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28 May 2011

The Eltonite's Day: Wembley 75!!!

Jack Rabbit strikes back (again)! There’s no better way to start doin' an Eltonite’s Day. Now, this time, on The Bay of Plenty! God, what a nice place to start, Rabbit. Located at the entrance to one of the largest natural harbours in New Zealand and nestled beside the magnificent Mauao (Mount Maunganui), Tauranga shows its splendor. Old Rabbit is looking for someone who has as a favourite quotation as follows: “The world is changing, we're getting older, simple things are hard to find, hope they remember what we did here, the ones we leave behind”. Very nice words, Rabbit. Another clue? “I don't feel it, I don't act my age & I certainly don't look it (according to others lol)”. Today's guest is someone very special. The doors of AllSongsList are all wide-open to receive the fantastic: Wembley75!!!

I love your country, nice place, that's paradise. I am truly happy to have you here, thanks for your acceptation. But first.... Could you tell us more, please, who are you?

Thank you Miquel for an invitation to your wonderful Eltonite’s Day pages, it’s a real pleasure. Hi I’m Tracy (Stent), Eltonites might know me better as Wembley75. I was “Made In England” & moved with family to New Zealand in December 1975. I remember thinking that’s ok, Elton tours down under & I’d already heard about the February ’74 tour, fisticuffs & all !! Little did I know it would be 5 ½ years before I was able to see Elton live again. In fact my dad beat me to it in 1979 when he visited family in Perth, Australia & got tickets to Elton with Ray Cooper. I’ve never forgiven myself for not going over (too old to holiday with mum & dad haha) but Dad did bring me back the programme.

Upps!! Almost you had the programme. And when did you become an Eltonite? Remember the first time you heard Elton's music and what moves you to buy his music?

Growing up I listened to a variety of my parents records from The Beatles to Sinatra, Streisand, The Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, Diamond, Dusty, Peggy & Ella, stage shows like West Side Story & Carousel & classical pieces like Ravels Bolero & Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture. As a teen I loved the “glam” rock bands like Slade, Sweet, Wizzard, Gary Glitter, T-Rex, Suzi Quatro before I’d heard of Elton John. I should thank my parents as they bought Don’t Shoot Me for my 15th birthday in March ‘73 as I loved Crocodile Rock & I was hooked. Mum religiously bought Melody Maker newspaper & I would read it after her so I knew the GBYBR release date & still remember as if it were yesterday, Mum & I had a shopping trip to town just so I could buy the album. I had never seen such an amazing tri-fold sleeve & the illustrations were fabulous. I traced the front cover drawing, coloured it in & stuck it on my bedroom wall alongside my collection of Elton John posters & newspaper cuttings. My bedroom looked just like Mandy Moore’s one in the clip “Original Sin” with the white furniture, a turntable & many of the same posters !! By the end of 1973 I had all of Elton’s back catalogue LP’s & like many of us Eltonites have never missed a release date since.

Oh, great!!! Your first concert experience was the debut of the Rock Of The Westies band at Wembley Stadium, in 1975, where Elton played “Captain Fantastic” album in his entire order for the surprise of the public. What do you remember of that gig and how many concerts have you been after that?

Three friends from college & myself set off early travelling first by train then on two tube lines to Wembley, the journey took around two hours. London had put on one of it’s best days of summer & I remember the two white towers looked phenomenal glistening in the sun as we walked up to the main entrance, I’d only seen them on TV before then. We arrived around 11 in the morning, the gates had opened at 10 & there were already a number of people there, especially on the grass arena, we had purchased tickets in the stand for 3 pounds & 50 pence!! At midday the show got underway. We had a blast, the sound was fantastic & I could hardly believe I was amongst a crowd in a stadium supposedly holding 100,000 people. Later I believe that figure was revised down to 75,000. The Eagles were amazing & the first time I had heard their music. The Beach Boys definitely stole the show with hit after hit that everybody knew, playing in that late (hot) afternoon sun was perfect …just had to close your eyes & imagine surfing in Southern Cali-for-nia !!! CFATBDCB was released four weeks before Wembley & I had learnt every song but I don’t recall if I knew ahead of time that Elton would play the complete album. I was very happy to hear all the new songs live - thanks Elton !! I didn’t notice a mass walkout like the media reported because people were unfamiliar with Elton’s new album. The crowd seemed to come & go all day around us, for toilet breaks or for food & drink & sitting on the terraces wasn’t very comfortable for long periods. Sadly I did not take a camera & very few photos have emerged since but there is a black & white picture published in Caleb Quaye’s book A Voice Louder Than Rock & Roll. Taken by Roger Pope behind his drum kit of Caleb on stage & the crowd looks packed pretty tight & I recently found an awesome photo on Flickr which proves how tight & how hot from the number of topless guys (& gals?):

Unlike many Eltonites I ’m still in single figures for EJ gigs I‘ve attended. Sadly I have only been to 8 concerts since Wembley, all in New Zealand: 1980/82/84, 1990/93/98, 2006/08. But I’m very excited to be going on my first “Elton roadtrip” in Australia later this year, by passing Dunedin for Hunter Valley & two shows in Melbourne which will bring my count to 12. Those eighties gigs were really something else, so fast paced. I loved Elton's energetic piano antics & jamming with the band.

