Tales of Rock: Elton John: I insisted ‘Rocketman’ film be honest about sex, drugs, rock and roll

Music icon Elton John says he insisted that the musical-fantasy biography “Rocketman,” opening Friday, be honest about his life’s sex, drugs and rock and roll.

During the movie’s long gestation, wrote John in an article Sunday for The Observer Magazine of the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, “Some studios wanted to tone down the sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating. But I just haven’t led a PG-13 rated life. I didn’t want a film packed with drugs and sex, but equally, everyone knows I had quite a lot of both during the ’70s and ’80s, so there didn’t seem to be much point in making a movie that implied that after every gig, I’d quietly gone back to my hotel room with only a glass of warm milk and the Gideon’s Bible for company.”

The film, eventually rated R, stars Taron Egerton as John and Jamie Bell as his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, whose numerous hits together include “Rocket Man,” “Daniel,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Candle in the Wind” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

“[S]ome studios wanted us to lose the fantasy element and make a more straightforward biopic,” Rock & Roll Hall of Famer John continued, “but that was missing the point. Like I said, I lived in my own head a lot as a kid. And when my career took off, it took off in such a way that it almost didn’t seem real to me. I wasn’t an overnight success by any means … But when it happened, it went off like a missile: there’s a moment in ‘Rocketman’ when I’m playing onstage in the Troubadour club in LA and everything in the room starts levitating, me included, and honestly, that’s what it felt like.”

During that tumultuous period, he wrote, “I’d also lost my virginity, to a man — John Reid [played in the film by Richard Madden], who later became my manager — and come out as gay, at least to my friends and family. This all happened in the space of three weeks. To say it was a lot to take in is a terrible understatement.”

 

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Tales of Rock – Why Surf Rock Legend Dick Dale Is Almost 80 And Still Touring

In 1962, legendary surf rock guitarist Dick Dale released his biggest hit, “Misirlou.” You probably know it as the song Tarantino used in the opening titles of Pulp Fiction.

At nearly 80 years old, Dale is still touring, still playing “Misirlou” as quickly as ever. He says if he stops touring, he’ll die. And that’s not the hyperbolic refusal of a star to let old age keep him from rocking. You see, Dale is suffering from a variety of ailments, and they’re all battling to be the one that kills him first. He needs the money earned from touring to help pay his medical bills. These are the health problems he’s had to deal with:

Renal failure Rectal cancer Diabetes Rectal cancer, again Blinding pain caused by severe spinal damage Having part of his stomach and intestines removed because of the rectal cancer.

Hearing of his financial plight, you’d think he’s scrambling for some late-in-life cash to make up for the time he bought Bengal tigers for everyone in his entourage. Not so. Dale wears a colostomy bag beneath his clothes. His doctors recommend that he clean and redress his entry hole once a week, to which Dale calls bullshit. Following their directions made him unnecessarily suffer from the kind of infections that tend to occur when you poop from a hole in your stomach. So he’d rather re-patch twice a day and stay infection-free, but his insurance refuses to cover those costs. The only surefire way to get the out-of-pocket $3,000 a month he needs to cover the cost of the additional medical supplies is to tour.

But touring has turned out to be a double-edged sword, kind of like the metaphorical one Dale uses to describe the pain in his spine every time he stands up. It pays the bills, sure, but he’s in agony the whole time he’s on stage. And there’s always the chance that his medical equipment will fail him during a show. For example, just before taking the stage at a show in Las Vegas, his colostomy bag tore and liquid shit ran down his legs. His wife quickly washed all his clothes in a backstage sink. He put the clothes back on and proceeded to give the 90-minute performance fans had paid to see. Though you can’t really put a price on getting to watch a sopping wet old man who smells vaguely like diarrhea play that song The Black Eyed Peas sampled for “Pump It.”

Facing his own mortality every day for decades has given Dick Dale time to think about the perfect way to go: “On stage in an explosion of body parts.” There is no more appropriate death for a guy who’s barely being held together than to explode like a crash-test dummy toy while playing a guitar really fast.

 

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Tales of Rock – Nothing Seems as Pretty as the Past

Top Groupies Of All Time: Sable Starr and Lori Maddox

I love writing Tales of Rock, but this is the most lurid and heartbreaking part of this series.
The musicians I loved have done some deplorable things.
But when I think back to my time in L.A. I kind of get it.
I’m not saying it’s right but a lot of artists and musicians did stuff.
Top Groupies Of All Time: Sable Starr and Lori Maddox

 

