John Lennon’s Advice for Jimmy Iovine Before Elton John Session
In a new interview with Variety, label boss and entrepreneur Iovine described Lennon as a generous person who took him under his wing during one of his first studio roles on the former Beatle’s 1974 album Walls and Bridges. “One day, my boss [producer Roy Cicala] was out – his wife was having a baby – and Elton John was coming in to sing on ‘Whatever Gets You thru the Night,’” Iovine recalled.
“I said, ‘John, I’m terrified!’ Elton John was the biggest artist in the world. But John said, ‘James, he’s as terrified as you. I live my life as a Beatle. It’s very hard for me to get people to be comfortable. Believe me, he’s as nervous as you are.’”
That calmed him down – although he hoped John wouldn’t want to play piano because he didn’t know how to set up the microphones to capture “that Elton John piano sound.” "So Elton comes in, sings the song, comes into the control room … and says, 'It needs piano,'" Iovine said. "Fuck! But I learned an incredible lesson that day. I was alone, but I set up mics the way I thought Roy would. Elton plays the piano, comes in and listens, and says, ‘Great piano sound!’ John says, ‘He’s famous for that!’
"I’d never recorded piano before. But I learned it’s not the piano, it’s the guy banging on it. So all you’ve got to do is get the mics close, and it sounds like Elton John."
Listen to John Lennon’s 'Whatever Gets You thru the Night'
Iovine was only 19 at the time and didn’t understand why Lennon had taken to him so strongly. “But looking back as a 69-year-old man, I don’t know, but he must have liked my energy and saw that I was an OK person, and I’ve always been a very loyal person,” he said. “He liked that because people were always compromising him. … And he said to me one day, ‘People are going to try to get to me through you, and you’re not going to let them.’ I didn’t know what he meant, but I know now.”