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Elton John on his notorious temper: "It’s still in me to explode at any moment"

Elton John
(Image credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Harlequins)

Elton John has admitted that he still struggles with the "erratic" and "unpredictable" behaviour that made him one of rock's most infamously quick-tempered musicians of the 70s – a trait that was well illustrated in the 2020 biopic Rocketman about his life.

In conversation with The Guardian, John reflects on his earlier career, the days when the musician frequently suffered from emotional outbursts that were worsened by his addiction issues at the time.

He explains, “I wasn’t unkind to anybody … I’m not horrible to people. I’m not proud of that stuff, no, it makes me shudder. My behaviour was so erratic and so unpredictable.

"And it’s still in me, to explode at any moment. I’ve been trying to work on that for a long time and I’ve got a wonderful husband who knows how to get me out of that stuff."

He continues, “I think it’s an artistic thing — artists can be so self-destructive sometimes, for no reason. I can have a day when everything in my whole life is going so well, and I get up and I feel like the world is against me. Why, I do not know.” 

When pressured to work out what exactly the reason could be behind his pessimism, John admits that it likely derives from his "self-loathing" and "not having any self-esteem", which he says "all comes from when I was a kid". He adds, “[T]he way it was in the ['50s], you got slapped round the face, you got a good hiding. ‘It was bloody good for you’ — it wasn’t good for me. It left me walking on eggshells".

Due to the resulting addiction issues that he developed, John professes that he was “afraid of talking to anybody” until he became sober. “They asked me when I went to treatment how I felt and I said: ‘I don’t know, I don’t feel anything.’ I came to defrost, as it were, and discovered I did have feelings, and they went back a long time. And I think it stays with you for the whole of your life … I just have terrible feelings about myself; I feel bad about myself sometimes.”

Although the star may continue to grapple with his shortcomings, John declares that discovering new music is the positivity he needs to keep him on track, and that he still has "the enthusiasm of an 18-year-old" which "keeps me going".

Elizabeth Scarlett

Elizabeth (Lizzie) works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. When not writing, she enjoys music design and reading about rock’n’roll history, art and magic.