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Pacing 1,040 Miles
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Behind the scenes for Elton’s UK Comeback Tour By George Matlock
30 October 1999 @ 2:00

Behind the scenes for Elton’s UK Comeback Tour By George Matlock


Every Elton tour is accompanied by a certain amount of fan chiefs’ suffering.


As the fans assemble for another ensemble, it’s the chiefs who have to make things work out. 1999 was the first time fan tickets were issued in the UK and I had to organise events.


As well as mishaps administering ticket allocations (which wasn’t 100% successful!) Elton did his bit. Poor lad had a serious heart op, and while we can all laugh about it now, we were petrified his number was up, aged 52 years.


Still, the surgery left us with our own casualties. Some fans wanted to quit the tix, as they could not fly in from other parts of the world. Complex refunds followed. For others, it was a chance to snap up orphan tix, and one such lucky member was Jodie Evans who flew from Australia!


Time for a commercial break here: Some German fans decided to snap up all four ticket allocations we offered.


Back to the script: While making use of The Queen’s Hotel, Leeds for Harewood House in August, I still had to get there. I was with a fan from Russia who kinda likes Elton, but quickly wondered whether she was fan enough for the task when we would hours later act like kids in the front row.


She didn’t like my singing Elton songs in the car; what she failed to grasp is that young serenader Matlock here was actually singing in order to stay awake during the non-stop journey of four hours!


I’d long given up trying to get myself an autograph after an unfortunate lost signature in 1994 at the Royal Albert Hall, London. At Harewood, I was keener to get other fans their autographs, and happier to make conversation with the great man himself.


One concern I’d had was whether after the pacemaker op (when Elton was to recover without raising his left arm) he would be able to strum the chords powerfully on Take Me To The Pilot, among others. I needn’t have worried. During one of the songs on August 30, I said to Elton “Good to see you’ve regained control of your left arm. He smiled and turned around to salute the homage.


Perhaps the highlight of the whole tour, however, would be meeting the UK’s oldest fan…Frances Fitzgerald-Hart, who lives in Yorkshire and turned 86 years in October 1999.


She wrote to me in spring to say she’d heard shows were coming to Leeds Castle, confusingly no where near Yorkshire, but in southern England. How she wished Elton would tour the north too. There were plenty of castles and venues.


Her prayers were answered only two weeks later…as Elton announced Harewood House near Leeds, Yorkshire, would be added.


Sadly, Frances is in poor health herself, having suffered three strokes, and doctor’s orders were to stay home. Nevertheless, I resolved to meet her to say an official “hello”, and bring her a few gifts.


During my one-and-something hours stay at her home with her family, I was surprised how much she knows about Elton. She’s got loads of his albums. She knew about the Hercules ala Steptoe And Son television connection. “Elton loved that BBC comedy series” she recalled.


Frail on her feet, she was a heavyweight in mind. She knew where Elton had just been playing…and yet she has NO access to computers and the Internet! She reads a lot of newspapers.


I found the talk thoroughly refreshing, and in a weak moment, offered the job of running the fan club to my new found girlfriend! She modestly declined the offer! But she put many younger fans, myself included, to shame by her correct knowledge. Here’s wishing Frances a great Millennium!


I said there was 1,040 miles. Yes I had to stagger three times to hand out tix at Leeds Castle the following week. Fetch me that pacemaker, Versace-style please!

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