Hanging out with musicians is any girl’s dream come true. Well, these girls did just that. Mind you, these two girls, Sable, the unofficial queen of the 70’s LA glam rock scene, and Lori, her best friend, were only around 13 at the time. These baby groupies strutted around Sunset Boulevard  on their shiny platform heels, eyes and ears peeled for the likes of Led Zeppelin or David Bowie to show up. I personally don’t like these baby groupies very much, their personalities leaving a lot to be desired, but then again, what 13 year who thinks they’re the hottest thing around isn’t catty? Still, they deserve a mention, these were wild times and these were wild girls.
Due to the comments I keep getting on this particular page, I felt the need to write this. The reason for this post was to not only post a collection of photos of music and fashion from the 70’s, but to also talk about a certain period of time, a moment in history, and the people involved. Nowhere on here does it say I approve of the behavior of the musicians and the groupies. Not once did I say that what they did was ok. It’s like if I made a post about the Holocaust – another period in time that I’m interested in and I’ve read so much about- and saying that I condoned what happened during the Holocaust. I love history (and history has good and bad parts) and the only reason I made this blog was because I like to write about things that interest me, I like to collect pictures, and I like when a person discovers my blog and learns something new or rediscovers something they had forgotten.

Lori modeling with fellow baby groupie Shray Mecham for Star Magazine.

Queenie Glam, Shray, and Sable.
With Iggy Pop.
With Debbie Harry.
With Keith Moon and Annette Walter-Lax.
With Led Zeppelin and groupie Morgana Welch at the English Disco and not the Rainbow Bar & Grill even though to me the booths in the back looked exactly like that. I’ve actually been there a couple of times, not as amazing as I thought it would be, but still crawling with would-be groupies and musicians. I even saw a certain special someone there, coming out of the bathroom before their first gig at The Key Club. Anyroad, the caption to this picture is pretty hilarious.
With John Bonham.
I’m sure you all know what went down with Jimmy and Lori, so I won’t bother to repeat it here.
Just like Jimmy and Lori were a complicated pair, so were Johnny Thunders and Sable.
With Iggy and Johnny.
With Sylvain Sylvain.
With Stiv Bators.
With BP Fallon.
With Dave Hill.
Sable with Mackenzie Phillips and the unofficial mayor of the Sunset Strip, Rodney Bingenheimer, posing outside of the English Disco.
Sable with other baby groupies posing with Rodney outside the Continental Hyatt House (The Riot House).
Young girl – Gary Puckett

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Tales of Rock – Lori Maddox – Part 2

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
COURTESY OF LORI MATTIX

 

 

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Tales of Rock – Lori Maddox – Part 1

“I LOST MY VIRGINITY TO DAVID BOWIE”

IN THE EARLY 1970S, the Sunset Strip was a magnet for rock stars: Bowie, Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, The Who. They all hung out in the VIP rooms of louche LA nightclubs like E Club, the Rainbow, and Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. And with them, of course, came groupies. Scantily clad 14- and 15-year-olds like Sable Starr and Lynn “Queenie” Koenigsaecker sipped cherry cola, dropped pills, and evolved into pubescent dream girls for the platform-shoed rockers who could get anything and anyone they desired. 

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – Winter of 1979 – Tools of the Trade

I think because I was doing well in school and they had failed me as parents in my obvious musical upbringing and had handed over their money to Mr. Buckwalter to teach my sister Janice piano lessons so she could please my dad and not be able to play a fucking note they had no choice.

I started to think about buying a real guitar. I was excited about the notion of getting a REAL guitar. Obviously this rock and roll thing was sticking and I needed a proper instrument. Jim had a Fender Stratocaster and it was a good guitar but it was brown and sensible. A Gibson Les Paul was simply too heavy and way too expensive.

I wanted something that would define me as a rock star. I wanted something else. Everybody played Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, Guild, and whatever boring guitars were out there. A Gibson Explorer crossed my mind but looked too bulky. A Dean looked too much like everything else.

One day I was reading Creem or Circus magazine, (Other than Rolling Stone, they were the two leading music mags of the time) I saw Paul Stanley from the band Kiss playing and interesting looking axe. The way it looked really touched something in me.

Yes. That was the guitar for a future rock star.

I had to have that.

A 1979 Black Ibanez Iceman. Double humbucker pickups. Rosewood neck, and a sexy young body. Just like the girls I liked. That hook. That stinger. Yes!

I had to have that guitar.

Jim had introduced me to a guy that gave guitar lessons in town. He was an older dude who’s father owned a storefront down on Pacific avenue when that meant something. It was a radio and TV repair store. A dusty old place that felt like it’s time had come and gone.

I was surprised how many people Jim knew at his tender age, but he was a seeker and was always thirsty for knowledge. He somehow found Charlie Billaris the son who was this great guitar player back in the day.

He introduces me to Charlie and he’s a really nice older guy. (Now when I say older, I mean back then, late twenties because we were so young) He had been teaching Jim some songs and I thought he was cool.

We would sit in this old store full of old TV’s and radios and just jam. It was beautiful and primitive. He had taught Jim and I wanted some of that. I think I would give him ten bucks and he would teach me songs by Led Zeppelin and basic blues runs.

