We mine our Elton archives each month to showcase news or features you won’t find anywhere else! Edited by Fran Gilles
As this is the anniversary of Elton’s first live album, we are looking back at an article about Joe DiSabato, the man who came up with the idea for 11-17-70 (17-11-70 in the UK).
Originally posted by on the 17/11/17 by Cheryl Herman.
It all started on the 17th of November in 1970 when Elton, Dee Murray, and Nigel Olsson recorded a show for WABC-FM, a New York radio station. Their set list ranged from Take Me to the Pilot to the Rolling Stones‘ Honky Tonk Women
47 years ago, Elton, Nigel Olsson, and the late Dee Murray did a live broadcast from New York City’s A&R Studios, which went on to be released as 11-17-70 (and “17-11-70” in Great Britain).
The man who came up with the concept was Joe DiSabato. He approached record company bosses about the project. They agreed, but told Joe to coordinate the people and equipment.
As Eltonjohnworld.com reported previously, DiSabato had promoted tours for Elton and the Jefferson Airplane. Unfortunately, he died of an asthma attack in 1991.
Michael Gravois, who was his partner, told EJW that he enjoyed hearing Joe’s stories about his musical career.
”Joe was quite a remarkable and accomplished man. I met him in 1984 and we were inseparable until his death.
”He told me many stories of his time with Elton John. Joe had worked in the publicity departments for a couple of record labels in the 70s. When Elton was just hitting it big, Joe would fly with him to radio stations around the country so the singer could be interviewed.
”Joe had a half dozen mini-liquor bottles from the airplanes that Elton had drank from, and I remember laughing when my partner first showed them to me, finding it funny he would secretly grab the bottles and put them in his jacket pocket.
”In my last move, I threw them away; there’s no way it could be verified that Elton actually drank from them, so they were essentially empty bottles.”
Michael continued: ”Joe had a piano in his office and one day Elton asked Joe if he’d like to hear some of his new songs. He got a private concert in his office. People would stop as they walked down the hall to peek in to see what was going on.
”Gosh, how I wish I’d been there! Joe, who was in heaven, said that Elton played for an hour. On our first date, Joe played his piano for me. One of my favourites that he played was Funeral For a Friend, which was the first time I’d ever heard that song. At his funeral I showed a video tape of Joe playing that song.
”My partner’s intention was to become a record producer. He leased a four-story building in New York’s Chelsea (back when it was warehouses), with the plan of living on the second floor and converting the first floor into a studio. That never happened. As a way to make some money, Joe approached some record companies (drawing on his music marketing background) and sold some record ads to a number of gay publications. Thus, a new business, Rivendell Media, was born. This was in 1979 I met him five years later.”
Rivendell Media has become a leading LGBT media placement firm, representing over 150 publications to national advertising agencies. It is now overseen by DiSabato’s friend Todd Evans.