Like most people his age, Elton John’s life has been soundtracked by The Beatles. The Fab Four were a prominent part of his adolescence, and John will be forever grateful for their kaleidoscopic impact on his formative years. Later in life, the singer-songwriter would also have the honour of collaborating with John Lennon after the two grew close.
When Elton was at school and first introduced to The Beatles, it would have been inconceivable that he’d be their contemporaries just over a decade later. Speaking to Sean Ono Lennon in 2020, Elton reminisced about his intense friendship with John: “That was the kind of wonderful two or three-year whirlwind romance we had, and it was such an important thing in my life, Sean.”
He added: “It just really helped me. It gave me so much confidence. Your dad was as kind and as generous and sweet, and we just hit it off immediately.”
Although he grew to love The Beatles and was even named the godfather to John Lennon’s son, Elton wasn’t immediately sold on the band. His close friend was a paid-up member of their fan club and tried to convince Elton to join him, but it wasn’t until the release of ‘We Can Work It Out’ that he finally understood their brilliance.
Later, when Elton appeared on the BBC Radio 2 segment, Tracks Of My Years, and named the 1965 single one of his all-time favourites. Interestingly, in the UK, ‘We Can Work It Out’ didn’t appear on any of their albums. Although, the track did fly to number one when it was released as a double A-side along with ‘Day Tripper’.
Explaining his decision to include the track in his selections, Elton said: “I remember being at school and my friend Michael Johnson came with a 45 and said ‘I’ve just heard this band, they’re gonna be the biggest band in the world, and it was ‘Love Me Do’. I’ve listened to and said, ‘It’s not bad, it’s not bad’. I couldn’t see that they would be the biggest band in the world, and he turned out to be right. I think he was number four in the fan club. So he spotted them a mile off.
John continued: “Of course, what the 1950s did with rock ‘n’ roll, The Beatles were extraordinary. They revolutionised the way things were recorded, even though it was with quite simple equipment, they experimented, and they wrote fantastic songs.”
Speaking specifically about his selection, John added: “‘We Can Work It Out’ is such a wonderful song. Stevie Wonder did an amazing version of it. I can’t even begin to think of how many people covered Beatles songs. There is so much I could have chosen. I was amazed when I was at Sain-Tropez playing at the Papagayo Club with my band Bluesology, Revolver was out and it was a big part of my life. But I’ve chosen (‘We Can Work It Out’) because I just love the song.”
It took Elton longer than most to recognise the talent of the Fab Four. However, the Liverpudlians eventually won him over, and ‘We Can Work It Out’ played a crucial role in his journey to becoming a Beatles convert after recognising the error of his ways.