Charlie was a great guitar player. He had once played in a band called 12 Gauge years ago but they never made it and now he worked in his dad’s shop. I wondered how a guy that was this good had never gone forward to pursue music full-time. But he was married now with a baby and had already been burned out from the circuit. I assured that would never happen to me. I was going to be a rock star like Joe Perry and become a great songwriter.

“Charlie.”

“Yea, man.”

“How can Keith Richards be such drug addict and still perform and make great records with the Stones?”

“When you got it… you got it.”

That was his only answer. He was right. Simple and complete. He was older. He knew stuff.

He taught me so much. I got better. I started to really understand my little Silvertone guitar so much better. Under Charlie I wrote better more melodic songs and was really coming along as a guitar player. I wanted it so bad it was coming on fast. My mind was starving for rock and I just breathed it all in. I would go home and learn the songs and keep writing and playing non stop in my room.

One day Jim and I were at Charlie’s house just hanging out and jamming. Jim starts talking about how I was thinking about getting a REAL guitar.

I tell Charlie the guitar I’m dreaming about.

“I can get you that. But I have to go to New York to get that baby. She’s rare.”

I had to clear that whole transaction with my parents because it would be my entire savings from working as a busboy all summer at the Dolphin restaurant for this guitar.

I think because I was doing well in school and they had failed me as parents in my obvious musical upbringing and had handed over their money to Mr. Buckwalter to teach my sister Janice piano lessons so she could please my dad and not be able to play a fucking note they had no choice.

It was money I had earned being a busboy so they technically couldn’t say shit. I’m doing my homework. I’m excelling as a student. I’m not getting into trouble. I’ve somehow adjusted to this nightmare I’ve been dropped off into so let me do what I want with my money.

I gave Charlie $250 to go get the guitar of my dreams in New York City. That seemed like a world away back then.

A week later I get a call from him and he says he’s back and he has her.

I call Jim. We have to go together to collect my dream!

We walk out to Charlies house and I’m excited and apprehensive. This is the biggest purchase of my life and it’s tied to my greatest love of all time. MUSIC!

We knock on his door and his wife answers. (Lisa was a hot little blonde. Just saying….musicians pull sweet tail)

We go in and Charlie comes out. We’re nervous and excited because we both are anticipating what’s supposed to happen. We sit down and he offers us both a beer. We’re teenage boys so of course we’re going to respect and accept but we’re not really drinkers. (Yet… Me. Not Jim)

We’re nursing out beers trying to be cool during this watershed moment in my young life. Then he brings out this black rectangle flight case and lays it on the sofa like a coffin. My mind can’t comprehend what’s inside of that box.

“Go ahead. Open the case.” Charlie’s wife is smiling.

I set my beer down and go to the flight case. I unsnap the buckles and locks on the case. I slowly raise the lid.

Tears fill my eyes.

There she is!

That’s my new axe! That’s my girl! That’s going to be what will carry me forth in rock and heavy metal in my future. I already feel that I am going to go beyond Wildwood and everything in my worthless anxiety filled life with her!

On the little box inside the case where you keep your picks, slide and other cool goodies I decorated it with twin skulls, a little scarab and a miniature Iceman pin!

This IS Rock and Roll. I have arrived on life’s stage as a musician. A worthless nothing with depression and anxiety has taken a step to strap on an elegant guitar to make great music for the world and be a star!

I remember my eyes not being able to accept the instrument before me. The possibilities with Jim. The songs we would write. The incredible jams. The songs we would play together on stage. Everything was coming together for me. My dreams were coming true!

I told Charlie I had the other half of the money in my account. (That guitar cost $500 in 1979. That’s a shitload of cash for a busboy back then. That’s basically all I made that summer) He is hesitant to let her go, but his wife intercedes.

“They’re good boys. Let him take it.” (Is she into me?)

I promise to bring Charlie the difference tomorrow, and they let Jim and I leave with my brand new battle-axe.

I had to stop two times on the way home and open up the case and just look at her again because she was so beautiful. She was the most beautiful guitar I had ever seen and I couldn’t believe she was mine. Having this guitar and looking upon her was like taking little Terri to Star Wars and kissing her for the first time and feeling what love was.

It was just an amazing time stopping moment to stand under the street light at 22nd and Central with my best friend and favorite guitarist and open that case and look at that guitar.

It reminded me of when I was there when my mom first saw the shore house completely remodeled by my dad.

“Oh Hoss… this is too nice for us.” my mother said.

This was too nice for us. But I’m an overachiever and this is the perfect guitar for me.

I have arrived.  I just hope Jim and I can make the band work out.

Here’s an amusing footnote: The Ibanez Iceman that brought me years of joy upon acquiring it cost me a whopping $500 in 1979. An incredible instrument!

A friend of mine recently sent me this….

Nice investment that I’d like to be buried with.

Oh, and still rocking out today…

Here’s a song I used to love to listen to at the beach in the summer of 79. Great pop song and solo.

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