Elton John Early Years – Madison Square Gardens

by | May 16, 2022

Elton John Early Years – Madison Square Gardens 1974

This really is a fascinating “behind the scene” interview story from Stuart that really gives you a feel for what it was like to be at Madison Square Garden for the 1974 Elton John gig.

Elton John Early Years Madison Square Gardens 1974 Transcript

now were you at the elton john 1974 madison square garden gig?

No you weren’t I didn’t think so you’re not old enough and nor am I, however my very very good friend stuart epps who is a living legend record producer extraordinaire was there.

He was part of the management team who helped put Elton John’s career together in his early days and he went on to sort of look after the KikiDee band, put the band together and the KikiDee band supported Elton John the three month tour in the usa in 1974.

So Stu is going to do all the talking today I’m just going to pop in now and again to summarize what I think about it.

It’s amazing stick around and I tell you what right at the end of it he comes out this amazing story which blew my mind about John Lennon.

Let’s get into it.

Elton said right we’re doing this three-month tour and we’d like kiki to come along as support.

Right wow so i’m looking after kiki so i’m going to be on this on this tour you know and um so that was that was an amazing experience by any standards.

You know oh yeah i mean i can describe what elton’s tours were like at that time they were you know but there’s none of this hiring cars and all that we we had a cavalcade of limousines right with police outriders on motorbikes!

Not only that we had our, i can’t believe i’m telling the story, we had our own plane. We had a plane called the starship right that had been rented for three months it had been not just rented it had been painted.

I mean i’ll just stop it there.

You know the starship right, this big jumbo jet plane that all the stars used, you know like led zeppelin uh rolling stones. And the whole idea was that you painted this jumbo jet with your band logo and your band name on it and it flew around the country.

I mean one amazing piece right in the heyday of opulence of the recording industry brilliant.

With elton’s colours on it all the union jack with elton john tours cost 50 000 to get the pain plane painted 50 grand back in 74 that was a lot of money let alone everything else.

So you know we all turn up at the airport you know i don’t know how many of us there were, there’s a pic there’s photos of it which you can show but there was probably about 20 of us.

Check out this picture right i found this picture of the starship and this is the actual picture that he was talking about look at it oh my god what an entourage.

That’s elton’s band that’s kiki’s band that’s photographers that’s uh elton’s security guy who’s actually an ex mr universe big black guy.

i wonder who that guy was i wonder what his name was does anybody know if we could track him down that’d be kind of cool right.

and um elton’s manager and all sorts of things.

i’d actually had these uh suits made for the band and and i’m now working for elton’s manager actually john reed and and he wanted he said why don’t we get all these suits made.

Yeah so everyone looks like they belong to the tour so i had all these boilermen’s outfits made which actually the road crew hated me for because they’re very hot a boilerman’s outfit.

i need one for one of my videos right, actually i got one i might have one and and this was no ordinary plane of course you know it was a plane that had been used by the rolling stones it had been used by led zeppelin.

you can see this plane in other shots with zeppelin getting on it and stones getting on it and now we’re getting on it and it had a bar in it it had bedrooms in it had fireplaces in it it was magnificently decked out.

and so off we go and uh you know we take off on this plane i suppose to the first you know we land in america and plane stops wherever on the runway.

somewhere rather open the door there’s like a sea of limousines can you imagine a sea of limousines can you imagine it walking out of the jumbo jet you’ve got your bandwidth your band mates management everywhere you’re entourage entourage walking open the door a sea of limousines.

just a sea of black you can see black cars but also amongst the black cars is also a giant station wagon that’s for kiki and me and the band.

so although it was uh it was great to see these limos we weren’t on we weren’t in the limos.

you so should have been in the limo.

