Lyricist Bernie Taupin has been Elton John’s songwriting partner for over 55 years. The successful musical partnership has resulted in five decades of iconic hits.
Taupin, 73, has been with Elton, 76, through the highs and lows of his life and career. Elton says Taupin is the only person in his life with whom he has never had an argument.
This week, Taupin published his autobiography, entitled Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton & Me. Unsurprisingly, the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” singer features prominently throughout.
One incident, not long after they met, could have derailed their partnership and potentially changed the course of music history. Elton, then still called Reg Dwight, made a pass at the heterosexual Taupin. This was back in the late 1960s. A London music publisher introduced them in 1967 and the two men immediately hit it off.
Elton John references the clumsy and awkward moment in his own memoir, Me, released in 2019. It also featured in the movie, Rocketman. Now, Taupin has given his take on it.
“It made me laugh”
“It was pretty early on that Reg tested the waters,” Taupin writes. “We were inseparable, joined at the hip, and completely the inhabitants of our own world. So it was only natural that he would add to the confusion that must have been raging in his psyche by placing his hand on my thigh. This was done almost clinically, as if he felt it necessary, but at the same time wanting to get it over with.
“Elton was still a long way from coming out, and even further from understanding it, the consummation of his chosen path being several years from this point. This innocent approach was done with zero aggression and lacked anything of a predatory nature. If anything, I think it made me laugh. It was easily deflected and immediately understood.”
Taupin goes on to say that the fact he and Elton are “polar opposites” in some respects is what makes their relationship work. He feels if he had reciprocated the sexual advance, it would have “spelled disaster.”
“If we’d been sexually like-minded, it would undoubtedly have eventually crashed and burned. Would our friendship have endured? Would our working relationship be fractured?”
Taupin also muses that if he were gay, he might never have come up with the lyrics to some of their classic songs, some of which drew upon his personal experiences and relationships.
Taupin says he was not “remotely disturbed” by Elton’s advance to him. He wasn’t even convinced at the time “Reg” was gay.
“Maybe in my naivety thought his proximity to a charismatic homosexual like his former employer, Long John Baldry, had rubbed off on him.”
Baldry was a British blues musician. Elton performed in his band, and everyone who worked with Baldry knew he was gay.
“Also, my friend wasn’t the slightest bit camp,” says Taupin. “Reg was everything that screamed ‘not gay’. A hardcore soccer fan, eclectic musical tastes, tough as old boots.”
An only child, Elton was raised in an emotionally-stunted household. His parents were often at war with one another. Taupin says he became the “imaginary brother” he thinks Elton was searching for: “A real friend rather than a temporary lover.”
Taupin’s memoir is full of insights into the inspiration behind many of his most famous lyrics. It also offers plenty of anecdotes about a wide range of celebrities. One that left him distinctly unimpressed was artist Andy Warhol.
“Unfortunately, while Warhol’s work was groundbreaking and captivating, his personality, most certainly, was not. Talking to Andy was like conversing with an eight-year-old girl… If dull is how he wanted to be perceived, he came through with flying colors.”
Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton & Me is out now.