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If you like Bernie Taupin's story, you might also like:
Johnny Cash,
Sheryl Crow,
Vince Gill,
Lauryn Hill,
Jeremy Irons,
Quincy Jones,
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Stephen Sondheim

Bernie Taupin's recommended reading: Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Related Links:
Roots Radio
Bernie Taupin
Rolling Stone
Elton John's site

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Bernie Taupin
Bernie Taupin
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Bernie Taupin Interview

Songwriters Hall of Fame

June 17, 1994
Las Vegas, Nevada

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  Bernie Taupin

What can you tell us about your childhood?

Bernie Taupin: I'm the archetypal farm boy. I was raised on a very remote farm in rural Lincolnshire. Lincolnshire is a very sort of desolate, windswept county in the northeast of England. And it's primarily farmland. Basically potatoes, other arable crops. Most of the people from that area are farmers. So I was raised in that area. But luckily, to my advantage, I had parents, especially my mother, who came from a relatively literate background. Her father was a college professor at Cambridge, majored in literature. So that was sort of my ace in the hole from an early age. I went to school in the area. We moved around. My father was a vet. He was a stockman, he worked for the Ministry of Agriculture. But the drawback in places like that -- and anybody who comes from a small community -- is that the educational opportunities are very limited. It doesn't exist anymore, but there is a thing in England called the 11-Plus that you took when you were 11 years old. And if you failed it you went to what they called a secondary school, and if you passed you went to what they called a grammar school. Now if you went to a secondary school, it was basically just a holding tank until you were old enough to get a job. And not being very scholastic at that period of time, I was a terrible failure in anything that had anything to do with mathematics. The only thing I had an interest in basically was literature and history, and everything else I was a total dud at. So I went to a secondary school. And it was somewhat like a... basically one step up from a prison camp. Education was at a very low level. Basically what it was, was they just kept you there, as I said, until you were old enough to be put out on the street, and you either went to work on the farm, or you went to one of the nearby cities and worked in a factory.

I didn't really think too much when I was at school. I was a dreamer. I had flights of fantasy, and I read a lot, and watched a lot of the TV shows that were brought over from America. A lot of the early sort of westerns, like the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers, and all the early sort of B westerns. I watched whatever movies I could, and I sort of put the two together. Literature -- and music, that came along later -- and movies, they all blended together for me. So they became a sort of cinematic thing in my head. I developed a taste for writing, which I like to do, and I was encouraged by my mother and my father. But when I was about to leave school I went to see the -- I think there it was called the Youth Employment Officer, here I think it was just an Employment Counselor or something like that. I went to see him, and he said, "What would you like to do when you leave school?" And I said, "Well, I'd like to work on a newspaper." Meaning that I wanted to sort of write on a newspaper. And he said, "That's a little ambitious of you. You know, normally people around here they either work on a farm, or the factory." And I said, "Well, I really want to work on a newspaper." Anyway, to cut a long story short, I ultimately worked on a newspaper, but it was in the print shop. It was not quite what I had expected. And for about a year after I left school I worked in a very sort of Dickensian kind of print shop, doing menial jobs. In the end I couldn't take that, so left that and I went to work. Ultimately, went to work on a farm. And frustration in the end just drove me.

I was very, very interested in music at that time. I loved music, and I loved narrative poetry. And one day I was reading a newspaper -- a musical newspaper called the New Musical Express -- in 1967. I saw an ad in it that was for a company called Liberty Records. They were setting up, forming a new company and they wanted writers, artists, development people, anybody to basically generate a new company. Whatever possessed me, I don't know. I'd been writing some very -- it was '67, so it was the height of the flower power and the hippie movement was in full swing -- and I was writing very sort of idealistic, sort of poetry at the time, which was a crib off basically anything that was current. And for some reason I sent it in. I just shoved it in an envelope. And in fact, I put it on the shelf and forgot about it, and my mother actually mailed it, because I'd forgot about it. And several weeks later I got an answer from an office in London saying, "If you happen to be in the area of Mayfair..." Now this is to somebody who had been raised on a farm for the first part of his life. So anybody asking me whether "If I happen to be in the area of Mayfair..." it was like, "Oh right, sure. I'm gonna be there tomorrow." So it was a big decision whether to sort of pack up my belongings and make that change and go down to the big city and do a sort of Dick Whittington. And I decided... My parents were very encouraging, which to this day I can never thank them enough for. They never held me back. They never said I couldn't do anything, which is what this is all about. I mean, if you have parents like that, then you're one step ahead of the game. And they encouraged me all of my life. I went down and met with these people, and through a certain set of circumstances they introduced me to somebody else, because the thing was that I had these poems, which were supposedly lyrics. And the guy that I met with said, "Well, I had this other guy come in, and he writes music, but he can't write lyrics. So maybe we should put the two of you together." So I went to another office and met with this guy, a guy called Reg Dwight, and we got to know each other. And over the next few weeks we started writing some things together. And Reg Dwight turned out to be Elton John, and we turned out 25 years later to still be writing together. There's a lot more that goes in between all that, but we could be here for days.

What year was that?

Bernie Taupin: That was July of 1967.

Was there an instant chemistry?

Bernie Taupin: Obviously, we developed a better style over the years. But our initial meeting with each other, we got on very well, straight away. I think in many ways I became the brother to him that he never had. He was an only child. I had two brothers, but I had an elder brother who I never really related to, and I had a younger brother who came along later on. So at that particular time I was somewhat of a loner, and I think we were both very much... it's what I've called in the past, "town mouse, country mouse." I was the green kid from the country and he was the city kid. But he wasn't particularly streetwise. In fact, again, he was pretty naive too. So I think we found comfort and solace in each other's misgivings, and inhibitions, and whatever, anything. We blended them all together. And I think over the years we have obviously developed our own characteristics. We're both very, very different characters. I mean he is obviously known for being very flamboyant, although that's been toned down very much in the last sort of five or six years. And I've always been somebody who prefers not to be in the limelight. I've never sought that. But at the same time, I'm not a particularly timid, shy, retiring, back room sort of person either. So, I think the reasons -- I'm probably diverging off the subject here, but I think one of the reasons we have been continually successful, and we've stayed together for so long is because opposites do attract sometimes. And it's certainly the case with us. Anyway, to go back to the original thing, yes, obviously the first things that we wrote were extremely naive. But you know, I was only 17 years old, and Elton wasn't much older. And we were really sort of recycling, regurgitating the material of the time. Which was in a way fairly pretentious. I mean it was the time of Sgt. Pepper, which certainly wasn't pretentious, but it was definitely an icon of its time, and everybody was trying to copy that. So there were a lot of canyons of your mind, and swan queens of the laughing lake, and color slide city, and everything. It was pure psychedelia.

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