So wonderful experience, Tracy. Which could be a great set list, in your opinion? Is there any song that Elton hasn’t played yet, and you think that he should do it?

I know how much we all crave the rarities but understand the reasons why we don’t get them often. I feel very blessed Elton is still touring & writing, playing so many different types of show adds variety. The setlist from Elton’s 60th Birthday is pretty amazing. If I could pick 2 songs I’d love to hear live they would be Pinky & Mandalay Again…. Davey, how about a surprise for your Aussie/NZ fans this year? Please !!

Hahaha Davey, you must listen. Precisely, which people related to Elton you have met? Have you ever met Elton?

I have never met Elton or any of the band in person. I do have a relative who whilst holidaying at an exclusive private island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef discovered Elton was there. It was during one of his breaks from Renate & Elton was taking some R&R & catching up on the England/Australia cricket series. Elton had access to a piano in the bar & did spend time playing it & dining with the other guests. Of course everybody gave him the privacy he was seeking at this time too.

And your favourite Elton’s albums? Which are the songs that should have been singles but weren’t? What do you think about the “B” sides? Were they good songs, any in particular?

Captain Fantastic is my favourite album followed by 17/11/70. Love the B sides, it was magic flipping over a 45 to hear what didn’t make the album cut. I really like I Cry At Night, The Retreat & Conquer The Sun. My favourite is Tortured, an outstanding song that should have been a single. Thank goodness the modern equivalent of flipping it over is bonus tracks or deluxe editions. Mandalay Again should have been a single without question.

For sure! And which is your Elton´s item that you really appreciate, for being hard to get or for the happiness you´ve got to have it?

I am lucky enough to own a programme from the 1972 Royal Festival Hall concert, an Uncle attended. I had no idea it was rare, our friend Paul Purcell confirmed he had never seen one for sale. I have a scarf from Wembley. I recently acquired via a non Elton friend a signed B&W photograph of Elton wearing the Pierrot suit & hat he wore in the Chloe video clip. Photographs I received as a member of the original Elton John Fan Club in the UK are very special too.

Nice items really! And if Paul Purcell told you that, that’s pretty certain for sure. But how it was, and still is, the success of Elton in your country? Which have been his hits in sales terms? And which are New Zealanders's favorite Elton's albums or songs? And could you still hear Elton's music in the radio, nowadays?

Elton John & his music is quite popular in New Zealand but there was little promotion of The Union from what I saw & I didn’t hear any tracks played on the radio. In the past I would say his most successful period in terms of charting was from 1982-1984, a time when he toured often down under. Jump Up went to #1, the first album to do so since CFATBDCB and surprisingly Breaking Hearts peaked at #2. Sleeping With The Past also went to #1. For singles, apart from ‘97 Candle re-release & Don’t Go Breaking My Heart duet, Nikita was the most successful reaching #1 also.

Oh, once you said about some newspapers treating Elton: “No surprise that so far none of our comments have been published yet there is a collection of adverse ones appearing. Typical !! I don't normally like to write on such matters as it's Eltons private life & nothing to do with me but this constant attack that has worsened since Christmas Day needs to be stopped”. That was about the birth of Baby Zachary. Why do you think some journalists lose respect for him?

I actually don’t think it’s a matter of journalists losing respect for Elton, in my opinion they have little respect for those in the public eye to begin with. They lie low in the gutter (lol) ready to pounce on any story they can lay their hands on, no matter how bizarre or untruthful. I made the comment you quote on instinct, like any mother wanting to protect her child & assuming that Zachary will one day read about his birth, some of the comments were deplorable. Sadly nowadays people can type what they want whilst hidden behind their keyboards and in the case you mentioned only comments backing up the viewpoint of the journo were being published.

Finally, could you tell me your five favorite Elton's songs in running order, for my AllSongsList?

Varies according to my mood but nearly always in the top five are: Someone Saved My Life Tonight / High Flying Bird / Harmony / Live Like Horses / The One …….is that five already, I could go on?

Hahahaha Thank you. Apart from music, which are your interests? What you like to do with your off time?

I love reading especially non fiction, listening to music (Robbie Williams, Queen, Coldplay, EJ & Adele in the player this week) & we have two teenage boys which keep me very busy. My other passion is following motorsports (WRC, MotoGP, SBK, Indy, F1) & if I had the money I would like to travel the world to watch races & Elton concerts.

Oh, that would be a dream come true! Would you want to add some observation or suggestion, or something you want to say to other eltonites?

I love to correspond with Eltonites around the world & it’s fantastic to hear all their stories & share photos especially from the tours, almost as good as being there. Paul P. summed it up recently by saying there is not one person we know of that won’t be seeing Elton at some stage this year, long may it continue. Thank you Elton & Bernie for being my original sin !!

Thanks for all, Tracy, really a pleasure to chat with you. Doing this interview with you it was an enjoyable and worth experience. Thank you again and my best wishes for the future. Take care.

pictures courtesy of Tracy Stent