Tin Pan Alley—The Rise of Elton John
by Keith Hayward

“BRILLIANT! ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! One of the best books on Elton I’ve ever read.”
East End Lights publisher Kevin Bell

Tin Pan Alley—The Rise of Elton John by Keith Hayward is a look into the early years, the times, the community of artists, publishing executives, record producers and managers in England,s famed Tin Pan Alley in the late 1960’s and the influences they had on a young Reg Dwight….. aka; Elton John.

Hayward has been able to capture a moment in time that very few of us know about regarding the early days’ of Elton. The level of research and detail in this book makes you feel like you’ve been transported into the magical times and experiences of Tin Pan Alley in the late 60’s. It’s like you are actually in the room watching it all happen before your eyes.

Hayward gives you a feel for the era of the times inside the workings of the Tin Pan Alley community and the impact those in the community had on an impressionable Elton. Through extensive interviews with those who worked and performed with Elton in those days, Hayward gives us remarkable insight into how a naïve struggling artist became a worldwide superstar. Hayward talks to those who knew Elton in those days such as his band mates in Bluesology, his Royal Academy of Music alumni, Caleb Quaye, Stuart Epps, Paul Buckmaster and David Larkham, who’s magnificent creativity and artwork designed Elton’s early albums.

One of the things that stood out to me when reading this book was the image of Tin Pan Alley being a close knit community. It seemed like everyone crossed paths at one time or another. Stories about everyone hanging out at the local café or doing session work at one of the few recording studio’s in Tin Pan Alley are recreated by Hayward. Artists such as Long John Baldry, Tony Hicks (The Hollies), Rodger Hodgson (Supertramp), Danny Hutton (Three Dog Night) David Jones (David Bowie) to name a few, all recount their stories of Elton.

The book also provides us a unique perspective on the inner workings of the music industry at the time. Interviews with Steve Brown, Stephen James, Ray Williams all of which we’re instrumental in moulding the song writing careers of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Former managers, sound engineers, producers and artists give us details of what went on behind closed doors.

Keith Hayward has done a terrific job in piecing all these interviews and stories together to make Tin Pan Alley-The Rise of Elton John a brilliant bio-book on the early days of Elton and a musical history lesson for the times.

Buy Tin Pan Alley in hardcover.
Buy Tin Pan Alley in softcover.

Bob Birch

Aug. 16th, 2012

I was devastated this morning to hear the sad news of the passing away of my good friend, Bob Birch.

It still has not sunk in for me. Bob was a great musician, a wonderful person and a good friend. I recall the times we spent together fondly whenever he was on tour and we could get together. His laid back attitude, his dry sense of humour, his sunglasses and his smile.

Bob was always someone onstage who seemed to really enjoy performing. He had a strong work ethic that he acquired from his father and he always put perfection in his work. As Elton said 'Bob never played or sang a wrong note'.

I remember Bob being the first one to contact me after I had a car accident a few years ago. I was banged up and he encouraged me to keep up with the physiotherapy that I had to endure. He also was very supportive to me while I was (and am) going through some tough personal and medical issues. He was there for me, making me laugh or giving me words of encouragement. He cared.

I was there in Montreal when Bob was hit by a truck and wasn't expected to walk again. He'd had countless surgeries over the years to help him recover. He did get back on his feet and soldiered on despite the pain.

I talked to Bob after the passing of Guy Babylon. Bob was deeply depressed over the loss of his 'brother' band member, and he even questioned himself about touring anymore. I tried to help and talk with him as much as I could, but it was a very trying time for Bob, and some pains you never get over.

I remember how elated he was when I gave him an autographed photo of Gino Vanelli for his birthday (Bob was a big fan of Gino's)

Bob was there for me, I only wish I could have been there for him. I can appreciate what he was going through. There are too many stories for me to relate to you about Bob, but one that stands out is the time when the band was touring with Courtney Love. Apparently she got drunk and abusive one time (off-stage) and security had to be called to escort her out. Love went into a fit and started pulling clothes out of her handbag and saying, 'well the police are coming to arrest me, whatever should I wear?' Bob said 'Do you have anything with stripes?'

Too funny Bob. Blues never fade away, now just get on the bus.

I'll miss you dude,

Kevin Bell