Elton John is rocking along the Yellow Brick Road on a 300-day world tour that signals the end of his live touring career.
And after more than five decades of wowing fans, this remarkable musician is truly back and truly Still Standing. But how the hell did he last so long and where did he find his stamina?
The answer comes from the band’s guitarist Davey Johnstone, who recalls when rock – and Sir Elton – were young.
Davey says cocaine and whiskey were sold years ago. In their place… lots of “disgusting” probiotics and herbal teas.
“I take a lot of vitamins,” he said via Zoom as the band prepared to take the stage in Manchester.
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“Tons of vitamin C, turmeric, primrose, and lots of probiotics,” he adds.
“I also drink a lot of tea on the road, I try to eat healthy.
“I drink healthy tea, it’s supposed to be great for your system. It tastes like s*** but it seems to work. Tourism is a tough business. Elton is 75 and I just turned 71, it’s very hard on your body.
“This time next year we will be doing our last shows, smaller arena shows and, to be honest, we are both ready. Elton was ready for the same reason.
“You can’t keep doing that forever. It’s a job for guys in their 20s and 30s.”
Davey joined the Elton John Band in 1971 and they performed 3,800 times over the years.
A flurry of cities in the US and Europe beckon before they return to the UK this time next year – and sign off with one final gig in Sweden.
That’s a lot of tea to drink. And don’t party much – because of Covid. If a key member of the tour is hit by a bullet, the concert will face the ax of public opinion.
Elton is in a Covid bubble with his security guard, driver and hairdresser. The next bubble is Davey and the Elton John Band. And the third group is passersby.
“We try not to interact with each other other than when we’re on stage, and that works for us,” says Davey.
(Image by Gareth Cattermole/Getty)
“So far, we’ve managed to stay safe, while a lot of bands haven’t. Mick [Jagger] got sick and the Rolling Stones had to cancel. So is Sting and my best friend Ringo [Starr] had to cancel because the band members had Covid.
“We have to be protected at all times because if I get sick we are really in trouble. I’m the band leader and his guitar player, it’s going to be hard to do the show without me, so I have to stay as safe as possible. “
Despite Covid protocols, Davey said Elton and the band “are shaking up more than we did”.
He continued: “Rock and roll is still very much alive but it has become a different animal because of Covid. We can’t party or go to restaurants and talk all night, which makes it very odd. But we go to the throat every night, it’s very hard and very noisy. The main thing is to get it in the hands of people so they have a great night.”
Ben Gibson / HST Global Limited t / a Rocket Entertainment)
At the end of the tour, Davey plans to party hard – before returning to work.
“Certainly,” he said. “I want to stay with all my family and have a party in my backyard in LA.”
Speaking of parties, Davey reflects on a wild night with Beatles legend John Lennon in 1974 after he and Elton performed at Madison Square Garden, New York.
He said: “Elton called and said he wanted to party with us. I said, ‘Tell him to turn off the phone’. I was just joking and Elton said, “Come on, come over here.”
“Kiki Dee was there too. We went out together and it was pretty crazy.”
Another famously dressed Elton gathering had a dreary end when singer Rick Astley, dressed as an astronaut, vomited into his helmet.
“He had to face the damn thing,” Davey said with a laugh.
“It was a great night.”
Father-of-two Elton has been sober since 1990 after years of hell and a cocaine addiction – while Davey no longer touches drinks. But the pair get their kick from the “evil” sense of humor that Davey fears might one day get them “cancelled”.
Getty Images for Rocket Entertainment)
“There were conversations and things we said that we laughed a lot,” he said.
“But we knew this could never get out because it was so weird. We know not to talk about what we were told.
“I’ll be banned if it shows up.”
While in lockdown, Davey wrote the solo album Deeper Than My Roots.
One track – Black Scotland – refers to his encounter with rock and roll legend Little Richard.
He said: “I was playing some guitar for him and he turned around and asked, ‘Where are you from?’
“I said I was from Scotland, and he said, ‘You must be from the black part of Scotland, honey.’ So I always thought I would use that title one day. It’s a pop record with some folk music in it.
“There’s a lot going back to the 70s. I’m very pleased with it.”
Although Elton will stop touring, Davey says the rocker remains unchanged.
He added: “Elton is still the same as he was when I first met him. If you meet Elton for three days, every day will be different. The first time I met him, he was really shy and I had to try, and the next times he was like a bad guy.
“You know he’ll never be the same, but that’s what makes him so interesting. If he weren’t a musician, he’d be a brain surgeon because he’s one. special individual.”
And he said that Elton’s competitive record will never fade, adding: “He will always fight for what he wants and be very competitive. That’s what makes him special.”
But that’s not too surprising. Didn’t Elton say Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)?
■ Davey Johnstone’s Deeper Than My Roots Album Is Now Out
https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/elton-johns-guitarist-reveals-tours-27326833 Elton John's guitarist reveals tours are now fueled by herbal teas after cocaine ban