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Tori part of an article on Elton John in the Sunday Herald in Scotland
June 19, 2005

Updated Thu, Aug 11, 2005 - 9:30pm ET

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Lucy alerted me to an article in the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald that was printed on June 19, 2005 and has various artists talking about their favorite Elton John songs. Tori is one of the these artists.

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That's the question we put to those who have worked with the artist formerly known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight, or who just plain love his music. Their answers make fascinating reading . . .

Above: Elton John on stage at Hammersmith Odeon in December 1973; Far left: at the Forum, Los Angeles, 1974

Clockwise from top left: Eric McCormack says Someone Saved My Life Tonight is one of the most beautiful songs ever; Herald football pundit Graham Spiers says his favourite Elton song is Harmony; All The Girls Love Alice makes Tori Amos smile; Elton as the Pinball Wizard in the 1975 film Tommy Elton and David Furnish at The Ritz, London, for his birthday party in 2001

Elton John has become so emblematic of British celebrity - popping up at every big premiere, giving catty quote on the likes of Madonna and George Michael, wearing clothes so garish they would make Trinny and Susannah explode (hooray! ) and boasting a history of drug excesses - that it's easy to forget that he is a brilliant songwriter with a string of classic hits, and that his last two albums have displayed a tremendous return to form. He has sold 200 million albums over a 40-year career, and you don't do that simply by being tabloid fodder. Here, as he prepares to play Scotland's football grounds, fans of Elton's music from Baz Luhrmann to, uh, Will from Will And Grace, set the record straight, picking their favourite songs

Baz Luhrmann, writer/producer/ director

"When I was growing up in regional Australia, I was on a ballroom dancing trip and was lucky enough to win one of those portable cassette recorders, which was the height of technology. The first ever tape I bought was a compilation called something like Ripper '73. I can remember coming across the track of Crocodile Rock and incessantly playing it over and over and over again, acting out Elton's piano antics at the back of the bus. Little did I know then, in the middle of the Aussie bush, that one day the work of this 20th-century Mozart would be instrumental in my attempt to reinvent the modern musical.

Your Song was the first and most crucial musical element in the realisation of my film Moulin Rouge. Had Elton not believed in the idea and given his support there probably would have been no Moulin Rouge as he helped lead the charge for other artists to come and be involved.

More recently I was in Las Vegas for Elton's show, and these musical memories from my boyhood in the country flashed through my mind, from Crocodile Rock to the performance of Your Song in Moulin Rouge. To sit there and see Elton play with the audience, teasing them because there were simply too many hits to perform, made me realise indeed how important his music has been to the soundtrack to my life."

Mylo, musician

"It's probably a pretty popular choice since it featured in the film Almost Famous, but my favourite song by Elton John has got to be Tiny Dancer from his 1971 album Madman Across The Water. It's a very LA song (the opening line is "Blue jean baby, LA lady") from a very LA album, and I bought it within a couple of weeks of arriving there to go to UCLA in autumn 2000.

According to Lewis, who plays the bass with me, and who used to be a photographer, there's this word, "metamerism", which describes how light bounces differently off things in different places. You could make the same argument for records, and Tiny Dancer is definitely a song which was made to sound good in Southern California. When I listen to it I can smell the ozone of the freeway first thing in the morning.

It also reminds me of my girlfriend at the time, who was, appropriately enough, more or less a midget.

It seems you can get away with a lot more cheesiness in America as long as there's musicianship - viz Toto, The Eagles - and of course there's a lot of musicianship on Tiny Dancer.

One of the reasons it's such a classic song is the way it really makes you wait - you have to sit through a two whole verses and a long bridge before you go toppling into the chorus. In fact it's obviously too much for this generation as they edited a huge chunk of it out in Almost Famous, which is a travesty!"

Stephan Heimbecher, Coordinator, Hercules International Elton John Fan Club

"My favourite Elton John song has always been Ticking from the Caribou album - released in 1974. I became a fan in 1983, and this song has stayed in my top three ever since I heard it for the first time shortly after, despite all the songs that Elton had released since.

The magic of the song is its narrative style and the shift between the piano and the melody line. Actually, it is very hard to perform live which might be the reason why Elton hasn't played in on stage for a very long time. I remember a tape recording I found of a show in Kansas City in 1979 where he completely mixed up the words.

