You can be forgiven for being confused. In 2015 Elton John embarked on his The Final Curtain Tour, announcing that after 50 years of performing live he was more interested in spending time with his family. Now, three years later, one of the most iconic and enduring figures in rock 'n' roll is back on stage with what he's calling his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, which comprises 300 dates around the world. After the tour, John will officially stop touring to, you guessed it, spend more time with his family. Three years from now Reginald Kenneth Dwight will no doubt be back in action with his Lord It Looks Like Daniel Tour, but for now you get the chance to see a legend in the flesh not only tonight (September 21) at Rogers Arena, but also Sunday (September 22) and Tuesday (September 24). Here's some trivia that will enable you to impress the glitter-dusted mega-fan sitting next to you.
NOT QUITE STANDING. We're about to give away the ending of Rocketman, so if you haven't seen it... who are we kidding? If you're reading this, you've definitely seen the movie, and you will recall the final scene, in which Elton (played by Taron Egerton) rediscovers his love of music and marches straight out of rehab and onto the Cannes set of the video for his comeback single, "I'm Still Standing". Here it is again, for those who might have forgotten:
It's a great Hollywood-style ending, and it is well-supported by the song's message of resilience, but it's totally inaccurate. That scene implies that it was a newly clean-and-sober John who pranced and mugged his way around Carlton Beach with a cast of eleastic-limbed dancers. In truth, Captain Fantastic didn't kick all his bad habits until the early 1990s. And, as fate would have it, he wasn't the only pop star kicking around Cannes in 1983. Duran Duran was also in town, according to the band's guitarist Andy Taylor, who wrote in his book Wild Boy:
There were lots of celebrities around in Cannes and one day we discovered that Elton John was in town, filming the video for his song 'I'm Still Standing'. This was before Elton became teetotal, so he was still a steaming party animal; we went up to see him at his hotel and spent the afternoon getting blasted on Martinis. We decided it would be a laugh to get him drunk and we were slinging the drinks down him. 'Ooh, you are lovely boys,' he screeched, loving every minute of it. We got him so drunk that eventually he went upstairs and threw a wobbler in his suite. It caused all sorts of chaos—but it was a great party.
For the sake of comparison, here's the real video for "I'm Still Standing", directed by Russell Mulcahy:
FOUR-EYED FANBOY. Among the things Elton John is most famous for is having more glasses than Imelda Marcos has shoes. At last count he owned over 25,000 pairs—and those were just his sunglasses. On the prescription-eyewear front, we’re talking custom creations with tiny windshield wipers and miniature awnings, pairs shaped like pink jigsaw pieces and Valentine's Day hearts, and specs adorned with everything from tiny luxurious feathers to oversize silver-plated scissors. The craziest thing about his fixation? That would be that, back when he first started out, Elton John didn’t need glasses. In fact he had the kind of 20/20 vision that comes from eating three bags of mini-carrots per day as a kid, resisting the urge to read under the covers at night, and never sitting too close to the TV. John decided to start wearing glasses (horn-rimmed, in case you’re curious) as a tribute to one of the artists who first made him love rock 'n' roll. “I began wearing glasses when I was 13 to copy Buddy Holly,” John acknowledged in the 1979 book The Buddy Holly Story by John Goldrosen’s . “After 18 months, I found I couldn’t see without them. If any young fans are thinking of copying me, I’d advise them to forget it!”.
