Veteran rock journalist Doyle (Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s, 2014, etc.) continues his foray into the 1970s music scene with a compelling profile of an unlikely rock star.
There wasn’t much demand for portly and pug-nosed piano players when young Reginald Dwight (b. 1947) first dove headlong into the music industry in Pinner, England, at the close of the 1960s. That, however, didn’t deter the quintessential outsider from chasing his dream. In chronicling Elton John’s stratospheric rise to fame, replete with platinum records, increasingly outlandish stage shows, and mountains of cash, the author deftly manages to keep his subject in sharp focus. Based on hours of one-on-one interviews with Captain Fantastic himself, this breezy yet comprehensive biography demonstrates what it was like for the talented musician to churn out an impossible string of hit records alongside lyricist Bernie Taupin. “If Elton seemed super-confident, even invincible,” writes Doyle, “then he would sometimes make funny, self-deprecating remarks in interviews about his appearance, saying he couldn’t possibly compete with the likes of David Bowie or Mick Jagger when it came to their slinky stagewear. ‘I haven’t got the figure for it,’ he admitted.” The author neither sidesteps nor belabors John’s clashes with the aforementioned stars, drug use, and struggles with his homosexuality. The result is an intriguing portrait of the artist as a human being. As portrayed here, John comes off as sometimes-distant, moody, and given to spectacular outbursts of rage that usually required expensive gifts to sooth hurt feelings afterward. At various points in his career, John fired his band, made Cher cry, and truly pissed off his good friend Rod Stewart. None of that, however, detracts from Doyle’s sympathetic portrayal, which concludes with a discography.
A great way to better understand the man behind the garish glasses and platform boots.