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The day I was 'kidnapped' by Elton John
Monday, August 30 2004

A no-holds-barred biography of Britain's favourite pop star will be the year's most startling entertainment read. Author Chris Heath has spent years in Williams's world and saw his binge-driven adventures. Here the singer tells how a cry for help brought more support than he wanted - from Guardian Unlimited.

On the plane to Austria, Robbie reads in various newspapers that he is appearing in the play One Night Only ('Bollocks,' he points out), that he has 'made no secret of his desire to act' ('Bollocks'), that he has taken acting lessons at the Lee Strasberg Institute ('Bollocks') and that he was recently seen driving down the M1 with his father ('Bollocks'). He tosses them away: 'I'll have to tell you the Elton John kidnapping story...

'I got a pang of guilt not long ago,' says Rob. 'Elton tried to do a lot for me and I didn't thank him enough.' Pause. 'But what he did was really weird.'

To understand fully the Elton John kidnapping story, an earlier episode must first be described. Take That had split the year before and Rob had just broken up with his girlfriend at the time, Jacqui Hamilton-Smith. His first solo hit, 'Freedom', had been out, but he was yet to find any stability or direction in his life.

'So I was in a right pickle anyway,' he remembers, 'and I'd just been through the worst year for drug intake that I ever had - 1995/96. I woke up one afternoon after being up all night and I knew I was fucked, you know. My bedroom was a pigsty and there were about four bowls of cornflakes dried up with cigarette butts in all of them, and that's how my head felt. Natural instinct kicked in to save myself and I opened my Filofax and went: "Right ..."'

He flicked through the pages and saw Elton John's number. They'd met when Rob was in Take That and he had been to stay a couple of times with Elton.

'Elton was very nice and a gracious host and very supportive of us and lovely,' Rob says. The visits also planted the idea in Rob's head that Elton might be a good man to call when you were in this kind of mess.

'I rang up and I just went,' "I need help",' he says. 'Elton was in Atlanta, and he said, "Go to my house". So I went to his house in Windsor. I'd sort of thought that I'd wanted to get clean or stop drinking - little did I realise that I hadn't really had enough, and probably wouldn't have enough for another five years. And Elton made sure that I was all right at his house and sent me a care package over - loads of Nike stuff in a box. I hadn't brought any clothes with me and I'd put weight on and I looked a dreadful mess and I felt awful.'

He spent two weeks there, 'drying out and pottering around, rattling around Elton's big house'. Elton called every day to see how he was. He also called Beechy Colclough, the therapist who has become semi-famous as a celebrity addiction specialist and media pundit. This, Rob would come to see as less of a gift.

'He came and made me his case for that two weeks. But he did an awful lot of weird things.' One of the first things Colclough said to him was: 'You see this watch - Elton bought me that,' and for Rob that coloured everything.

But, that aside, he had reached out to Elton John when he was desperate and Elton had been there for him. 'It was such a nice thing for him to do,' says Rob. 'Such an amazing thing for him to do. But I didn't feel good enough and felt intimidated by it all. The upshot of it is, Elton's really, really generous, really wanting me to be well, and I really, really thank him for it.'

Nonetheless, after two weeks, Rob left and stepped back on to the same merry-go-round. 'I must have decided that I was bored,' he says, 'and I decided that now I was well enough to go and batter myself over the head again, which I subsequently did.'

Nine months later...

I've found Guy [Chambers - his songwriting partner], we've written the album, I'm in the studio, I'm in a very, very bad way, you know. And I was supposed to hook up with Elton one afternoon to play him the tracks we've been doing, and this was a week before I was going to rehab. I'd got a week to finish four vocals, I think it was. I know for a fact that one was 'Lazy Days', I know one was 'Angels', I can't remember the other two. I've already tried to sing 'Lazy Days', I've already tried 'Angels' and, frankly, it just wasn't good enough. You can see, there's video footage of me singing it and I'm drinking red wine out of the bottle as I'm singing it - that's the reason why it wasn't good enough. So, I was supposed to go and play Elton these songs.