Many fans, especially those in Germany, think the song is magic.

In the Nineties, we kept on holding up 'Ticking' signs during Elton's concerts . . . until he finally started performing it again."

Colin MacIntyre, Mull Historical Society

"I was in a restaurant the other night that was playing earlySeventies Elton John. I'm in the middle of writing my next album at the moment and it made me think that I might get something from listening to Elton from that era; the tracks from that period are rightly classics.

I used to listen as a kid to Your Song and try to construct alternative lyrics; I was confused how you could just turn a letter to somebody into a song. Listening to it now, it's really quite wordy, but with great melodies.

My favourite song is Rocket Man from 1972. It focuses on the human, talking about going into space as almost being a nine to five existence; the astronaut is in the middle of an unusual job, but has quite normal fears and thoughts. I suppose that's more down to Bernie Taupin than Elton John, but his voice at that time was what made him great, and his melodies were like chocolate - put together they just work."

Simon Fanshawe, author, comedian and journalist

"I've chosen Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, the version with George Michael on the Duets album, 1993. Musically, one of the things that he's so clever at doing is writing tunes that build to an emotional punch.

What I really like about this song is that it's got a fantastic lyric and a big tune. It just builds and builds. Have you ever read the lyrics? They are vintage Bernie Taupin - it's basically someone almost begging a lover, "Don't shut me out." The first line, which I just love, is "I can't light no more of your darkness". The lyrics are powerful and have a real poignancy and sadness about them. You know what it feels like when someone you really love leaves you - it does feel like your whole life has gone black. And the last line, 'But these cuts I have, they need love to help them heal' is a real emotional wrench.

What I love is the combination of that great musical swell and the pain inside the lyrics. When Elton John and George Michael sing it together, the way they harmonise and build on each other is very good and melodic.

It's big pop. And clearly what you have is two gay men singing about a relationship. I think there's something quite poignant about two men who have, in curious ways, come out by accident, but having come out, have actually realised what a great burden has been lifted off their shoulders."

Ian Rankin, novelist

"I go back as far as Rocket Man with Elton John. I'm not a huge fan nowadays, but rate him as a very competent tunesmith. I got in trouble at one party when I was a teenager. There were lots of couples snogging in the semi-lit living-room. I put Funeral For A Friend on the hi-fi. It proved an unpopular and distracting dirge. The first Elton album I bought was Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, 1975, a concept album about his, and Bernie Taupin's, early days and rise to stardom. It's full of highlights, but my favourite is the closing track, Someone Saved My Life Tonight. It fills you with hope. No matter how bad things seem, there's an angel out there somewhere who can help. It stood me in good stead during years of rejection letters as a would-be writer."

Elaine Paige, singer and radio presenter

"Elton John has written so many excellent songs, that it's really hard to single out just one. Some of my favourites include Your Song, Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me and Candle In The Wind, all of which Elton wrote with Bernie Taupin. I'm really a ballad girl.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is probably my all time favourite. It's from Elton's 1976 album Blue Moves. I recorded it for my album Love Hurts in 1985 and it's special to me for a variety of reasons; I love the chord progressions and structure, the fact that it has a classical feel, that it's set in a minor key, and lyrically it meant a lot to me at the time.

When I interviewed Elton in Las Vegas recently for my weekly Sunday BBC Radio 2 programme, he was quite passionate and serious about his new direction in musical theatre writing. He said he's been bitten by the bug!

Having just seen his new hit musical Billy Elliot, which I loved very much, I admire his seamless transition from the pop world to musical theatre."

Sam Taylor-Wood, artist

"The song I chose on Desert Island Discs was Tiny Dancer, 1971, which I could listen to forever. I love the way it changes all the way through, and it's really hard to sing along to it, so it's quite good to try to master that. You've got to go up and down and all over the place. I don't know when I first heard it. So many of his songs seem to have been out there forever.