so my job was to get the band in the in the car and somehow follow this cavalcade of limos to the gig or to the hotel or wherever you’re going and there’s all these police outriders

and and this just this was an amazing experience because basically they didn’t hang around these police they’d be doing like 70 miles an hour from the airport to the gig and i’ve got my foot like flat down trying to keep up with this bloody cavalcade

and the people yeah i could see that there were cars driving off the road they thought this was the president you know this has got to be the president going to the white house or somewhere and they drive off the road

can you imagine what it almost felt like you know like absolutely these cars are just driving off the road making way for you coming through with you with your with your band it’s out and john but everyone think it’s the president

i think it’s amazing and this was an incredible tool by any stretch of the imagination because elton’s now big we were playing fifteen thousand uh we played uh madison square gardens which i’ll come on to but we also played these big big halls and ice rinks arenas you know and and these aren’t i can talk about this tour for for a day and a half i mean you drove into the gig they opened up the massive doors the limousines drove in to the gig and parked behind the stage i want to drive in to a stage in a limousine and get out the car and jump on stage who doesn’t want to do that and you just got out of the limos and into the dressing room which is all got food in it and all that business speaking of food that’s called a rider right you know like when you have a band and use like what’s on your rider which is basically what you have at your gig to eat and drink what would you have on your rider let me know in the comments below i’d love to know what you’d have on your rider i’m just trying to think what i’d have on mine a cornish pasty lots of them peanut butter clotted cream and then of course you do the gig kiki’s on first and in fact i used to come on and announce kiki which was a great thing to do because if anyone who walked on stage in front of fifteen thousand people was going to go down rather well yeah so i only had to step up and they’d all gone nuts you know so still walks out on stage to introduce elton john or introduce kiki d introduced to the knight right and i’ve got stories about that because my mate clive was doing the sound he was he was the sound engineer on this tour and we were all buddies so he used to play tricks on me which i might tell you about you talking about clyde frank saying clyde franks is the i think still if i’m not mistaken the sound engineer out front for elton john if you’re watching clive is that true just drop a note in the comments below because that’d be kind of cool but basically uh kiki would go on she’d do her set and then she had a great band we had a song called i’ve got the music in me which we used to play every night used to go down really well that’s a great tune i love that tune and um and then we come off then of course elton would go on you know go down an absolute storm and then uh before the last song everyone’s got to get in the cars get in the limos get the get ready to go start the limo start the car because basically would come off after the last encore right into the cars straight out of the out of the gig police sirens all the whole bit roaring across town to the airport again to get on this plane and that’s like the iconic image we’ve all seen you know with the towel wrapped around the neck getting off stage with a queen or rolling stone jumping in the limo often separate limos for each member of the band and off they go and so yeah i mean how old am i now uh 22 you know so this was incredible really it was an amazing experience for a 22 year old lad i mean you’re still a lad when you’re 22. i mean stu must have felt like he was 50 back then right i mean all that responsibility managing the kikid ban managing all the aspects around john to 22 years of age i better add on this 1974 tour was a particularly amazing gig i mean they’re all amazing gigs we were staying in new york and the story goes that um elton had made a record with john lennon whatever gets you through the night oh what a tune uh with gus dungeon producing it and gus dudgeon was the very prominent producer right for um elton john i think he didn’t also do space oddity uh david bowie’s space oddity and various other amazing artists very inventive i think and i think that was one of the guys that um stuart was mentored by it was being released and uh and elton rang out rang john he said um look he said i’m going on tour how about listen if that record gets gets the number one will you come with me and come on stage when i’m on tour in america and lennon thinking there’s no chance that’s ever going to be number one of course yeah of course i’ll do that well as luck would have it in 1974 whatever gets you through the night was number one uh elton’s about to appear at madden’s madison square gardens rings john up says well it’s number one you said you’d come on stage we’re here so yeah so elton turns up actually he turned up a couple of days before the gig and came on the plane with us and so you know i mean we were like mesmerized we got john lennon on the plane but he was quite shy he’s quite quiet uh he was just very nice and and we’re very happy to have him there kiki got him well with him he got on well with everyone i think it still works that way with musicians you know you i think often you can think this is all planned out for months in advance and years in advance and who’s going to play what and how and you know but quite often it’s just a phone call between friends come and do a gig with me i think it still works that way and uh and we arrive at madison square gardens which is um that’s the first time i’ve ever been there this unbelievable venue in the middle of new york i mean ridiculous place i’ve never actually been to madison square garden have you let me know if you’ve been there who have you seen and uh it sounds amazing i must go and um you know the place is filling up i’m of course an amazing beatle fan anyway stewart who isn’t who doesn’t like the beatles so i’m just hanging around with john you know and nevermind about kiki i’m hanging with john yeah he would right you would have to hang out with john so um you know hanging around hanging around and i was just just with him you know just making sure he’s because i am part of the management so it’s kind of part of my gig anyway but basically elton’s now gone on stage going down absolute storm as usual and now john’s got to come on and i’m walking with him you know in fact i was i was the bottom of the stairs with him before he goes up on stage for uh to appear at madison square and he’s himself basically he’s like prepping himself he could use i don’t know whether i’ve touched him to see whether he was shaking but he was definitely worried and i’m thinking what the are you worried about you know you’re a beat you’re john lennon but he’s actually afterwards you you find out that he was thinking well i might go down badly you know they might boo me or whatever i’ve been on stage for a long time i think it was 10 years and that’s the thing right when was the last time they gigged i know they did the rooftop thing in 69 but that was like the only one for years and years wasn’t it so yeah that must have been quite a nerve-wracking experience you know all that expectation of an xb like john lennon doing his own solo stuff and suddenly he’s like doing a tune on gotta be nerve-wracking yeah so he’s kind of crapping himself anyway as he said something like here we go over the hill i always remember he said that all right here we go over the hill like this war on or something so he goes up the stairs i quickly belt round to a seat in the auditorium and he hit the stairs he hit the stage and the place just went elton obviously announced him we’re very proud to have uh john lennon here and the place just went mad it went absolutely mad for what seemed like hours there was just this white noise of sound everyone going nuts you know standing up ovation he hasn’t even done anything yet anyway then they launched into i saw her standing there the beatles song that actually paul sang not john and it was just like a beetle gig but with only one beetle up there but it was it was unbelievable gus was backstage uh recording it so it’s been recorded there’s there’s no footage of it i think there’s one and a half minutes or two minutes of film of this gig because no it was prior to video and all that 1974.

