Ballad of a maverick

Elton John’s autobiography details his wild side


Elton John is a devout father, husband, rights activist and pop superstar; a knighthood, no less, stands as a testament to his contributions to society. He has the biggest selling song in chart history to his credit (Candle in the Wind, 1997) and a sustained track record of five decades at the top of his game.

That is the boring part.

He is also a man who has had a starring role in the excesses of rock music’s glory years of the 1970s and 1980s. From drug-fuelled orgies up in Hollywood Hills to watching the porn classic Deep Throat with his mother aboard a private jet to repeated suicide attempts, there is nothing much John’s own ‘Circle of Life’ has not witnessed. And that is what the musician lays bare, that sardonic and campy British humour firmly in place, in his autobiography, simply titled Me. It is written with the help of British music journalist Alexis Petridis.

His success story is nothing but extraordinary. Born Reginald Dwight, this British lad sang in supper clubs and worked the back-end of music companies in the 1960s, before changing his name (“Reg Dwight... that’s not a pop star’s name.”) and embarking on a music career when his eponymous sophomore album cracked the charts in 1970. Since then, through hits and misses, John is a byword for longevity in the notoriously fickle world of pop music.

But that almost pales in comparison with the personal journey county dork Reg Dwight undertook on his way to become rock music royalty Sir Elton John. It involves a self-realisation that dawns slowly, be it with his sexuality, his late-dawning pangs to have children or his own perception of his insecurities and how he clumsily tries to overcome them. His over-the-top stage costumes, for instance, slowly percolated down into everyday wear. “Wearing them, I felt different, like I was expressing a side of my personality that I’d kept hidden,” he writes.

There are multiple suicide bids, mood swings, sexual peccadillos and an almost two-decade long drug addiction battle, all detailed graphically. But by no means is this a dark book. Quite the contrary, the raconteur in him takes over right from the first chapter, taking the reader on a thrilling ride inside the world of John’s A-list contemporaries—from Bob Dylan, whom he once mistook for a gardener, to John Lennon, with whom he spent days in a New York hotel suite snorting drugs, and his string of fallouts and make ups, be it with Princess Diana or Madonna. There are mentions of other members of the royal family, too, including Queen Elizabeth II winking at him when he spots her chiding her nephew. It is a juicy tell-all, but more than being vicarious, it is a delightful detour into an age when music stars were larger-than-life gods, with platform heels of clay. And they did not bother to hide it.


Author: Elton John

Publisher: Macmillan

Pages: 376

Price: Rs999 (hardback)