silly voices and phrases. But the work was very serious. Elton invited Dusty Springfield to join us on Tumbleweed Connection. She was lovely but insecure, saying she wasn’t sure she could get it right. I ended up reassuring her, which was crazy really: she was such a good singer.
EJW: What other sessions did you and Elton do?
TH: On Honky Chateau, Gus and I contributed to Hercules. At one point in the song there’s a bass part singing ‘Umpah baba, umpah baba’: that’s me. When Elton co-produced Long John Baldry’s album It Ain’t Easy (Rod Stewart also produced), he asked me, Doris Troy and a few others to do backing vocals on his side.
EJW: When else did you and Elton get together?
TH: He came for tea at my home in Loudwater once. And one Christmas, he sent me a book of children’s sayings about love, God Bless Love, collated by his friend Nanette Newman.
EJW: Why did you call your latest album Songs From The Lynher, and what was it like to be back in the studio after over 30 years?
TH: I have lived in Cornwall for 35 years and the River Lynher runs through my woods, hence the title. As for the technology now, I found it very frustrating and overwhelming at first. Part of the reason was that I started recording in dribs and drabs at first and a gap between sessions meant I’d often forgotten how I’d achieved something and it took ages to find out how I’d done it originally. However, I’ve been using computers since they first came out so that part wasn’t a problem: it was really the software. But gradually I started to get used to it and it became enjoyable. Eventually I devised a way of working which seemed to suit, inputting everything myself and using someone else to mix it. If I record a follow up album it will be much more straightforward and quicker.
EJW: Who appears on Songs From The Lynher?
TH: On my second release, I had two musicians who had worked on EJ albums – Caleb Quaye on guitar and BJ Cole on pedal steel. But this time around, apart from the mixing engineer, it’s just me. I wrote and played on everything.