I picked up Captain Fantastic while knowing barely any of Elton John’s music and even less about the man. As a musician myself I figured he was someone I should be familiar with, at least a little. And knowing what I did about his flamboyant stage personality I figured, if nothing else, this would be an entertaining read.
5 of the Coolest Things I Learned:
- When Reginald Dwight (Elton) wanted to adopt a stage name – he actually asked the sax player of the band he was in Elton Dean if he could take his, word for word. When Dean said no, Reg took Elton and combined it with John in honor of Long John Baldry, leader of Bluesology, the band Reg was playing in.
- Elton had a recording contract that required him to record two albums a year. A year!
- “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” was Elton’s homage to The Beach Boys. It even features Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston on backup vocals.
- Rod Stewart was originally offered the song/role of “Pinball Wizard” in the film version of Tommy. Elton advised him against it, saying the album was at risk of being overdone and the film wasn’t going to be good.
- Ringo Starr once asked Elton is he could be in his touring band in 1977 but was turned down.
A biography that centers on a focused period of time has become my preferred style ever since I saw the outstanding Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy. I contend that a reader gets more of a grip on a person in a thorough examination of a few years rather than a cursory portrayal of their whole life. Especially someone as eccentric as Elton John. There’s so much of his journey over the course of 8 years that is borderline surreal that Captain Fantastic reads like a high-octane adventure piece. My fear was that there’d be too much gossip surrounding Elton’s personal struggles (several suicide attempts and his sexuality) but Doyle navigates these moments succinctly and without bias. Not only did this book encourage me to seek out more of Elton’s back catalogue, but it made me sympathetic to him as a person. Rating: 4.5/5