Writer’s Topics Range From Elton’s T-Rex to Davey’s Dee Murray Project
In 2021, Bonnier Books published a Queen ”A to Z” by Mark Blake. Their next such edition is about Elton, and will be available next month. Author Mick Wall shared his thoughts and findings with Eltonjohn.world.
EJW: You spoke to a number of key characters from the past and present, for Hercules! The A to Z of Elton John. One was former Bluesology member, Mick Inkpen. The band actually thought ”Derf,” the nickname Elton (then Reg Dwight) gave his stepfather, Fred Farebrother, was real. He also told you about a pair of very high shoes Elton bought his stepdad. They couldn’t have lasted long if Fred took them along to a construction site, right?
MW: Probably not!
EJW: Davey Johnstone joined Elton’s group years later. But producer Gus Dudgeon thought his skills were limited–that he could only play acoustic guitar. He was overruled by Elton, who had a ”feeling.” Could you explain?
MW: Davey had come down from Scotland with a big rep on the folk circuit, rubbing shoulders with Bert Jansch, Davey Graham, etc. Gus understandably did not know he could play electric guitar and make it rock. Also, Gus wasn’t seeing Elton as a potential rock star with an electric band at that point. He was into orchestrating the songs. Remember, Elton didn’t even have a guitarist on his early tours. He was looking at Marc Bolan, Rod Stewart, and thinking about the possibilities of having his own electric band. The ‘feeling’ he had was more to do with Davey’s personality and temperament, I believe.
EJW: Davey is currently working on a documentary about his late bandmate, Dee Murray. How far along is it? Nigel Olsson, Dee’s close friend, obviously would be in this. Do you know who else is contributing, or if there’s yet a title?
MW: I’m afraid I don’t know. Davey told me he wouldn’t begin work until the Elton farewell finally came to an end, so I imagine he hasn’t begun any serious work yet.
EJW: You’ve written that Song For Guy [from A Single Man] has turned up in quite a few places. That includes the 1985 BBC sitcom, Happy Families. Was this used because there was a character called ‘Guy’? It’s interesting, too, that the writer’s name was Elton . . . Ben Elton, that is!
MW: Nice coincidence (if you believe in coincidence)! It could be that Ben gave the character that name because of the song or it really was just a happy coincidence. It did fit rather nicely, didn’t it?
EJW: Elton was a fan of Marc Bolan and T. Rex. However, he once bought a full-scale model of the real creature–Tyrannosaurus Rex–from Ringo Starr. Why, and what has become of it? (We could also ask what Ringo was doing with it in the first place.)
MW: Elton bought a ton of stuff everywhere he went. His relationship with Ringo at the time was completely drug-crazed, and Elton said he bought the T-Rex ”at the end of a very long night.”
EJW: Your book credits Ringo with giving Elton the idea to buy his Woodside estate in Old Windsor How so?
MW: Elton was a frequent visitor to Ringo’s huge Tittenhurst estate, which he had bought from John Lennon (the house where Lennon recorded Imagine). Elton was jealous and felt that a star of his magnitude should also live in a grand country mansion estate,
EJW: Elton has been known to set records, including now having the highest-grossing tour. In the nineties, as you mention, he set a different sort of record when he bought a Man Ray print. No one had previously paid that much (112,000 pounds) for a single photograph at auction. Of course, Elton had his own auction at Sotheby’s in 1988 . . . after filling up his squash court at Woodside with art!
MW: All true!
EJW: In 2019, the V&A in London, England, named one of their galleries in honour of Elton and David Furnish after a significant donation (7,000 photos). Have you gotten to check it out?
MW: I went along just before the first lockdown in 2020. You definitely need to go to fully appreciate the scale of the endeavour and marvel at the depth of the collection.
Truly incredible. . . .