I wake up in Notting Hill, and I'm on my way to the studio in Fulham Road, in a black cab, calling at maybe five pubs on the way, with the car waiting outside. Lager. pints. In the end I pulled up at the pub opposite Chelsea's ground, and with the studio in eyeshot I just stayed in the pub and got pissed with some people that were working on the Chelsea Village - builders. We played pool and I got fucking hammered. And then I got to the studio, walked in and fell asleep under the mixing desk. Woke up, took the tape, after doing no work, and went to Elton's house. Five or six o'clock, maybe later - it was in summer, it may have been seven or eight o'clock.

So I walk through his door - not in Windsor, his pad in London - and I've got this tape in my hand and I'm pissed...' [Rob acts out the wobbling and the slurring.] ... "I've got this to play you!" And he went, "Do you want a drink?" And I said, "I'll have a spritzer." Because spritzer at the time was the drink that I was drinking that wasn't alcohol. I'd drink spritzer because it's less fattening and there's no alcohol in it. Yeah, you figure it out.

But I can't detox today...

And Elton had a tear in his eye looking at me, and I saw his tear and I started to cry too. You know. And he went, "You've got to go to rehab right now." And I went: "I know." And I started to cry and he started to cry. And he said, "I'm going to organise it," and I went, "OK," so he's off on the phone. As he's phoning, I go in and go, "I've got to finish the album. I've got to finish the album." And he said, "You're going to die - you need to go now." So there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing with me going, "I can't go, nobody knows where I am, people'll be worried about me and I've got an album to finish."

So after to-ing and fro-ing and crying every time that he said, "You've got to go," I got in a car with David Furnish, Elton got in his car and we drove to Windsor. So I'm in this car, on my way to Windsor, one half of me's really happy because somebody's looking after me, the other half is really fucking petrified a) because I've got to finish an album, b) because I'm going to rehab anyway, and c) no one knows where I am. So we get to Elton's and I can remember really realising the situation that I was in as I was eating some food, realising that I was terribly pissed when I arrived at Elton's, it wasn't a good idea, and in the morning I'll wake up and I'll say: "Thank you very much for helping me. I've got a terrible hangover, but there's things that I need to do before I go to rehab."

So I went to bed, and that's what I was thinking: "In the morning I'll apologise profusely." Because I was already fucking full of guilt and embarrassment. I'm lying on the bed and I hear, "Rob! Rob!" and I open one eye and I just see five sets of legs. I see riding boots, jodhpurs, and this is me hungover and I don't know where I am, and it's David Furnish and it's Elton and it's three men I don't know, and they're all looking at me. And I think: "Oh fuck, I've really done it now."

I was told that this was Dr such-and-such, this is Mr such-and-such and this is Mr such-and-such. One was from the detox clinic.

So we all go downstairs and we're sat in Elton's main room on these two massive sofas facing each other. I'm on one sofa by myself and the rest are all sat opposite me, and Elton's perched on the side. And, bless him, to all intents and purposes there was a lot of sense in what he was doing and he thought he was doing me a favour.

And in many ways he was. But I'm going: "Look, I can't go into detox today and I can't go to rehab - I've got vocals to finish." And I'm doing this and I'm going like that ...' [Rob acts out how his arms are crossed, folded within each other, his fingers fiddling with the outside of his arms] '... and one of them went, "Well, you've got cocaine psychosis now - that's a symptom, what you're doing there." And reluctantly, because I could see the sense in going to rehab now, I went off to the detox clinic.

It was a burgundy-coloured CitroŽn that we got in, and there was David and Elton at the door of his house, waving. There were two people in the back of the car sandwiching me in, the other was driving and the front seat was free. Presumably so that I wouldn't try to commit suicide or run off. So I'm looking out the back of this CitroŽn, waving to Elton, who's got one hand over his mouth, and David waving. God bless 'em. And off we went into London.

