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Elton John, Lonely at the Top: Rolling Stone's 1976 Cover Story

Page 3 of 3

Elton, I hear you can't get any peace or privacy in New York anymore... The buffing stopped.
"Yeah, that's part of the reason I'm getting out. I mean stopping concerts for a while. I'm getting so cheesed off. [Exit maid. We laugh.] A couple of years ago I could deal with three or four fans outside the hotel and walk off down Lexington Avenue. Now it's impossible. I can't cope. I don't want to end up my life like Elvis. I want to be somebody who's active and involved with people and that means going outside. I've been stuck in this hotel for two weeks and it's driving me cra-zee. I even tried disguises but I have one of those faces and it just doesn't work. I went to an amusement park on the tour and 15 people surrounded me for protection. I felt like the Pope."

Were you really slammed against the wall at a Shirley MacLaine concert?
"No, that happened when Divine took me to Crisco Disco. [Divine is the name of a well-fed drag queen who acts in underground films and Crisco Disco is a Manhattan gay bar, so named for the frying oil which is also a popular sexual lubricant.] We went in and they looked at us. [He demonstrates with his open-mouth trademark leer.] Everyone in New York wears jeans or fatigues and I had on a striped jacket and the guys said, 'What the fuck is this, Halloween?' We couldn't get in so I was a bit high and really pissed off, and I threw an ashtray. Anyway it was printed in the London Daily Mail that I was pushed against a wall and got beaten up and caused a fuss. But at the Shirley MacLaine concert, photographers knocked over an old lady and trod on her to get to me. I'm really, really cheesed off at all this. People say, 'Well, fucking hell, he created the problem himself, didn't he?' Yes, I did because I was too silly not to see it would get to these proportions. I mean, I never wanted to do this in the first place. I only wanted to be a songwriter... ."

He leaned back in the sofa for a moment, studying me with his big, shortsighted eyes. There are certain questions I'd promised myself I'd ask.

Can we get personal? Should we turn off the tape?
"Keep going… ."

What about Elton when he comes home at night? Does he have love and affection?
"Not really. I go home and fall in love with my vinyl... . I suppose I have a certain amount of love and affection as far as 'affection' goes. From friends and stuff. My sexual life? Um, I haven't met anybody I would like to have any big scenes with. It's strange that I haven't. I know everyone should have a certain amount of sex, and I do, but that's it, and I desperately would like to have an affair. I crave to be loved. That's the part of my life I want to have come together in the next two or three years and it's partly why I'm quitting the road. My life in the last six years has been a Disney film and now I have to have a person in my life. I have to — Let me be brutally honest about myself. I get depressed easily. Very bad moods. I don't think anyone knows the real me. I don't even think I do.

"I don't know what I want to be exactly. I'm just going through a stage where any sign of affection would be welcome on a sexual level. I'd rather fall in love with a woman eventually because I think a woman probably lasts much longer than a man. But I really don't know. I've never talked about this before. Ha, ha. But I'm not going to turn off the tape. I haven't met anybody that I would like to settle down with — of either sex."

You're bisexual?
"There's nothing wrong with going to bed with somebody of your own sex. I think everybody's bisexual to a certain degree. I don't think it's just me. It's not a bad thing to be. I think you're bisexual. I think everybody is."

You haven't said it in print before.
"Probably not. [Laughs] It's going to be terrible with my football club. It's so hetero, it's unbelievable. But I mean, who cares! I just think people should be very free with sex — they should draw the line at goats. Shirley MacLaine said the right thing to Tom Snyder on TV. She said, 'Oh c'mon, Tom. Let's stop all this stupid macho business. It really is a bit passé now.' And he didn't know what to say to that. Shirley's got the right approach."

A TV set by the fireplace has been on all afternoon, with the sound off. Betty Ford and Tony Orlando are doing the Bump. "Extraordinary," Elton says.

Elton was speaking cheerfully, no hesitating, as if it's all finally a relief.

Was the first experience a man or woman?
"Um, when I was 21, with a woman. The famous one."

Who?
"The famous woman... ."

Oh, the "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" woman. And how soon after that the first man?
"Um. The famous woman frightened me off sex for so long that I don't remember really. I think it was probably a good year or two."

People have speculated that Elton and Bernie Taupin had been lovers.

"No, absolutely not. Everybody thinks we were, but if we had been, I don't think we would have lasted for so long. We're more like brothers than anything else. The press probably thought John Reid [his manager] and I were an affair, but there's never been a serious person the whole time. Nobody really. And it's very dangerous to have relationships within the circle you work in. It's too close for comfort. Bernie's whole situation is up in the air as well."

A lot of readers will go, Wow.
"Well, I don't think so, there shouldn't be too much reaction but you probably know those things better than me. Nobody's had the balls to ask me about it before. I would have said something all along if someone had asked me, but I'm not going to come out and say something just to be — I do think my personal life should be personal. I don't want to shove it over the front pages like some people I could mention. To be on the front of newspapers with my tongue down somebody's throat. That's really appalling. I'd like to have some children, but I don't know if the time is right. I just want to settle down and sort of be lazy for a while. There are a couple people back in England. I do have a crush on somebody but I can't say who it is, somebody I met two or three times who is American. Yes, I think she told me that she's American. She has children but I go for older women. Listen, Miss MacLaine would do me fine but she's already happily set up."

Tinkly sounds of a pinball machine, that started a minute ago from the dining room, stop now. John Reid, Elton's manager, puts his head in the door. "When you're ready... ." he says brightly.

"Awright," says Elton in a Bugs Bunny falsetto. Sighing and removing his glasses, he rubs his weary eyes and then, for the first time, turns to level them squarely on his visitor. Without glasses, they're blue.

"But getting back to this personal thing of meeting someone — as soon as someone tries to find out about me or tries to get to know me, I turn off. I'm afraid of getting hurt. I was hurt so much as a kid. I'm afraid of plunging into something that's going to fuck me up.

"It's reached a point in my life when I get to my house and my animals that I think, 'Who am I going to ... ?' I'm certainly not going to bed with my horse] Ha, ha. And I think, Christ, I wish I had somebody to share all this with... ."

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Song Stories

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A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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