That time Parkinson challenged Elton John to write a song on the spot for the silliest lyrics ever - and he absolutely nailed it

Elton John and Parkinson
(Image credit: YouTube)

You don't need us to tell you why Elton John remains one of the UK's single greatest ever songwriters, but a particularly impressive display of his more spontaneous talents were once put on show in some style, courtesy of a now classic segment of Parkinson, the landmark BBC (and, for three years, ITV) chat show presented by Michael Parkinson across the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s.

Broadcast way back in 2000, the segment features Parkinson and Elton enthusiastically discussing the concept of the 'perfect song', with Elton suggesting that while few examples of such a thing exist, it remains the eternal goal of the songwriter to try and create one.

"I don't think there is [such a thing as a perfect song], but in your mind there is," Elton opines, before somewhat correcting himself. "I mean, [Beatles classic] Yesterday s a perfect song, isn't it? You couldn't get a better song than that, the way it's constructed, that is a perfect song. And the songwriter is always searching, to write a better song, to find a song that moves him."

He humbly adds that "very few of the songs that I've written are special songs," before things take an unexpected turn. As it happens, Parkinson has a little something up his sleeve: knowing that Elton will usually write songs inspired by lyrics written by longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, the chat show host reveals that he's asked some of his researchers to write some purposefully daft lyrics of their own, challenging Elton to write a song right there and then, live in front of a studio audience, to go with the words on the page.

The lyrics themselves sound like something from a book of comedy poems, riffing off of a rising river that is "blocking the drains" and making the carpets "soggy". The lyrics in full are as follows:

Mothers dear mothers, our love flows for you,
Like rivers that course ever true,
The banks, they have burst to the downpouring rain,
There's something unpleasant, it's blocking the drains

The carpets are soggy,
Where is poor Moggy?
We're trying to reach you, a boat's on the way,
But the skipper's found a pub that's caused a delay,

Keep filling those sandbags, keep stacking them high,
We'll be right with you, once we've sucked this place dry

Parkinson then proceeds to park the lyrics in front of Elton who, after exchanging a knowing glance with the audience, and less than 20 seconds after he's heard the lyrics for the very first time, produces a little ditty so lovely it could have been taken straight from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road sessions, to the absolute delight of everyone in the studio.

Watch the magical moment in British TV history below.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.