Then, of course, there's I Want Love, 2001. I listened to it for so many weeks while I was making the video. You have to listen to it a lot in order to really feel it so you know how to make a video that's going to work. It took 16 takes to do that video, and we used the 16th. Robert Downey Jr was so incredible to work with. It was quite a marking point for him because it was the first thing he did when he came out of rehab and back on the straight and narrow. It's proper acting he's doing, not pop video acting; when he first did it, it was like the disco version, arms and legs going everywhere. I had to gaffer-tape his hands into his pockets for him to learn to keep them down.

I just made the video for Turn The Lights Out When You Leave, 2005, with Teri Hatcher playing the lead lady. I've not made videos for anyone else but Elton is difficult to say no to. He tends to ask me at points when I'm going through a creative crisis, so they are a good boot up my arse to get me back into the rhythm of working again. They reignite me."

Lee Hall, writer of Billy Elliot the musical

"Rocket Man, from 1972, is my favourite Elton song. I get tingles down my spine every time I hear it. I'm always gobsmacked by the way Bernie's words and Elton's melody seem to soar yet get more poignant at the same time. It's a song about being disconnected from the things nearest to you and I think it sums up so neatly many of the things we find ourselves feeling with our modern lives ruled by work and "science we don't understand".

It works on so many levels. It's about Elton, it's about astronauts, it's about domesticity, alienation, feeling lost. But the way Elton sings it, and the way the melody works, isn't maudlin - it's exhilarating. You can almost feel the shock he feels that he's thought this up. I think it's truly one of those little miracles of inspiration which sum up so simply what so many people have tried to say."

Lulu, singer/ginger goddess

"So what's my favourite Elton John song? It's a very good question but impossible to answer. Right now, I'm kind of mad about Electricity, 2005, because it's the new single, I suppose. I heard it in its demo form and then I heard it in the Billy Elliot musical. One of my definitions of a good song is that it can be redone and redone in different ways, and it will still stand up. Elton does it very powerfully, and the little boy in the musical does it very tenderly, and it's very moving both ways.

"I'm supporting Elton on tour at the moment. It's great. I've known him for a long time. He's a really close friend, almost like a brother.

I first met him in the Sixties when he and Bernie Taupin wrote a song for me, I've Been Loving You Too Long, for the Eurovision Song Contest. And I've just completed an album which he was executive producer on - covers of R&B and soul classics, which we have both loved for so long."

Eric McCormack, actor, Will And Grace

"In 1975, I was 12 and a hopeless geek. My parents were too old to have had any interest in Elvis or The Beatles, and I had no older sibling to introduce me to Dylan or Zeppelin. But my friend Bill had a big sister, and the day we snuck a peek at the cover of her copy of Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, from 1975, a love affair was born. It is still my favourite album after 30 years.

Hearing this record for the first time, looking at the artwork, reading the lyrics, was like seeing A Clockwork Orange after a steady diet of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This was a grown up album. Its themes were complex, bittersweet, a little angry and a little dangerous. The collective density of those 10 songs mesmerised me. Bill and I would listen to it over and over again.

We'd set up his basement like a concert stage: the ping pong table a piano, his tennis racket a guitar, a drum kit made of pillows. We'd play the whole album to an ecstatic, if non-existent, crowd, sharing lead vocals. By the time we'd get to the last two songs, Bill was usually ready to move on to another game. 'No way, ' I'd say. I'd sing We All Fall In Love Sometimes by myself, then the whole imaginary crowd would join in with me on the refrain of Curtains. Then, as an encore, we'd do Someone Saved My Life Tonight one more time, because, quite simply, it is one of the most beautiful, gut-wrenching songs ever written. For me, Elton and Bernie's finest moment."

Bob Harris, Radio 2 DJ

"I was the editor of the London listings magazine Time Out, and when we first started the magazine in 1969, we were taking it round various shops and trying to persuade them to take copies on sale or return. I went into a shop called Music Land on Berwick Street, which was my favourite record store at the time, and went up to the chap behind the counter and asked him if he would take a dozen copies of Time Out. And he said, "Well, I'll do that if you review my album, " and he gave me a copy of Empty Sky.

That was Elton working behind the counter to earn a bit of extra money, just prior to everything beginning to take off for him.

When he made the Elton John album in 1970, he sent me a copy of Your Song, which was the first single, and I realised this was one of the great songs of all time. When I got on to Radio 1, he came into the studio and did sessions, and was a regular visitor to Whistle Test. But Your Song is my choice."