but uh when john came off stage um you know i think there were peop there were there were people crying because they were so emotional for him what i didn’t mention i forgot to mention is prior to out to john going on stage i was in actually in the dressing room yeah with john and john was with a lady called maypang you know and john’s getting ready and uh yeah i don’t obviously this is his girlfriend maypag anyway there’s only three of us in the dressing room and there’s a knock on the door and because i’m the management i go i go and i go and see who it is i open the door just a little bit yoko ono definitely recognize her you know that’s not good this isn’t good timing he’s with another bird he’s with the solid what what am i going to do yoko john oh dear this is bad anyway behind may behind yoko i should say is this guy tony king who i know you know he’s elton’s buddy and he’s he’s and he’s going like this he’s giving it the thumbs up i’m thinking all right well okay so i open the door let in yoko and turns out she well she knows john but she knows this may she’s she’s not pissed off she hasn’t caught him doing something he’s not supposed to do which is what i thought so um they’re all buddies they’re all talking anyway and and um there’s a story that goes that with that of course that uh pang was yoko’s assistant and it was actually her that told john to go off with her for a couple of weeks you know so there’s a whole story that goes with it but actually this i found out that that was the getting back together of john lennon and yoko ono that they’d actually been apart and this particular gig when she turned up to see uh john play with elton that was when they got back together again which i didn’t know so that was amazing oh my god how amazing is that story you know what just strikes me is you know it stu was doing a job you know and um and i love him for that you know the way that he was just so unassuming it’s like when i was just doing the job i mean i know he speaks so eloquently and he tells the story beautifully and i do love you for the way you tell your stories to it but it’s just so compelling just to think that you were you’re just part of the kind of machine really making it all work making all the you know the cogs line up and and the whole sort of mechanism work correctly and you know trying to protect people and protect things in the right situations when peop things like that happen especially with yoga owner and me paying and stuff it’s absolutely phenomenal thanks ever so much for that stuart’s brilliant i hope you really enjoyed this video and uh and it was really informative you know the thing is likes are free so hit that like button it really helps and it’s fascinating i find the whole industry fascinating and it’s obviously changed a lot since those days of 1974 massively and we do things a lot differently now and we’ll get into all those bits and bobs in other videos take care thanks for your time i hope you enjoyed it don’t forget to hit the like button it really helps cheers you.

Interview by Charlie Diamond Music Production