Elton John's Bedroom
It's difficult to describe the gracious and generous way in which Elton John treats people, everyone will tell you the same thing, he's simply one of the friendliest people you could ever want to meet. The chance came up to shoot him for the NME and it was supposed to take place at his Record Company, but the day before the shoot he changed his mind, he suggested instead that we do it at his house.
He lives out near Windsor and a driver was sent to collect me, I had never been treated quite like this before, I sat in the car wondering what he would be like, what would I say, he was a huge superstar, why on earth would he invite me out to his house?
Turned out he thought I might prefer his home as a place to do pictures, this was unusual, most stars of his stature would never do this, they would want to keep you away from their house not invite you to go there. I arrived and was ushered into the kitchen, it was bigger than my parents home, and there were records everywhere. Piled up on the table, in boxes on the floor, I had never seen so many, in fact a lot of musicians have very few records, why bother listening to someone else when you make your own?
But Elton is a fan, a huge fan, and music meant everything to him. It turned out that he had a standing order with Tower Records in LA, they were to ship him a copy of every record released. That may sound extravagant, even a little crazy but to Elton it made sense. His record collection was simply second to none, he had purchased the collection from Bernie Andrews, a Radio One producer, he must have had 20,000 LP's. It was stored in a room that was built like a maze, corridor after corridor of LP's neatly filed and literally floor to ceiling, it seemed to go on forever. I spent a long time in there just looking at the records, I had never seen anything like it, except at a record store.
I should explain, whilst chatting over a cup of tea he had told me to take a look at his house and decide where I wanted to take pictures, nowhere was off limits and he said to just explore the place and let me know my choice of rooms, I found a Disco (the previous owner was an Arab) there was an indoor swimming pool with a giant chandelier, a living room full of Art, a massive dining room, a gym, stables, garages full of cars, a small recording studio, I really was spoilt for choice.
Then I went upstairs, this was the largest house I had ever been in, I kept exploring and I ended up in his bedroom suite, not by looking for it, I just happened upon it. It contained these huge speakers, priceless works of Art, and this old bed, something that looked like it belonged in a castle, I figured this was the place where I most wanted to shoot. I mean he did say anywhere, and the idea seemed perfect, papers like the Sun would have given anything to take pictures of him there, but that was the thing, I only ever had my pictures published once, in the NME, everyone knew that about me and that's why I was trusted, to me it made total sense, I did some of the worlds biggest stars and the only place they appeared was a music paper, it meant I was never a threat, I could get these fantastic photos and nobody had to worry about them turning up everywhere, the Fleet Street photographers respected me for it too, although they thought I was completely nuts.
I went back downstairs, told him I had seen his bedroom and asked him about the bed. He said it was from the 16th century, I said it was my favourite room, he said no problem and I went to set up my lights. Looking back it was maybe a presumptuous thing to do, but he was so kind and welcoming that I never really gave it a second thought. We did the pictures quickly, it was all over in a matter of minutes, I think I was probably very nervous, but he really did not seem to mind. He joked that I had been in his bedroom and escaped unscathed, I knew he was desperate to come out about being gay, maybe it influenced my choice of rooms, maybe thats why he let me photograph him in there.
We took pictures elsewhere but by comparison they were kind of boring, after all it's not every day you see a 400 year old bed surrounded by Modern Art.
I went back to the house a number of times to do photos for him, he seemed to enjoy having me around and often invited me to stay for dinner, there was just one catch, if you stayed you were given a woman's name, Rod Stewart was Sharon, my friend Frank Murray was Ruby, I was Bette.