I hadn't got a clue where we were going, I didn't know what a detox centre was. I didn't know particularly why I had to go there. And I didn't know what was happening to me. So off we went into London, into the centre and then over the water. I found myself at this big private clinic opposite this war memorial with two cannons - that's all I can remember.

I walked in and the receptionist looks up at me, and they were so snooty in there, you know, so very, very snooty. I can remember her looking at me like I was shit, and me having to sign my name, and off we went upstairs. And my room's got bars on the windows and outside the window is just a brick wall about four feet away from the window. I sit on my bed, and it's one of those beds with the plastic on so you don't piss yourself. And in reality I'd just got a massive hangover. That's what I was having.

Heroin, Ecstasy and coke...

When I did eventually go to rehab I didn't detox, I didn't take any pills. I didn't get the DTs, they didn't have to wean me off anything, I'd just got a problem with my drinking. But here I'd just drank too much and I'd accumulated a massive hangover. So I sat down and this rather stern, big... not a Hattie Jacques kind of character ... she comes in and I'm really treated like I'm a naughty, naughty boy. Really naughty. There's no love or care or, "You're going to be cool, everything's cool, you're in the right place." There was none of that at all. They said, "Write down what you're addicted to," so I wrote it all down, everything that I'd ever taken - heroin, ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, amyl nitrate, speed. And England were playing Poland that day and it was on Channel 5 and the hospital hadn't got Channel 5. Now there was no way I was going to stay after that - that was the straw that broke the camel's back. But in the meantime they'd given me a liquid cosh. So now I'm trying to get out of this detox centre...

Robbie called a friend, who turned up with Robbie's therapist and got him out. Rob went and got some sushi and then watched the football and fell asleep. 'And I felt so happy that I could finish the album, not die, and go to rehab,' he remembers. And then, the following week, once he had finished recording the album and had one monumental final bender in the studio, he headed off to the rehab he wanted to be in, Clouds in Wiltshire.

Outside his house there were a few paparazzi and one film crew. 'I'm actually quite upset,' Rob told them. 'When Michael Barrymore went to rehab there was thousands of you outside his house.'

After a brief stop at Stonehenge, he checked into Clouds and started to get healthy. There were no TV or radio or tabloids there, but there were copies of the broadsheets, and one day he was astonished to pick one up and read, in an article about him, 'Robbie Williams, who lists his addictions as...', and the list appeared just as he had written it going into the first detox centre.

'All's I can say is this, is that on the road to getting well and on the road to trying to sort my life out, there's an awful lot of fucking charlatans out there, and they're sick, and they are actually dealing with sick people that actually genuinely want to be well, and it boils my fucking blood,' summarises Rob. 'I'm sure that does happen to other people, and I'm sure they die.'

'So, from that,' he says, [ending the 'kidnap' episode] 'Elton sort of tried to do what he thought was best, and obviously came from a very loving place. But the whole thing for me is tarnished with the lack of professionalism, even though Elton came from a place of love.'

They haven't really spoken since. About a year later Elton wanted him to do a duet on an album that already had the Backstreet Boys and LeAnn Rimes on it, and Rob declined. 'Anything near a boy band I didn't want to be associated with because I was desperately trying to break away from it, so I said I didn't want to do it. I think it really upset him.'

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Elton 'hides from fans in hotel'
Friday, August 27 2004

Elton John is being mobbed by so many fans in Las Vegas that he is reportedly staying locked away in his hotel room between shows.

It seems the chart-topping legend will now only emerge from glitzy Caesar's Palace to perform at his shows.

After years of adoration from his many fans, Elton has had enough after a run-in with a particularly excited gang of groupies. He was forced to flee.

Elton is reported as saying: "Can you imagine how ridiculous it looks for a man of my age to be running away from screaming fans? I used to love the attention once - I don't particularly relish it any more."