THE MARRYING MAN. Elton John has been in a relationship with David Furnish since 1993—and married to him since 2014, the year gay marriage became legal in England. This was actually John's second wedding; the first took place in 1984, when he married Renate Blauel. And if you're wondering who in the hell Renate Blauel is, well, that's what people were asking in '84, too. The German-born Blauel was a former Lufthansa stewardess who aspired to be a record producer. She was working as an assistant at the studio where John was recording the album Too Low for Zero. While it would be a stretch to assert that he fell in love with her—we've established that he's gay, right?—he evidently took a shine to her. When he was in Australia on tour to promote that record, she went along as part of his entourage, and he proposed. She accepted, and four days later—on Valentine's Day, no less—this happened:
The couple split in 1988. Because, in case we hadn't established this already, Elton John is gay. He subsequently came out of the closet, and Blauel has dropped out of the public eye entirely. As for what possessed John to marry a woman in the first place, well, blame the drugs. The musician attributes his poor decision-making to his addictive personality, telling the Australian 2008:
A drug addict thinks like this: ‘I’ve had enough boyfriends, and that’s not made me happy, so I’ll have a wife—that will change everything.’ And I loved Renate. She’s a great girl. I really, really loved her. But, you know… it is one of the things I regret most in my life, hurting her.
THE WEDDING SINGER. Wouldn't it be cool to have Elton John play a private concert for you and your family and friends? Hey, it could happen! If you can afford it. It's Elton Hercules John, for crying out lout! That ain't cheap. In fact, it will probably cost you somewhere in the range of seven figures. But don't think he won't do it—in 2017, John sang at the wedding of a Russian oligarch's 19-year-old daughter. (Mariah Carey and Mark Ronson also performed.) And back in 2010, he happily took US$1 million from Rush Limbaugh to sing at the right-wing pundit's wedding reception. Limbaugh, of course, is known for making homophobic comments and for downplaying the severity of the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic. The sweet, sweet irony there is that the singer donates his fees for these wedding gigs to his own charity, which means Limbaugh basically wrote a million-dollar cheque to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
It should be noted that, in spite of their political differences, John likes Limbaugh and even considers him a personal friend. In 2014, he told the New York Times:
I’ve been sober for 24 years now, and one of the best lessons it taught me is to listen. When it comes to people like Rush Limbaugh, or people who might enrage you sometimes, dialogue is the only way. You have to reach out... Whether you make an impact in one year or 30 years, it doesn’t matter. You have to put your foot in the water and start the process.
PETE WHO? One of the most daunting tasks in rock 'n' roll is taking a certifiable classic and then blowing it out of the water with a superior cover. Think Hüsker Dü's take on the Byrds "8 Miles High". Or the Bangles teaming up with Rick Rubin to put the boots to Simon and Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter". In 1975 John was asked to sign on for the feature-film version of the Who's rock opera Tommy. After eventually, and reluctantly, accepting, he recorded a version of Pete Townshend's "Pinball Wizard" that not only wildly trumped the original, but remains one of the greatest covers in the history of rock 'n' roll. In a Guardian piece earlier this year on Rocketman, John remembered not being overly keen on ever being in the movies. "I’ve been very successful writing songs and soundtracks for films," he said, "but I’ve never been very comfortable with seeing myself on a big screen." At first, the singer wasn't interested in the role, which mostly consists of him standing before a pinball machine in mile-high platforms getting enraged at Roger Daltrey's deaf-dumb-and-blind pinball-prodigy Tommy.
"I suppose my one famous film role was in Tommy, although it didn’t really involve acting, just trying not to fall over while wearing a pair of 4½ft Doc Martens," he says in the Guardian. "I initially turned that down".
Also considered for the role was Rod Stewart, who John promptly advised to turn down the role. Finally accepting after Townshend phoned and begged him to reconsider, John showed up at the studio and promptly blew the mind of the Who legend. In his memoir Who I Am, Townshend wrote:
“Elton arrived at the Battersea studio in a Phantom 5 limousine,” he wrote, “similar to the one used by the Queen; I hadn’t seen one in the rock world since Andrew Oldham’s in 1967. It was a revelation to observe how quickly and efficiently Elton and his band worked, nailing a driving track with solos, lead and backing vocals in less than four hours.”
"Pinball Wizard" would become John's first Top 10 single in the U.K. Tommy would go on to be adapted into a Broadway musical for which no one to date has ever managed to fill John's massive boots.