Book Review: Sex, drugs and the whole truth

Book: Me

Author: Elton John

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Pages: 354;

Price: Rs 999

The book’s contents, in stark contrast with the words ‘Me’ and ‘Elton John’ in huge font size as well as the book’s cover image, transcend from being just a mere celebrity memoir of a chart-topping superstar. In his first and only official autobiography, the music icon’s searing honesty is revealed in his comments on early life and the impact on his adult life when he says, “I thought I was somehow responsible for the state of my parents’ marriage because a lot of their rows would be about me... there would be a huge argument about how I was being brought up. It didn’t make me feel very good about myself, which manifested in a lack of confidence in my appearance that lasted well into adulthood. For years I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror... the other lasting effect was a fear of confrontation. That went on for decades. I stayed in bad business and bad personal relationships because I didn’t want to rock the boat.”

The man who sold over 300 million albums and over 100 million singles, making him one of the most successful artistes of all time even remembers the people who were kind during his struggle to make it to the top and says, “the AIR studio secretaries were always ready to suggest my name if they heard of a job and they would quietly slip me their lunch vouchers. So that meant a free lunch on top of everything else – I thought I’d died and gone to heaven”.

Speaking about his dating phase he says, “I had no idea how you picked someone up. What was I supposed to say? ‘Do you want to come to the cinema with me and maybe get your knob out later?’”

He calls people names (Keith Richards as a monkey with arthritis and Madonna a fairground stripper) but does not spare himself from sarcasm and about his bald phase he says: “Some people are blessed with the kind of face that looks good with a bald head. I am not one of those people. Without hair, I bear a striking resemblance to the cartoon character Shrek.”

About his battle to overcome the drug and alcohol addiction he says, “I got as far as the pavement outside. I sat down on a bench with my suitcase and burst into tears. I could easily make some phone calls and get out of here but where was I going to go? Back to London? To do what? Sit around in a dressing gown covered in puke, doing coke and watching porn all day? I lugged my suitcase sheepishly back into the hospital.”

After he overcame his addictions, his desire to give back to society resulted in his raising almost half a billion dollars for Aids charities. “The AIDS Foundation filled the hole in the doughnut – it gave me a new sense of purpose outside of music,” he writes.

The racy memoir by a living legend is peppered with anecdotes such as the one where Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone nearly came to blows over Princess Diana at one of his dinner parties. He takes us through the arc of time from his miserable suburban childhood as Reginald Dwight who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner to the sudden meteoric success as Elton John, dishonest financial advisers to the eventual redemption through marriage, parenthood and activism. All this while there is a simultaneous track of the emergence of ’70s rock, ’90s hip-hop and rap and the gay rights movement in the 20th and 21st centuries.

So whether you are an Elton John fan is of little consequence since there is something for everyone. Parents can see how they ought not to be, some could learn to avoid falling for addictions and all of us, could give back to society.

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