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Elton and Bernie honor Nashville music veteran
Thursday, August 26 2004

More than 500 Music Row types ó including artists Vince Gill, Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin ó gathered on August 24, 2004 to honor Nashville music veteran/record label exec Tony Brown.

Tony, who once played piano for Elvis Presley, signed Reba McEntire, Lyle Lovett, Trisha Yearwood, Steve Earle and a boatload of others to their first record deals.

The love for Tony was incredible, heightened even more so by the fact that Tony recently survived a life-threatening brain injury after a nasty fall in L.A.

That didn't stop WSIX morning man Gerry House, who recently had his own life-threatening brain injury, from poking fun at the beloved music-industry icon.

"Tony's solo album of gospel standards single-handedly boosted atheism by over 35%," Gerry, the evening's host, quipped to the crowd. "It was Tony who begged Vince Gill to 'sing lower or people will think you're a winkie.'"

And finally: "If you don't love Tony Brown, you need to have your head examined."

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November 9, 2004 is Elton release day
Wednesday, August 25 2004

As it turns out, both "Peachtree Road" (Elton's latest studio album) and "Dream Ticket" (the four DVD set) will be released on November 9, 2004.

The track list for "Peachtree Road" reads as follows:

  • The Weight of the World
  • Porch Swing in Tupelo
  • Answer in the Sky
    Turn the Lights Out When You Leave
  • My Elusive Drug
  • They call Her the Cat
  • Freaks in Love
  • All That Iím Allowed
  • I Stop and I Breathe
  • Too Many Tears
  • Itís Getting Dark in Here
  • Canít Keep This From You

The first single is going to be "Answer in the Sky". The track will be added to radio play in the US on August 31, 2004.

"Dream Ticket", the four DVD set featuring 40 years of Elton John, will be sold in Best Buy stores across the USA from November 9, 2004. You can pre-order online for delivery in the USA via bestbuy.com.

Outside the USA Universal Records will release the DVD set throughout the rest of the world. A release date is not yet known at this point in time.

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Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy
Wednesday, August 25 2004

Jerry Lewis, 78, will be hosting his 39th consecutive televised MDA Telethon. He's battled various medical problems the last several years.

Last year, Lewis hosted the first three-to-four hours of the telethon, then came back in mid-morning the next day (Labor Day) to host the rest of the Show, which raised a record $60.5 million.

This year's show kicks off September 5, 2004 at 9 on Channel 9 with co-hosts Ed McMahon, Jann Carol, Norm Crosby, Cynthia Garrett and Tony Orlando.

Guests include Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Elton John and country singer Julie Roberts.

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Girl, you'll be a superstar soon
Tuesday, August 17 2004

Elton John tracked Catherine Britt down to record a duet. Not bad for a 19-year-old from Newcastle.

Sitting inside Caesar's Palace Colosseum in Las Vegas on August 6, 2004, Catherine Britt was mesmerised by the onstage performance from Elton John and still pinching herself because he had personally invited her and her mum Anne to the show.

During the performance, Elton began playing the introduction to his song "Tiny Dancer", dedicating it to a new-found friend from Australia and telling the audience she would one day be a "superstar".

"As soon as he said Australia I put my hands over my mouth and tears just starting pouring down my face it was so emotional," said Britt. "I had no idea he would do it, it blew my mind, it was so cool."

Britt's name first came to the attention of Australians when she was linked to Sir Elton. The 19-year-old, who grew up in the Newcastle suburb of Kahibah, was already well known in Tamworth, where her talents had been flagged among some of country music's hottest new artists.

But after some of her early recordings were handed to Elton during a visit to Australia, he showed a genuine interest in her career. Elton is famed for encouraging younger performers all over the world, but this time it wasn't just rhetoric.

The pair met in the US earlier this year to record the duet "Where We Both Say Goodbye", which will be released among fresh tracks on Britt's new album, due out early next year (and yet to be titled).

