Bernie Taupin tells Chris Evans about the first time he met Elton John

Virgin Radio

2 Oct 2023, 11:11

Bernie Taupin talks to Chris Evans at Virgin Radio.

Bernie Taupin joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch to talk about his autobiography, Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton and Me.

The legendary songwriter is known for his songwriting partnership with Sir Elton John, and together they have written countless hits and sold millions of records. Recalling his first encounter with Elton - who at that time still went by his given name of Reg Dwight - in 1967 in London, the lyricist said: “The first time we met, which is sort of a prologue at the beginning of the book, was at Dick James' studios on New Oxford Street. Now, we'd both been to see Ray Williams, who was the guy that literally put us together. We'd both been to see him individually and Elton sort of didn't come across great, because he had no original material. I think he played Jim Reeves’ He’ll Have To Go, but I guess, for some reason, Ray saw something in him, and Elton, or Reg as he was back then, had said, ‘Well, I really want to write songs but I don't have any material. I can't write words. I need the lyricist’. I don't think he said, ‘I need one’. But ‘I would like one’ or intimated that he would like one. 

“At the same time, I'd been to see Ray Williams slightly before him, and I'd sent in some material. And what happened was basically, as Kismet would have it, he handed my envelopes of very, very juvenile lyrics…. well, they weren't really even lyrics, it was just sort of, I was flying by the seat of my pants, because I had no idea what it meant to write a lyric or a song lyric anyway. But, as fate would have it, he gave them to Elton and arranged for us to meet at Dick James’ studio.”

Dick James and Brian Epstein established the Beatles' publisher Northern Songs, and - with his son - he founded the DJM record label and recording studios, which would go on to sign Elton and Bernie. The latter told Chris: “Dick was actually the publisher of The Beatles. So a lot of demos were done there. And he had a lot of inhouse songwriters, and Elton originally, would go there and just play piano for the writers, not recording anything of his own. And so we arranged to meet there, and I was totally a fish out of water and was sitting in the booth waiting. I didn't know where he was. And apparently he was in the studio down the hallway. And I could see him on this little TV. And I kind of said, ‘Is that Reg Dwight?’ and somebody concurred and said ‘Yes, it is’ and at that point, the guy who was the engineer turned around and said, ‘Are you supposed to be here?’.

“And just as you said that, Elton came through the door and said, ‘Is there a Bernie Taupin here?’ and it was like, ‘That's me, sir.’

“Obviously, it was like, he just saved my life. Literally.”

Bernie added: “And so I was immediately attracted to him as a human-being. It was like, ‘Oh, you just, you just pulled my feet out of the fire’. 

“We went around the corner to a place called the Lancaster Grill on Charing Cross Road, and we bonded immediately. And the rest, as they say, is history.

“Last time I was in London. I was walking down Charing Cross Road and I tried to find that place. And of course, it's no longer there. I couldn't even figure out exactly where it was.” 

Over half-a-century later, the two are still pals. “We always have talked on the phone even if we're continents apart.” Bernie told Chris. “We always check in with each other and he's always calling me, but now he does everything on FaceTime, so we get to see each other which really makes you feel that you're in the same room. But he's fantastic. You know we're looking forward to recording again soon and we've definitely still got a lot to say.”

Bernie also spoke about writing You Song with Elton. Read about it here.

Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton and Me is out now.

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.