Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Looking Back at Elton's Watford Days

You might have noticed that Elton John is our guest editor for the current issue of Clash. It’s a pretty big deal. We’re exploring the making of 1973’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ in the magazine – but talking about Elton got us thinking about another yellow close to his heart: Watford Football Club.

“Elton’s not just an ordinary supporter – I don’t think anyone thinks of him as ‘one of them’. He has a large fanbase amongst supporters, and holds a place in a lot of their hearts. He was the club’s saviour, twice. Without him, we’d perhaps not be in the league we’re in now. And he happens to write a pretty good tune every now and then, too!

“Elton’s a superstar, but that doesn’t stop him being as much a part of Watford FC as the community, the staff, the players. In many ways he is Watford FC, a bigger part of it all, as is Taylor.

“Elton often used to wear a boater hat with yellow, red and black ribbons on it, and I was always proud to see him wear that. Certainly as a young Watford supporter with a football-hating dad, surrounded by Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool fans amongst friends and family, there was a lot of pressure on me from my peers and elders to support a more fashionable team. But I was able to say that our owner was Elton John, and they shut up. When I do interviews for the Football Manager, I’m often asked when abroad what club I support – saying ‘Watford’ immediately made them respond ‘Elton John’. At least until last season, where they said ‘Zola’.”

“Perhaps it was because we were just kids at the time, or perhaps it was just that the concept of ‘celebrity’ was less venerated in those days than it has become since, but in our eyes, it was Elton John who was lent glamour by his association with the golden boys (yes, we actually called the team that) of Watford FC, rather than the other way round.

“My brother and I actually ‘supported’ his music because of the link with the team, as an extension of our support for the team itself. This connection was only brought closer when he released ‘A Single Man’ in 1978, an album on which two tracks featured the actual Watford team on backing vocals (‘Big Dipper’ and ‘Georgia’, from memory). And through all this, week in, week out, he would be there for the home matches, resolutely more Reg Dwight than Elton John, stripped of the outrĂ© stage gear and excesses that apparently featured so large in the rest of his life, unremarkable in the crowd, if you didn’t know who he was.

Walking out into Wembley Stadium in 1984 for the ‘Friendly Final’ when Watford played (and lost to, graciously) Everton. Elton’s genuine tears on that day as the crowd sung ‘Abide With Me’ before the match. And that sense of collective joy, of ownership of the club that somehow, bizarrely yet at the same time totally straightforwardly, linked a small Home Counties tomboy and an International Megastar Singer in bonds of fandom, excitement and belonging. Cheers, Reg.


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