Ron Sexsmith, musician

"When I was a kid, my whole bedroom was wall to wall Elton John posters.

My first concert was Elton John, when I was 11. I saw him at Rich Stadium in Buffalo.

My parents drove me and a friend over and they had to wait in the parking lot all day for the show to be done. That would have been 1975, the height of his superstardom.

I always loved that song Blues For Baby And Me from Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player from 1972. People forget sometimes what a soulful singer he is.

Over the years, he's never really got lazy; he's been quite productive, and one of my favourite albums of his recently was Songs From The West Coast, 2001. For me that was just as good as any of the early records.

It's not cool to be an Elton John fan, so it was kind of ignored, but I thought it was really strong.

I got to know his music because when I was in grade five this girl who I hung out with bought his greatest hits, which had just come out. I asked my mom if she would get it for me, and I was surprised by how many songs on it I knew. I was hooked.

I was cutting grass on the weekends, and whenever I made a little money, I would go right down to the record store and buy an Elton John album. And I've never stopped listening to him since.

It's so surreal that Elton John likes my work. I met him a few years ago at a Ryan Adams concert, and before I even had a chance to say anything to him, he told me that he's been a fan of mine for years. I was, like, "Hold on a minute!"

Graham Nash, The Elton Experience tribute act, www. com

"My favourite is Your Song, 1971. It's for people who love piano and good voices. It's pure essence of Elton. I also love Tiny Dancer which is a favourite with Elton fans. We go mad over it.

It hasn't been played as much as the rest of the commercial hits so it has never got old - it's a real pearl and has stood the test of time.

Sacrifice came out in 1989, and wherever I go and perform, it really strikes a chord with people. A lot of them had it as the first song at their wedding and things like that. I met Tony Robinson the other day, while he was filming Time Team, and he asked me to do an a cappella version of Sacrifice there and then.

Even though I am always playing his songs, I never get bored with the genius of Elton. After Diana died, I had to stop playing Candle In The Wind for a while. It took a lot out of Elton to perform at her funeral and it meant a lot to the world. I left it out of the set for about ten months.

I play it now, but stick with the original version. There's only one person who has the right to perform Goodbye England's Rose, and that's Elton John himself."

Graham Spiers, chief sportswriter for The Herald and obsessive Elton fan

"My favourite Elton song is Harmony, the short, closing track on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album from 1973. I love this song because it sums up Reg's career in its purest heyday: a song based around a simple piano-bass-drums-acoustic guitar quartet which was the classic motif of songs like Candle In The Wind or the single Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Harmony is also distinctive for its instantly recognisable timbre of EJ songs between 1972 and 1976: crashing harmonic backing vocals provided by Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson, all of whom Gus Dudgeon, Elton's producer at the time, discovered could sing back-up with an unnerving poignancy.

The peak of this perfection was reached on a song like Someone Saved My Life Tonight. Like a lot of Bernie Taupin lyrics, I'm not sure what Harmony is about, but beginning sharply on D-flat, the song closes Yellow Brick Road on a haunting, wistful note."

Tori Amos, musician

"I've chosen All The Girls Love Alice, 1973. I knew her, Alice . . . or at least a girl that believed she was Alice.

She had a strange life, one that would have been something you could only believe would be in a paperback novel you pick up in an airport on your way to somewhere sunny. The reason you would read a book like this is because it made you almost thankful for all of your own troubles because, really, they paled next to Alice's.

She was beautiful, there is no question about that, but what people overlooked was her keen sense of observation. She could recite conversations that she had had with people, almost word for word. Sometimes I would wonder if she did that to escape her own set ofcircumstances. She knew that for good or for ill she was a desired object, not a subject unfortunately, but a desired object for people who put beauty on an altar.

Whenever I hear this song I have a picture in my mind of this young girl who may still be alive, who may be a grandmother by now.

This vision of her makes me smile because finally, after all these years, when originally I thought that I was being subtle watching her from behind my books, she all the while was drinking me in."

Elton John will play Easter Road, Edinburgh, on Saturday, June 25 and Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, on Sunday, June 26.

Posted by: Mikewhy

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