The real story of Elton John and Rod Stewart's 55-year feud and friendship

4 April 2022, 13:07 | Updated: 26 August 2022, 12:47

Rod Stewart and Elton John have known each other for years
Rod Stewart and Elton John have known each other for years. Picture: Getty Images/Alamy

By Naomi Bartram

Rod Stewart and Elton John have been frenemies for over 50 years, here's the story of their friendship...

As two legends of pop music, Elton John and Rod Stewart have known each other for years.

The pair first met during their early days, when Elton was playing in the band Bluesology.

But their friendship didn’t get off to the best start after Rod went on to cover Elton’s song ‘Country Comfort’ and ‘changed the lyrics completely’.

This is something Elton didn’t take kindly to, with the star remembering: “He changed the lyrics, something I complained about at length in the press: ‘He sounds like he made it up as he went along!

"He couldn’t have got further from the original if he’d sung 'The Camptown Races'!’”

Elton John and Rod Stewart have known each other for over 50 years
Elton John and Rod Stewart have known each other for over 50 years. Picture: Alamy

He later added: “We’ve spent nearly fifty years constantly taking the p*** out of, and trying to put one over, each other.”

The two music legends have been swapping insults ever since, with John even shooting down a blimp advertising Stewart's tour back in the 80s.

Joking about it afterwards, John explained: “So I called my management and they hired someone to shoot it down: apparently it landed on top of a double-decker bus and was last seen heading toward Putney.

“About an hour later, the phone went. It was Rod, spluttering about the disappearance.”

A year later, Stewart got his own back when a banner advertising John’s Olympia concert was mysteriously cut down.

Rod Stewart and Elton John played pranks on one another
Rod Stewart and Elton John played pranks on one another. Picture: Alamy

When he later spoke to his rival on the phone, Stewart cheekily said: “Such a shame about your banner, love. I heard it wasn’t even up five minutes. I bet you didn’t even get to see it.”

Continuing their pranks, when Rod held his Blondes ‘ave More Fun Tour in the 1970s, Elton made sure billboards were plastered on the opposite side of the street that read: “But Brunettes make more money”.

The pair did share some nice moments as well, giving each other the drag nicknames Sharon and Phyllis.

After Elton took an 18-month break to go to rehab in the mid-Eighties, he returned by surprising Rod by appearing in full drag on stage at Wembley.

Unfortunately, Rod and Elton came to blows in a big way back in 2018 after Rod claimed Elton’s 300 date Farewell Yellow Brick Road retirement tour “stinks of grabbing money” in a live TV interview.

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The row continued into 2019 when Stewart said: "I do love Elton, only we're not talking at the moment. We’ve had a spat because I criticised his tour as being money-grabbing."

In the paperback version of his 2019 autobiography Me, Elton then dedicated an entire chapter explaining how much he disliked Rod.

Elton wrote at the time: "I certainly didn’t feel like I needed a lecture on the feral spirit of rock and roll from someone who’d spent most of the last decade crooning his way through the Great American Songbook and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

"He was accusing me of being dishonest about one of the biggest decisions of my life.

Elton John and Rod Stewart are now friends again
Elton John and Rod Stewart are now friends again. Picture: Getty Images

"What’s more, I thought he had a cheek, complaining about me promoting a tour while he was sat on a TV show promoting his own tour."

Rod later apologised for what he said, calling himself ‘bang out of order’.

He said: "I was a bit spiteful when he announced his tour. I regret it, I really do regret it. So we're mates again now. I do love him."

Discussing the feud, he added: “We’ve always been fierce enemies, as you know, through the years, but it’s always been at a playful level.

"But we had the worst row, like a married couple. It went on forever."