Elton John and John Lennon's 'whirlwind romance' timeline explained

3 April 2022, 17:46

Elton John admitted that he and John Lennon "did a lot of naughty, naughty things together".
Elton John admitted that he and John Lennon "did a lot of naughty, naughty things together". Picture: Bob Gruen

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

When music legends collide, there's more often than not fireworks.

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And Sir Elton John has had some fractious friendships with other rock stars in his time - his well-documented spats with Freddie Mercury and Rod Stewart certainly spring to mind.

But in 2020 he revealed he had a short-lived and far lesser-known friendship with a certain Beatle: John Lennon.

Elton likened his friendship with Lennon as a "whirlwind romance" as they were inseparable for a couple of years throughout the 1970s.

You can understand why the two icons would get on, having both come from humble beginnings and achieved stratospheric success during the same era.

So what happened with their fleeting friendship? Here's a timeline:

When did John Lennon and Elton John first meet?

Elton John and John Lennon at The Record Plant, NYC, 1974. (Photo: Bob Gruen)
Elton John and John Lennon at The Record Plant, NYC, 1974. (Photo: Bob Gruen). Picture: Bob Gruen

Elton and John Lennon wouldn't actually first meet until 1973.

It was during a video shoot for the former Beatle's fourth solo album Mind Games, and Elton was in awe of meeting his hero.

During a conversation with Sean Lennon in celebration of John Lennon's 80th birthday, Elton revealed: "I was a little bit, obviously I was in awe."

"I was meeting any of The Beatles and they all treated me so brilliantly, but your dad had that edge that none of the other Beatles had kind of because he wasn't afraid to say what he thought."

Even by that time Elton had sold over 30 million albums with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road establishing him as one of the world's biggest music acts.

But he was still utterly starstruck, admitting to cycling eight miles just to pick up a copy of St. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band a few years earlier.

Why did they hit it off?

Elton was "starstruck" after meeting his hero John Lennon for the first time in 1973.
Elton was "starstruck" after meeting his hero John Lennon for the first time in 1973. Picture: Steve Morley

Even though Elton John and John Lennon were two of the world's most famous and widely adored musicians, coming from similar backgrounds meant they had a certain level of understanding.

And they had the kind of admiration for one another which meant their egos didn't get in the way.

Elton chatted to John's son Sean about the reason they got on so well in such a short space of time, saying: "We laughed so much because we talked about the 50s and 60s and where we grew up."

"The radio shows we liked, the songs we liked, we didn't like, and your dad was just a fountain of knowledge."

"It was a hand in glove thing and I never thought that would ever happen. There was no attitude. I hate posers and I hate attitude and your dad didn't have any of it."

He goes on to tell Sean that his dad "was as kind and as generous and sweet and we just hit it off immediately. He was so funny. That's what I loved about him. And we talked about music, we talked about records we loved."

Sean responded at the time saying "And other things. He did other things I heard....." to which Elton laughed and replied: "Yeah, we did other things."

"We did a lot of naughty, naughty things together. We had a lot of fun. Oh my god."

Did John Lennon and Elton John ever collaborate?

The pair had a strong creative partnership, but clearly didn't take themselves too seriously.
The pair had a strong creative partnership, but clearly didn't take themselves too seriously. Picture: Bob Gruen

During their friendship, Elton and John Lennon did work together in the studio.

Elton provided harmonies and the piano parts for John's fifth solo album Walls & Bridges, most notably on the track 'Whatever Gets You Thru The Night'.

Their friendship blossomed during the period John was separated from Yoko Ono, and entered a new relationship with Mae Pang whilst living in between Los Angeles and New York.

Ono was Lennon's creative confidant and muse in the years prior, and now she was no longer by his side.

Similarly, Elton was riding high on the crest of superstardom, so they evidently offered each other a safe space to be themselves in amidst the madness.

Did John Lennon and Elton John ever perform on stage together?

Yes, they did. At Madison Square Garden during Elton John's triumphant concert in November 1974.

John Lennon joined Elton on stage for a joyous performance of 'Whatever Gets You Thru The Night' at the height of their friendship, in what would be Lennon's final ever live performance.

Of course, they weren't to know at the time their duet would enter the history books.

Instead it started out as a bet between the two, with Elton attempting to coax Lennon back into the realm of live performance by wagering that if the single they worked on together reached No.1, they'd perform it together.

Incidentally it was Lennon eating his words, though one lucky audience couldn't care less given they got to saw the Beatle in the flesh, on stage, for the very last time.

Their performance was also fateful for another reason, as it proved to be the catalyst for John and Yoko's reconciliation.

Why was their intense friendship so short-lived?

Their duet of 'Whatever Gets You Thru The Night' was Lennon's final ever live performance.
Their duet of 'Whatever Gets You Thru The Night' was Lennon's final ever live performance. Picture: Bob Gruen

Fleeting relationships occur often in the music industry, either because of where certain stars are situated at times in their lives or their egos driving them apart.

In terms of Elton John and John Lennon however, there was mutual respect and admiration for one another even though wouldn’t see each other that regularly after their on-stage performance together.

John reunited with Yoko the following year, Sean was born, and naturally with fatherhood they drifted apart as the Lennon's settled into family life together.

Not that Elton was miffed with their ‘bromance’ fizzling out, as he still recalls the period as "a dream come true."

Sean Lennon later asked Sir Elton to be his godfather, and Elton knew the friendship with his father still meant so much despite them not seeing one another often.

"After that and then you were born, I really didn't hear or see your dad at all and I didn't mind because you know what, he was so happy being back with your mum, and he was so enchanted having you that it was his life had become another thing and so I didn't really speak to him or see him that much at all or hear from him."

He concluded by saying: "I didn't mind because it was just the fact that that night was so consequential in the history of his life. The fact that he got back together with your mum and then they had you."

Of course John and Yoko were together until he was tragically murdered in 1980.

In tribute to the music legend and his good friend, Elton wrote the song 'Empty Gardens' in his memory with the help of Bernie Taupin.