Monday, October 09, 2006

Learning from the Rocket Man

Everything I learned in life I learned from Elton John. Well, not really, but I learned a lot. I never realized I was even a fan until a few months ago when I bought a DVD of a concert he did several years ago at Madison Square Garden. I’d always enjoyed his music but had forgotten how much. Listening to the songs from the Madman Across the Water album (yes, I’m old enough to still call them albums) brought back memories of the parties at Claire Cook’s house on Friday nights while her mother was at Bingo.

And on Friday night, my husband, my sister, and I went to see him at Mellon Arena. He performed for three hours—with no intermission. It was incredible. If you want to read more about it see the review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Here are a few things I learned:

1. Start with your best stuff.
Some performers open with something mellow, then build to “the good stuff.” Sir Elton opens with Funeral For a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding), without a doubt one of his best. A writer should do the same. Open the book with a bang. If you save the good stuff till later, your readers might not make it that far.

2. Surround yourself with good friends.
Some of the members of Elton’s band have been with him from the beginning. Nigel Olsson (drums), Bob Birch (bass), and Davey Johnstone (guitar) have been around forever. His new CD, The Captain and the Kid (a sequel to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy) tells about his long and sometime difficult friendship with his lyricist, Bernie Taupin. Find people who share the same interests and make friends. I hang out with a good group of very talented people. I hope to call them friends for the rest of my life.

3. Don’t get in a rut.
Change is good. Elton is always reinventing himself. He’s gone from the flamboyant performer with the weird costumes and goofy glasses to someone you’d like to have over to your house for dinner. He’s written all different kinds of music. Pop, rock, classical—even Broadway musicals. Writers should continually challenge themselves. Never finish learning. Even if you write in the same genre all the time, keep things new for the reader—and yourself

4. Respect the people who put you where you are today.
Near the end of his concert, Elton took the time to sign dozens of autographs at the edge of the stage. He worked his way across and signed whatever people handed him. He didn’t have to do that—or do it for as long as he did. It showed that he cares about his fans. He knows who put him on that stage. I’m not in the position yet, but you can be sure that when I have a book out, I’ll sign as many as you put in front of me.

5. And finally, have fun!
No matter what you do for a living, try to enjoy it!

In support of one of my friends—Rebecca Drake, author of the thriller, Don’t Be Afraid, will be appearing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in South Side Works, on Friday, October 13th at 7:00 pm. If you mention our group blog, Working Stiffs, she might just have a surprise for you!


Annette said...

I LOVE Elton John. All the way back to Crocodile Rock. I'm completely envious that you saw him in concert.

Joyce said...

Buy the Madison Square Garden DVD--it's almost as good as being there!

Kristine said...

Words to live by, Joyce.
Sounds like it was an awesome concert, too.