Bernie Taupin admitted that he didn’t want Elton John’s Jewel Box collection to be released because he feared he’d be left “embarrassed” when people heard their earliest songs.
The eight-disc set includes 60 previously unheard tracks stretching back to the beginning of the duo’s writing partnership in 1967. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Taupin said he was “a tad hesitant at first” about releasing them.
“To see the product of our initial attempts at songwriting 50 years after the fact … you can imagine it’s a little alarming to reconvene with,” he explained. “I wasn’t sure I wanted people to hear these things, to be honest. I thought I might be embarrassed by their naivete, especially the very, very early work. After all, at that time I was really faking it. The whole idea of how to construct a song was foreign to me. The idea of verse/chorus/bridge was big-pants terminology to me. Back then, I was throwing it down on the page. It was brain-to-pencil sort of free-form. It was a gradual process to find my voice. There was a lot of mimicry involved, a lot of purloining from what was currently a hit.”
He added that he wouldn’t even define the early songs as “experimental,” using the phrase “floundering and grasping at straws” instead. He cited the example of their 1968 song “Regimental Sgt. Zippo,” which was described as an “affectionate nod” to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper.
“Can I honestly say that was a tip of the hat to Sgt. Pepper?” Taupin reflected. “Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But it certainly proved that we were hanging on the coattails of things that were currently popular – things like ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ were in vogue at that particular point in time. I think, in a way, I was literally trying to be part of a gang.”
He also noted that he’s delivered “close to 16 or 18” song ideas to John in the hope that it would result in a new album. “The idea was not to lay the things down on tape, but maintain them in his mind,” the lyricist said.
“That would be the way to tell if they were special or not. If he remembered them, they were keepers. If he didn’t remember, maybe they should be brushed under the rug. That didn’t happen. But he still has the work that I’ve done. I’m very, very proud of it. I think it’s very, very special. … I would love to see him start to do some work. As I say, I continually encourage him to do so. … I really, really would love to get back on track and back in the game.”