While I was researching yesterday's item on Elton John, I was struck by how serious his relationship with John Lennon was. Everyone knows that Elton sang backup on "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," but there was a lot more to it than that.
The two of them met during Lennon's Lost Weekend in Los Angeles, at the time when Elton was becoming the biggest pop star in the world. Elton then popped into the studio while Lennon was making Walls and Bridges in the summer of 1974, and sang harmony and played piano on "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night." Elton loved the song and told Lennon it would be a big hit. When Lennon demurred, Elton got him to promise that if and when it hit Number One, he would appear onstage to sing it with Elton as a duet.
The pair had already recorded Elton's cover of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," which would come out as a non-album single in December 1974. Initially, Elton just invited Lennon up to Colorado's Caribou Recording Studio to watch him cut the track, but Lennon was so impressed with the little ska movement in the middle that he wanted to play guitar on it. Supposedly, he had forgotten the chords - and you know what, I believe it, since it would have been a good seven years since Lennon would have played the song - and had Davey Johnstone show him what they were. In the end, the song carried a credit of "with the reggae guitars of Dr. Winston O'Boogie."
"Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" came out in early October, and went to Number One on November 14, 1974. Elton John was near the end of his tour then, so he arranged to have Lennon appear at the final night, on Thanksgiving at Madison Square Garden. Elton asked him to do "Imagine," but John didn't want to trot out old hits like he was Frank Sinatra, so they settled on "Whatever," "Lucy in the Sky," and "I Saw Her Standing There." This, by the way, would be the last time John Lennon appeared on a concert stage. Unbeknownst to John, Yoko was in the audience; as the story goes, they reconnected at a party after the show, and the Lost Weekend was duly ended.
"Lucy in the Sky" was the first Number One hit of 1975. By then, John and Yoko were back together, and on October 9, 1975, John's 35th birthday, Sean Ono Lennon was born. John asked Elton to be Sean's godfather, in recognition of the role he had played in reuniting him with Yoko. However, John later admitted that since Elton was gay and would not likely produce any natural heirs, he figured it wouldn't hurt to have Sean in position to inherit the "Crocodile Rock" fortune. Good thinking.