He and Furnish are keen to have more children, partly because he was an only child of an unhappy marriage — “I spent it in my room, listening to music if my parents were rowing” — and partly because of the specific challenges associated with being John’s son. “I think it’s difficult to be an only child, and to be an only child of someone famous,” he says. “I want him to have maybe a sibling so he has someone to be with. I know when he goes to school there’s going to be an awful lot of pressure, and I know he’s going to have people saying, ‘You don’t have a mummy.’ It’s going to happen. We talked about it before we had him. I want someone to be at his side and back him up. We shall see.”
The other reasons for his current ebullience are sitting quietly on the sofa in his dressing room: Nick Littlemore and Peter Mayes, better known as Australian electronic duo Pnau. They are the latest recipients of Elton’s celebrated capacity for musical patronage, his interest piqued when he heard their eponymous 2008 album while on tour in Sydney and proclaimed it, with characteristic understatement, the greatest record he’d heard in 10 years.
He was always a genuine music obsessive. In the early 1970s, with his career in full, vertiginous flight, he incredibly found time to help out at a record shop in London’s Soho on a Saturday, manning the counter when the assistants went on their lunch break, selling albums by Leonard Cohen and Soft Machine to London’s discerning rock fans: “Maybe they did recognize me,” he frowns when I ask if London’s discerning rock fans weren’t a little disconcerted by finding Captain Fantastic on the till, “but I was just having a ball.” Even in the pits of his addiction, he says, “I would listen to music and cry because I was so out of it, but I always listened to music.” But it’s in recent years that people have really noticed. Alone among his superstar peers, John seems to spend as much time proselytizing about young artists as he does plugging his own records. “If you listen to someone young and fabulous,” he says, “it just gives you so much adrenaline, adrenaline that I had when everything was going my way in the 1970s.” He still gets sent a list of new album releases every Monday morning and buys four copies of anything he likes the sound of: one for each of his homes. He checks the British charts on a daily basis. Furthermore, he acts as a kind of unofficial publicist for younger artists — today he raves about the forthcoming Hot Chip album and Alabama Shakes — and a mentor to everyone from Rufus Wainwright to Lady Gaga. He is, he says, currently a little concerned about the latter. “I look at Gaga and I think, ‘How does she do it?’ I talk to her mum and dad about it. They worry. She is frail, and she doesn’t eat when she should do, and she’s a girl, and it’s tougher for a girl. She works really hard. She will be in Denmark one night and Saudi Arabia the next. I know how tiny she is and I do worry about her, yes.”
Last time I met him, I was in the company of a Scottish dance producer called Mylo, who looked a little gobsmacked when Elton blithely informed him he’d bought more than 100 copies of his debut album in order to give them away as presents. This time, however, his interest has extended beyond simply doling out Pnau’s CDs to his friends, although he’s done that, or signing them to his management company, although he’s done that, too. Four years ago, he handed the duo the master tapes from his early 1970s albums and told them to do whatever they wanted with them, a turn of events that the duo still seem a little stunned by. “We just kind of lost our minds at that point,” Mayes says, quietly. Littlemore nods: “It took us eight or nine months before we could even touch anything.”