Nine lives in the music business
Reg Dwight and Elton John in the 1960s
Keywords: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.
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