Bernie vs. Elton | Unpublished

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Unpublished Opinions

RobDekker's picture
Ottawa, Ontario
About the author

Rob currently works on Parliament Hill and is on the Daybreak Non-Profit Housing Board of Directors.  He writes regularly on his blog #RedHeartBlueSign at on lifestyle, political and personal topics.

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Bernie vs. Elton

February 17, 2024

I have been an Elton John fan for most of my life, have read most everything about Elton John.  Bernie Taupin’s biography was a refreshing and surprising read about their partnership and how the fame affected the famed lyricist.

The fall of 2019 saw Elton John publish “Me” an autobiography.  Almost 4 years later (2023) Bernie Taupin released his autobiography “Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton & Me”.  Was this going to be the battle of who told their collective story better?  

Anyone who is a fan of Elton knows the story.  The lads met after Bernie answers an advertisement in the New Musical Express for Liberty Records, and submits lyrics, or as he refers to them to Elton as “fanciful, whimsical, touches of psychedelia and traces of Hobbitism”.  Between Me and Scattershot fans now have an almost full picture of the life of a very successful songwriting team.  It comes down whose story do you like better?

Fans will tell you they don’t care; they like them both in fact both remain true to the story of the pair laid out in ‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" chronicling life before the US breakthrough and ‘The Captain and the Kid’ when they arrived in LA for the Troubadour debut.

So, to compare the two we look at the books from different perspectives. First, the writing style.  There is a definite writing style difference.  In Scattershot you notice right away the lyrical way the book reads.  It was a joy for me to read the book and notice the words Bernie uses.  As an example, the word ‘satorical’ shows up more than a few times, it’s a word Taupin uses in song lyrics.  The style Taupin uses to describe his lyrics is what I would describe how he has written the book. Me certainly doesn’t have the literary flair of Scattershot.  

Musically, Elton and Bernie are on the same page celebrating and panning the same albums.  Both write lovingly of the early years 1970-75 and the era of rediscovery in the early 2000’s when the albums ‘Songs from the West Coast’, ‘The Diving Board’ and ‘The Union’ (with Leon Russell) were very well received and they are very critical of some albums from the 80’s and 90’s.  You have to wonder in the years of overindulgence in alcohol and drugs that music stilled flowed, even though it was mediocre (except for a few flashes of brilliance).

Both books included the Elton/Bernie story, but each focused on the lives each lived, it is something both mentions.  It is here that the books stand out differently.  With Me Elton goes deeper into headlines of his life we read and heard about.  Of course we rrad about Elton’s success with movies and the tremedous success of “Rocketman”.

Scattershot, is something completely new, we never knew almost much about Bernie  Unless you dug for the information. you never knew of Taupin’s 3 failed marriages before the relationship with his current wife Heather for more than 19 years..  

His life as a travelling literary troubadour, settling in LA, the Ranch, the Rodeo Cowboy life, the “Farm Dogs” and success as an artist are all new and surprising.  While Elton talks about his drug addictions, Taupin writes about the drinking to excess, and how he managed to stay away from drugs.  He writes that his love and discipline of writing would never allow him to venture down the road his musical partner ventured.  

Scattershot is defined as covering many points in a random way.  Scattershot is not written in a random way, but certainly covers many points of his life, the people, the experiences, the heartbreak and love, and the music.

There is a common thread between Me and Scattershot, the subtitle of ‘music, life, Elton and Me’ describes the intertwining lives these two have had since the fall of 1967. 

Consider their path is a line they've travelled together, they have veered away from each other, intersected and crossed many times and ultimately end up together again.  In between point A and Point B are detours, winding roads, hills and valleys, personal self-destruction, and rediscovery.  It was if their lives together were fated to be this way. 

Me ends with Elton starting his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour and Scattershot finishes with the tour completed, though it does not write much about the tour itself.

Of the two books, Scattershot is the more surprising if only as I mentioned earlier, we learn so much about Bernie Taupin, “Me” confirmed what we knew and gave us the background to what fans had put to memory.

As a final thought having read Scattershot, I’m going to be taking careful attention to the words Elton sings, especially the albums through the 80’s to present as they will be reflecting Taupin’s life, the ups, and the downs.  Now I might have a clearer picture of what those words mean.

If you have read Me, I highly recommend Scattershot, if only to learn more about Bernie and to get a backstage view of a beautiful musical friendship.


February 17, 2024