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The Elvis Presley record that "changed everything" for Elton John

@josephtaysom

Elton John grew up in a home where music was everywhere. Just like him, his mother was an obsessive consumer of audio art, and the moment she introduced him to Elvis Presley would “change everything” for the singer.

Every Friday, Elton John’s mother would return from the record store clutching the latest release, which would then become an appointment listen for the entire family. Still to this day, Friday is all about consuming new music for Elton, and he dedicates time out of his hectic calendar each week to listen to the freshest sounds.

“It’s always exciting when vinyl comes around every week,” he told BBC 6 Music in 2020. “I mean, I buy my vinyl from Rough Trade in Ladbroke Grove and they send me the lists every week and I mark off the ones I want and I get them from there”.

It’s an efficient system he has in place with Rough Trade that is a by-product of simply being Elton John and the privileges of his towering status. Every week, Elton is still chasing a repeat of that same endorphin rush that he got as a child when he stumbled upon Elvis Presley, and it’s one of the few vices that he still allows himself.

However, nothing quite competes with that biblical first introduction to Elvis through ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ as a nine-year-old. “My mum always used to buy a record every Friday. She came home and she had the 78 of Elvis Presley, and she said, ‘I heard this in the record shop and I’ve never heard anything like it!’ She played it to me and I’d never heard anything like it either,” he told The Guardian.

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John continued, “It was weird, because, about 10 days before, I’d had my hair cut in the local barbers, where I went as a little boy, and I’d noticed a Life magazine. I was reading this article on a man who looked like an alien but was so handsome – I’d never seen anything like him, and I put two and two together and said, ‘That was the man I saw in the magazine!’ So that was the record that really changed everything.”

Decades later, Elton would get to live out his childhood dream and meet Elvis in person. However, it would be a dark wake-up call about the perils of fame. Elton was at his hedonistic peak during this period, and seeing the decline of Presley up-close made him reflect on the error of his ways. 

“It was so sad, because he turned into this big man with no eyes,” John told Oprah in 1997. “They had sunk into the back of his head and it was pathetic. In the end, there are pictures of me when I look at them and think, ‘Oh my God, you know, I turned into Elvis.

“You just shut your door, and you gained weight, and you did this. You did that and you didn’t care how you were.’ It’s very easy to do that.”

Elton realised the reckless way he was living was only heading towards an early grave. Tragically, this conclusion didn’t dawn on ‘The King’ until he’d lost his crown, morphed into a shadow of the man that once hypnotised John, and six feet under. 

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