It's not hard to guess that meeting with Elton in a US studio to record a song with him was the greatest moment in Britt's career so far. But she describes it as absolutely nerve-racking.

"Could you ever feel comfortable around Elton John, I don't know," said Britt, speaking over the phone from Nashville, where she is now based permanently.

"I mean, he makes you feel comfortable and he makes you feel like you should be there with him, but even just looking at him freaks me out. He's so animated, he's so amazing and talented. Just being in the same room I want to get down on my knees [in worship]," she said.

As for recording the duet itself, Britt said she was thrilled with the final result, but was almost overcome by the enormity of the occasion.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but it was awful," said Britt, with a laugh. "It was so nerve-racking. We were singing to each other, he was looking in my eyes and smiling and it killed me. I think you can hear it in the track, the emotion that was going on and how hard it was to stand in a room and sing with Elton John.

"It was quite scary," she said. "But we really had a lot of fun."

Despite the fact Catherine Britt is yet to become a household name in Australia, it looks as though Elton's predictions about her future success are starting to come true.

Her first single, "The Upside Of Being Down", was the most added song on American radio last week, with at least 22 stations selecting her new tune for regular airplay. The track was also being tipped for a top 10 spot on the Billboard country music charts.

The early chart placement (and radio interest) places Britt among the big league of country performers, but she is still prepared to do the hard yards when it comes to performing her music in front of American audiences:

"People who live here don't get to see as much of this country as I've already seen," she said. "And I'm looking forward to getting back on the tour bus."

"I only get in the mood to write songs when I'm down, when I'm depressed or missing home. When I'm happy, I don't want to be sitting at home songwriting, I want to be out. I don't think I've ever written a happy song," she said, with a laugh. "It's funny like that." Britt is likely to return to Australia at the end of the year to spend Christmas with her family, and she's already slated to perform at the Tamworth Country Music Festival next year.

But she will return to the US to capitalise on her early success in the world's toughest country music market.

Related News

  • Elton recorded duet with Catherine Britt
        Monday, April 19 2004 at 10:05:41

  • Elton supports Catherine Britt
        Thursday, July 31 2003 at 04:33:45

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    "Answer in the Sky" poll
    Tuesday, August 17 2004

    On August 16, 2004 AOL members could listen to Elton's upcoming single "Answer in the Sky" for 24 hours.

    AOL has an online poll to vote whether or not you like the song: 46% are saying they loved it, 41% are saying they liked it, and 14% are saying they hated it.

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    Elton John commemorative stamp
    Tuesday, August 17 2004

    The Gibraltar Philatelic Bureau will release a round CD Shape Miniature Sheet to commemorate Elton's Gibraltar show in September 2004.

    On 10th September 2004, with the majestic north face of the Rock of Gibraltar as a backdrop, Sir Elton John will be performing on what is also Gibraltar's National Day.

    The Gibraltar Philatelic Bureau have chosen to commemorate the occasion with a round CD Shape Miniature Sheet featuring the £1.20 UK flag stamp also featured in the successful "Tercentenary" miniature sheet released in April 2004.

    The Miniature Sheets with a face value of £1.20 only will have Sir Elton Johnís signature printed on them. A First Day Cover and Presentation Pack will also be issued for the occasion.


    • Miniature Sheet £1.20
    • First Day Cover £1.50
    • Presentation Pack £1.55

    The release date of the Elton John Miniature Sheets is the September 20, 2004. You will be able to order online at www.sovereignstamps.co.uk starting from August 19, 2004.

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    BILLBOARD Boxscore Concert Grosses
    Thursday, August 12 2004

    Here are some figures on Elton John's current "Red Piano" shows at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas:

    The 13 shows in July/August 2004 (July 23-25, 27-28, 30-31, Aug. 1, 3-4, 6-8) at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace were attended by a total of 52,809 people - that's 13/13 sell outs.

