As The Crow Flies – Country Comfort
We mine our Elton archives each month to showcase news or features you won’t find anywhere else! Edited by Fran Gilles
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Interview by Janet Street-Porter, edited by George Matlock
Monday 23 January 2006 @ 21:59 – GMT
Republished 31 October 2023
We have unearthed this interview and thought that it was amusing to reintroduce it to Elton fans.
Elton interviewed for 8 minutes by British journalist Janet Street-Porter on BBC2 TV series “As the Crow Flies” broadcast Friday, April 30, 1999. The film appears to have been recorded around January 1999.
As Janet exits Welwyn Garden City, a market town experiment, with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road playing in the background, on her penultimate stage of a walking adventure made in a straight line from Edinburgh, Scotland, to London, she has to cross through the county of Hertfordshire and the famous Watford North-South England border.
In truth, the area looks more like down the road from Elton’s Berkshire County abode. Janet Street-Porter (with an apt name like that!) is a keen walker and chief of the U.K. walkers’ pressure group, the Ramblers Association. She tells us she’s about to have a very special friend keep her company en route.
She meets “another Green Belt resident waiting for me”. The Green Belt is London’s designated outer ring where new developments are prohibited, and where Elton lives.
“You’re late” Elton chides, welcoming a walk-weary JSP. Elton, wearing a brown Barbour-type three-quarter-length raincoat, blue jeans, and blue-white sneakers, greets JSP with a hug and kiss, and then admits HE’S late!
JSP’s known Elton 20 years, and he’s agreed to walk a few miles through the Hertfordshire countryside. His car can be seen parked nearby. The most unusual Elton interview ensues – for a change he’s on foot, not chair!
Janet asks about growing up in Pinner.
EJ: “It was alright, actually. I was born in a council house at 55 Pinner Hill Road, it was quite rural. There was a farm opposite [now there’s a housing estate]. I used to get the bus to school or cycle.”
JSP: “I think you were really nice.” EJ: “I was ever so nice! I daren’t not be! I had very strict parents, I wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose!”
JSP: “How old were you when you went to the Royal Academy (of Music?)
EJ: “Eleven. Went every Saturday until I was fifteen, except when I played truant.”
JSP: “When did you start playing in hotels and pubs around Pinner and Harrow?”
EJ: “I was 16, still at school. To got money to pay for my amplifier, microphone, and eventually electric piano. I was in a band at the same time. I used to play on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. I got a pound-a-night, and all the money I could get from taking the box around at the end of the night. I earned quite a lot of money actually, and that paid for all my stuff.”
JSP: “I remember seeing you with a yellow dungarees on! We’ll draw a veil over the costumes!”
EJ: “Well, that was my rebellion against suburbia.”
JSP: “How old were you when you finally said goodbye to Pinner for good?”
EJ: “Well, I then lived in Northwood Hills for a bit.”
JSP: “Where’s that exactly?”
EJ: “A mile away from Pinner!”
EJ: “When I started to make it [in showbiz], I moved to The Water Gardens in London. I went very grand immediately! I went from a Ford Escort [car] to an Aston Martin and never looked back.” They approach a country gate…
JSP: “Oh my Gawd. We’ve got to get over a stile.” Tall
JSP goes first without problem.
EJ remarks: “This is worth filming!”
Elton grunts, tags over with shorter legs and clears the stile.
EJ: “Stile [style] with Janet Street-Porter!”
JSP: “I’ve got no style now.”
EJ: “Why do you like walking so much?”
Janet says she likes getting away from people.
EJ: “What do you think about when walking?”
JSP: “You’re very aware of the light, colour, and landscape. You feel free.” An old cyclist rides past. Janet says “hello”, but he’s courteous yet oblivious to the celebrities’ identity! Elton sniggers.
EJ: “I love walking around my garden.”
JSP: “I was only able to be by myself when I was fifty.”
EJ: “I quite like being by myself sometimes. Just to zone out at home. I never used to be good at that. I used to have to have people around me. The older you get the more tolerant you become to being alone.”
JSP: “I worry about my eyelids. I don’t like my body, dropping a bit. Perhaps that’s why I walk, to arrest ageing.”
EJ: “Your perspective on life changes. You get more opinionated when older. I like people with opinion. But I think opinion gets clearer when you’re older. There’s so much crap and mediocrity about – and you can say that when you’re fifty.” Second stile to climb!
JSP: “Do you like playing [tennis] doubles?”
EJ: “Only when they’re… any good.”
JSP: “You nearly said gorgeous didn’t you! Ever thought about having your eyelids done?”
JSP: “Do you think old can look sexy?”
JSP: “I don’t believe you.”
EJ: “I have to leave you here. I’m going into London to buy some records.”
JSP: “And I’m walking to the M25 [motorway]!”
EJ: “Guess which one has the more glamorous lifestyle!”
They kiss and part.