Nine lives in the music business

Reg Dwight and Elton John in the 1960s


  • Dave Laing Dave Laing is a writer, researcher and editor.



bricolage, Elton John, music business, pop and rock pianism, songwriting


Elton John’s American debut in 1970 was heralded by critics as the opening of a new, post-Sixties, era in popular music. This paper explores the backdrop to that debut through an analysis of John’s extremely varied experience in the British music industry of the 1960s. His ‘nine lives’ in the business ranged from classical music training and a job as a pub pianist to membership of a backing band for visiting American singers and professional songwriting. This combination of roles was almost untouched by the parallel growth in London of the rock underground and its counter-culture. Elton John, therefore, was a product of an Other 1960s, overdetermined by his prosthetic attachment to the acoustic piano in an era of electronic keyboard innovation. His pianism was drawn from classical, pub and 1950s rock ’n’ roll styles and his early stage act was heavily informed by Jerry Lee Lewis’s assault on the cultural prestige of the instrument.

Author Biography

Dave Laing, Dave Laing is a writer, researcher and editor.

Dave Laing is a writer, researcher and editor. His books include The Sound of Our Time (1970) and One Chord Wonders (1985). He is working on a study of Elton John for the series Icons of Pop Music, of which he is co-editor. He is currently Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool.


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How to Cite

Laing, D. (2008). Nine lives in the music business: Reg Dwight and Elton John in the 1960s. Popular Music History, 2(3), 237–261.