    With ticket prices of $250, $175, and $100 this resulted in gross sales of $8,853,975.

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    The Lion King Racks Up More Awards
    Wednesday, August 11 2004

    Disney's "The Lion King" continues to be an awards winner wherever it plays. The Sydney production of the Tony-winning musical, which opened October 16, 2003, was recently awarded four Helpmann Awards for the Performing Arts.

    The August 9, 2004 ceremony named the Elton John-Tim Rice show Best Musical. Awards were also bestowed upon Julie Taymor (for both Best Direction of a Musical and Best Costume Design) and Garth Fagan (for Best Choreography of a Musical).

    Worldwide, "The Lion King" has garnered over 70 major awards with productions currently playing New York, London, Tokyo, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Nagoya, Boston as well as a U.S. touring production.

    In New York The Lion King plays the New Amsterdam Theatre (W. 42nd Street); call (212) 307-4747 for tickets. Go to www.disneyonbroadway.com for more information.

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    Elton to participate in "NFL Opening Kickoff"
    Tuesday, August 10 2004

    The NFL will open its 2004 season on September 9, 2004 with a one-hour pregame special -- "NFL Opening Kickoff" -- that will salute the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and feature a star-studded musical lineup with performances from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., and Jacksonville, Fla., site of Super Bowl XXXIX.

    "NFL Opening Kickoff" will air from 8 - 9 p.m. (ET) on ABC and lead into the season opener between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium -- a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game (ABC, 9 p.m. ET). The show will air following the game in the Rocky Mountain and West Coast time zones.

    "NFL Opening Kickoff" will feature special tributes to the 2003 Super Bowl champions, take viewers into both teams' locker rooms and include performances from Gillette Stadium by Elton John, Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child, Toby Keith and Lenny Kravitz. Jessica Simpson will perform from Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville, where the next Super Bowl champion will be crowned.

    Top-tier partners for "NFL Opening Kickoff" include Campbell's, Canon, Coors, Pepsi and Sony Playstation. Associate partners are Gatorade, Gillette and Visa.

    The game at Gillette Stadium and the link to Jacksonville on "NFL Opening Kickoff" starts a tradition of holding the NFL's season-opening event at the home of the Super Bowl champion and connecting it to the site of the next Super Bowl. This year it also reflects the Super Bowl XXXIX theme of "Building Bridges," which represents both the Jacksonville landscape with its many bridges and the many ways the NFL unites communities around their passion for football.

    The free Jacksonville concert at Metropolitan Park, "Super NFL Kickoff Presented by Coors Light," featuring musical performances by Simpson and select artists, is being presented by the NFL, the Jacksonville Super Bowl Host Committee and the City of Jacksonville. Gates will open at 4:30 p.m.

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    Elton shot video for new album
    Saturday, August 7 2004

    Caesars Palace headliner Elton John and collaborator David LaChappelle were at Casa Shenandoah on August 5, 2004.

    Cas Shenandowa is Wayne Newton's ranch on Sunset and Pecos roads in Las Vegas, where they produced a video for Elton's upcoming album "Peachtree Road".

    Related News

  • Elton John Strolls Down 'Peachtree Road'
        Friday, May 14 2004 at 11:59:44

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    Billy Elliot - hear Elton John's new song
    Saturday, August 7 2004

    Preparations are underway for Billy Elliot, the musical based on the film, which is due to open in Britain in 2005.

    Over 3,000 children, mostly from the north of England, have auditioned for the production, and the successful candidates are about to begin training at a specially created stage school in Leeds.

    As well as tapping their feet and performing pirouettes, the young actors will have to sing songs specially written by Sir Elton John.

    The show, which is being produced by Working Title, the company behind "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and directed by Stephen Daldry, who directed the original movie, is due to open in May 2005.

    View a clip from the auditions.

    View Elton John singing from the score.

    Related News

  • Elliot musical facing difficulties with north debut
        Tuesday, July 27 2004 at 05:16:11

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