Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.At the top of every hour the clock in Elton John's dressing room at Caesars Palace breaks wind. And every hour, the farting clock makes John laugh.
The British superstar has every reason to smile. His Las Vegas run, in which he alternates with Celine Dion at Caesars' 4,100-seat Colosseum, has been extended from 75 shows during a three-year period to 225 shows during a five-year span ending in 2008. Every show of "The Red Piano" has been a sellout. A U.K. tour this summer drew almost 400,000 people.
His latest musical, an adaptation of the movie "Billy Elliot," opened to largely rave reviews in London's West End, and there are talks of bringing it to Broadway.
John has wrapped "Lestat," the first musical he and longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin have written together. The play, based on Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat series, will debut in December at San Francisco's Curran Theater before heading to Broadway in spring 2006.
And there are plenty of other projects in the works, among them a sequel to 1975's "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy," developing a sitcom with Touchstone Television about a rock star and his entourage and a holiday album ("Elton's Christmas Party") due Nov. 9 that will be made available exclusively through Starbucks.
Billboard conducted a two-part interview with John and Merck Mercuriadis, CEO of John's management company, Sanctuary Group, July 29 -- the 15th anniversary of his sobriety, John proudly points out -— in John's dressing room and July 30 in his palatial hotel suite.
Below is an excerpt of John's portion of the interviews. The full original article appears in the Sept. 10, 2005, issue of Billboard and is available online to subscribers. To purchase a single copy of the issue, click here.
BB: Your last album, 2004's "Peachtree Road" (Rocket/Universal) received some of the best reviews of your career, and yet it only sold 300,000 in the United States, making it one of your worst performers. How frustrating is that for you?
EJ: It is frustrating ... I'm not storming around saying, "Why isn't my f***ing record doing better than this?" I just had to look at it and say, "Was it a s*** record?" And it wasn't, it was the best I could do. I'm 58 now, and my time in the sun, as it were, is gone. I have to accept that. Was I disappointed? Yeah, because I put my heart and soul into it.
BB: Are you and Bernie already working on [the follow-up to "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy"]?
EJ: I'm starting writing and recording it in Atlanta in January. It was Merck's idea, because he said, "You're always saying how Bernie has become the Brown Dirt Cowboy" -— he lives on a ranch in Santa Ynez [Calif.] —- and I'm this guy who plays concert after concert, buying art, buying photographs, living a very lavish lifestyle. I've become Captain Fantastic.
We would have been together then about 40 years by the time it comes out. One of the things I'm most proud of in my life is the relationship I've had with Bernie.
BB: Is it true you buy the new album releases every week at Tower Records when you are home in Atlanta?
EJ: I go in there at 9:30 on Tuesday morning, before it opens, before they put the f***ing things [out where] I can't find them. They're all on the cart, and I can go through them, one by one, because I know what I want. It's one of my things I look forward to every week. Those guys open up and [have] a cup of coffee there now, and it's just brilliant.
BB: Would you tour with Billy Joel again?
EJ: Yeah, I would, because I love him dearly. My greatest wish is for Billy Joel to have a No. 1 album and get his confidence back. That would make me so happy. You know, we've never been rivals, we've always been friends. Part of my Captain Fantastic's next 30 years include Billy Joel. And it would be great to do a duet.
BB: You have extended the Vegas run for "The Red Piano" show by another two years. It obviously agrees with you.
EJ: [Before Caesars] I'd never stayed the night here. I don't go out [much, but] you do get stir crazy. So I'll go see what's in the shops now. [John's operations manager] Bob Halley and I got chased through the mall. We were laughing so hard. Bob said, "We're being chased by 60-year-old women!" and I said, "Bob, we are 60!" We have nothing but good things to say about here.
BB: You go out of your way to support new artists. Why?
EJ: The first five years of my career we played with people that were our stone cold idols, and everyone treated us so well. That's why I try and give a hand out to young people, because people did that to me. I remember phoning Fountains of Wayne when "Utopia Parkway" came out. They thought it wasn't me on the phone, but it was. I just wanted to say, "This is such a great album." It's important to let people know that.
BB: Is writing easy for you?
EJ: Yeah. I wrote 60 songs in a year [for "Peachtree Road," "Billy Elliot" and "Lestat"]. One of the songs [for "Lestat"] is called "Paris," a conversational song in three parts. It's the longest song I ever took to write—three-and-a-half hours. I thought I was going to go nuts. I thought I was going to have a mental breakdown.
BB: You have a sitcom in development. What can you tell us about that?
EJ: It's called "Him and Us." It's basically about the entourage around a star called Max Flash who have to put up with this bastard. Max Flash is based on me, Mick, Bowie, Rod, all these outrageously behaving rock stars.
BB: How do you find the time for all these projects?
EJ: You know, I'm 15 years sober today. That's changed my life. The energy that I used to spend doing drugs and everything, I spend doing great things, like getting up in the morning, going to Tower Records, trying to find new acts, trying to promote them. I have the most fantastic life. I really love it so much.
Excerpted from the Sept. 10, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
For information about ordering a copy of the issue, click here.