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The ultimate intimate Elton John experience
Wednesday, April 21 1999

By Reggie Zippo.

When I heard the news, I could not believe my ears! Through an insider tip, I found out that Rocket Records was about to announce that, on May 15, 1999 at 12 PM, EJ would perform in private for only 500 people at The Loft Theater, Tilton, New Jersey. My heart sank, though, when I found out that the ticket price would be $2,000 a piece. To Most fans, this might seem rather pricey for a private EJ event. However, this was going to prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On behalf of the Elton John Aids Foundation, EJ agreed to create and record one song on stage within a 3 to 4 hour period. The only restrictions he gave himself was that he would not see BT's proposed lyrics until the moment after he walks on stage, and he and his band mates would not have any preconceived notions of possible musical arrangements. This all seemed too good to be true. I could barely contain my excitement! I was bound and determined to be among the select few who would be honored to passively participate. Through a very influential recording industry friend, and a high interest bank loan, I was able to secure one ticket for myself. I was both relieved and nervous at the same time!

When the ticket package arrived, I was quite impressed with all of the goodies that came with it. The ticket itself had EJ and BT's picture on the front and a group picture of the EJ band on the back. A CD-ROM of an EJ screen saver with skill games was included, along with 8x10 glossy pictures of EJ and BT. A Rocket Records order form for a free CD copy of the future song was also provided. A list of audience "restrictions" stipulated absolutely no talking, clapping, cheering, or whistling; no food or drink; no cell phones, beepers, cameras, recording devices, laptop computers, watches with timer alarms; and above all, once seated, no one would be aloud to leave the auditorium. Why would anyone want to?

On the early morning of May 15, 1999, I arrived in Tilton, New Jersey, acquired a room at the Holiday Inn (quite appropriately), then immediately made my way to The Loft Theater (Rocket was kind enough to include traveling directions). A large crowd was gathered outside the entrance waiting for the doors to open. At around 11 AM, a Rocket representative came out to welcome everyone. We were all quickly ushered in to the theater, but were advised to take care of all important personal needs before being seated. Since there were no assigned seating arrangements, I was fortunate enough to get a position in the third row from the stage. A huge, heavy looking, red velvet curtain hung down in front, like a big wrapped gift waiting to be opened.

At 11:50 AM, producer Gus Dudgeon came out from behind the curtain to explain what was about to occur. I was pleased to see him. He appealed to the audience to please observe the "restrictions" imposed by Rocket & EJ until the end of the recording session. Fair enough. He then quickly exited as the curtain began to rise. There, on the stage, was a mock up of a real recording studio, complete with mixing boards, amplifiers, sound proof booths, musical instruments, and EJ's trade mark black grand piano. Several video cameras were also in place to capture every moment on tape. Within minutes, BT walked out from stage left, went over to the piano, then quietly placed one sheet of type written lyrics on top of the piano. Without hesitation, he made his way to exit stage right. As instructed, no one uttered a sound. At that point, EJ made his grand entrance from stage right, walked over to the piano, quickly read the lyrics, then sat down to begin the coupling of words to music. EJ did say a brief "Good afternoon" to us, but his attention was more concentrated on the lyrics. He seemed quite pleased with BT's offering. Within seconds, EJ's fingers began to weave their magic. That is when we all heard the beginnings of an EJ/BT song being born. As the song began to take shape, the words and music being combined brought tears to many in attendance. It was truly a moving piece. Before long, EJ turned to the audience and said "This song is for you. Thank you for coming." He then performed a solo version of it from beginning to end. As you can well imagine, we were all quite impressed. It was simply amazing that EJ had just created a perfectly haunting ballad right before our eager ears and eyes. As instructed, no one uttered a sound. As if by cue, EJ's band mates and recording crew filtered in to take their respected positions. Thus began the recording process. The rest of this story I'll leave to your imaginations because that is just what all of this was....an imagined event. It never happened. I wish with every fiber of my being that it really did happen, but for now I can only dream about it. This would, however, be The Ultimate Intimate EJ Performance of all time if it ever came true! I sincerely hope that word about this story gets back to EJ. Perhaps it may spark an interest in making something like this to actually happen for real. Time will tell. In the meantime, take care and have a Captain Fantastic day!

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