Thank you for the music, Freddie
At 51, the man who wrote The Young Ones is beginning to sound like a bit of an old curmudgeon. But I don’t dare say as much. Instead, I ask him about Simon Cowell, whom he admits to knowing slightly. “He’s exactly what you see on television. A very pleasant, gently amoral man who it’s fun to be around.”
When We Will Rock You opened in 2002, its plot traced the death of real music back in time to the popularity of the Pop Idol TV show and the manufactured band Hear’Say.
Those jokes have since been replaced by jibes at the expense of Cowell and the X Factor. But it seems to me that Elton’s show has quite a lot in common with the reality talent contests to which it claims to be an antidote.
“Oh does it?” he growls. It’s hard to tell if he is outraged, mock outraged or just plain tired.
Fresh-faced singers, familiar songs, bums on seats, fun for all the family. It’s not a hundred miles away, is it? “Our show is not without its contradictions,” he concedes. “But it’s honest. It delivers what it promises: live music, organically performed, with some good gags thrown in. That’s its triumph. That’s why its on the side of the angels.”
As we say our goodbyes, he returns to a question I never asked him. The one about whether or not he deserved to be considered a sellout. “I could probably afford never to work again if I wanted to. Probably. But I could also be 10 times richer if I’d accepted all of the opportunities that came my way.”
Might those have included an offer to write Police Academy 6? “Yes, as it happens,” he replies. And for the first time in our 30 minutes together, he actually flashes me a smile.
After the show, the press contingent are ushered into a side room for an appropriately regal audience with Queen drummer Roger Taylor. In celebration of the 10th (actually, the 11th) anniversary of We Will Rock You, the show is embarking upon a world tour that incorporates dates in the O2 Dublin this April and Belfast’s Odyssey Arena in June.
As he is ushered down the line of international press, it is clear that we will each be permitted one question only. So I decide to ask him the one question that has really been on my mind all evening. That is, whether all of this, the cast, the script, the whole production would be redundant if his old friend Freddie were still alive? Taylor is astonishingly suave and husky voiced, like an English Vito Corleone. He mulls the question for a second, and then replies.
“Perhaps,” he says. “Perhaps.” Then he saunters away.