Elton vs Tina

At some point in the late 1990s Elton John and Tina Turner decided to get together and perform a couple of songs for a big event called VH1 Divas Live.

Elton’s band got to rehearsals a couple of days early and tried a few things out with Tina. When the man himself arrived, his band warned him that this was going to be a difficult gig. He soon found out what they meant.

Proud Mary was the first song they tried. Tina stopped the song after about 30 seconds and pointed at the bass player in the band, accusing him of not knowing the song. A brief discussion followed, and they tried again. And 30 seconds in Tina stopped the band again.

This time she turned to the drummer and accused him of not knowing the song. Again they tried to figure out what the problem was and again they started the song. This pattern continued, much to Elton’s displeasure, until she pointed her finger at Elton himself and accused him of not knowing the song. This was the final straw.

A furious row ensued and Elton stormed off stage.

After some time he calmed down and reflected on the situation. He found Tina and apologised. In this new calmer environment she found the words to say what she felt the problem was. It was that she felt Elton was improvising too much, adding in little runs and fills on the piano that she wasn’t used to. She wanted it the same way as she always did it, whereas Elton was a typical live gigging musician in that he never liked to play a song exactly the same way twice.

So how did they resolve this situation? I don’t know, but the reason I’m writing about it is because situations like these often cause tension in bands, or other musical groups. You have some people who like lots of rules and structure, and others who don’t.

In a professional environment, it’s simple. Do what the boss says. That is usually the MD, or the producer, both of which are sometimes hired by the singer/the star. So when Elton John and Tina Turner come together, two huge names in world music, two people who are used to getting their own way, and they want to do things differently, you can see why there was trouble.

I wrote last month about artistic differences, and reasons for why they can cause huge fights between friends, and the above is a perfect example.

It’s why on both an amateur and professional level, finding people who think about music in a similar way to you is wonderful.

So when you find them, cherish them!

With thanks to Elton John and his autobiography ‘Me‘ for this story – to Sligo Library for sourcing the book for me, and to Uriel Soberanes for the pic.