It’s been 50 years since Elton John put out his first single, “I’ve Been Loving You,” an inauspicious start for one of the 20th century’s greatest rock stars — it was withdrawn shortly after its release. But when he headed to the States two years later to promote his self-titled second album, his fortunes changed literally overnight. “It was all just one night, that one night at the Troubadour,” Bernie Taupin, Elton’s longtime songwriter and collaborator, told Rolling Stone in 1973. “The next morning, like, wham, bam, there on the front of all the papers...”
That was just the beginning of a long, hugely successful career that includes enduring classics like “Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Daniel,” and “Crocodile Rock” — all recorded in a single year (1972) — and more than 30 studio albums. And with the music came the style. In Elton’s world, it’s hard to imagine one existing without the other. Never a man to pass up a good sequin — or 10,000 — he exhibited a de antly amboyant stage persona that owed much to textile designer Annie Reavie and costume maker Bob Mackie, who famously dressed Marlene Dietrich, Diana Ross, and Cher.
“I treated him like sort of a male showgirl,” Mackie recently told Vogue. “He had a lot of beautifully (but quirkily) tailored suits from London, but when he saw the stuff that Cher was wearing, he wanted more of that.”
Although we take Elton’s embroidered jackets, plumage, and tinted sunglasses for granted today, it was decidedly outré in the early 1970s. In that same 1973 interview for Rolling Stone, the musician recalled his out t for a TV appearance: “I had this cape on, and this hat. I took that off and had a jumpsuit on. Took that off and I had another sort of jumpsuit on. Then I took that off and had a long Fillmore West sweater. Maxine [Taupin’s wife] had gone out and said, ‘Oooh, I’ve found these mauve tights. I bet you wouldn’t wear them onstage,’ and I said I would, and this was all lmed.”
In these dark and somber times, it makes sense that we’d find in Elton John an expression of our need for some old-fashioned razzle-dazzle. It’s our good fortune that one of his friends is Gucci designer Alessandro Michele, who stamped Elton’s rococo verve all over the brand’s spring/summer 2018 collection. Michele recently told The New Yorker that he’s a connoisseur of English style (he’s inspired by the Queen, whom he considers one of “the most quirky people in the world”), and he has mined the legendary British singer’s wardrobe for a range that is as fabulous as his muse. Sequins, pom-poms, and pink satin clown suit included.
Photography: Tory Rust.