When Elton Met Brian
Here's something that didn't make my Brian Wilson profile on Sunday: Elton John's trippy recollection of meeting the Beach Boy genius in SoCal many, many years ago.
"I met him for first time in 1970 when Bernie [Taupin] and I went out to L.A.," he says. "We were introduced to him by Danny Hutton of Three Dog Night. His house was purple, I believe, with drum kits up and down the driveway, and there was a sand pit in the house. Brian was crazy - so polite, so sweet but so hyper. He opened the door: 'Elton John! I hope you don't mind! I hope you don't mind!' Which completely freaked me out."
They became friends - and, eventually, collaborators. Elton sang lead on "How Could We Still Be Dancin'?," the song that opened Brian's 2004 album, "Gettin' in Over My Head." Says Elton: "We recorded in California, and Brian was doing all the backing vocals, and I'm sitting there the whole time thinking, Oh my God, this is incredible! But Brian
was acting excited. And I'm going, You've got it the wrong way around. You're the genius!"
Sir Elton, who received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004, tells me that he contacted the KenCen folks this year, urging that they consider honoring Wilson. "I thought I'd write a big letter saying what a huge icon he was. He was an influence to me, and the fact that I got in before him seemed to be the wrong way around. He is to pop music what Aaron Copland is to classical music. He's an American genius. I mean, he's a genius wherever he is; but he's really an American treasure. His music, his imagination, his way of writing songs, it's just so unique. And he really influenced me - the way he arranged songs, the structure, the chord changes."
Especially the chord changes: Elton says the first chords of his classic 1975 song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight' echo Wilson's brilliant "Pet Sounds" single, "God Only Knows." "It's an inverted chord, not a root chord. I got that from 'God Only Knows.' Being a piano player, I latched onto that immediately when I heard it."
Here's Elton singing "God Only Knows" at a tribute to Wilson:
And here he is performing "Someone Saved My Life Tonight":
By the by, Elton has beef with Phil Spector, who hasn't exactly been saying the nicest things about Brian. (In Mick Brown's book, "Tearing Down the Wall of Sound," Spector says: "I don't feel sorry for Brian Wilson. I never thought he was that talented to begin with ... I'd be more impressed if somebody with a brain idolized me.")
Says Elton: "Phil came out with a quote recently that Brian Wilson never wrote a decent thing. Are you [expletive] kidding me? [Expletive] off. I wanted to hit him."
You're officially on notice, Phil.
By J. Freedom du Lac |
December 4, 2007; 6:36 AM ET
Kennedy Center Honors
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