November 15, 2018
The retailer’s festive advert has the singer recalling heartwarming memories. What if it had focused on some of the artist’s less endearing moments?

The 2018 John Lewis ad is heartwarming. Elton John sits alone at his piano, playing Your Song while moments of his life flash before his eyes. He sings in a stadium, he sings in the studio, he sings in a pub, he sings at a school concert. It’s a very sweet advert with a very simple message: somebody better call Elton John an ambulance right away, because this is exactly the sort of thing that happens right before you die.
In fact, the advert is probably too heartwarming. Just a few weeks ago, the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was heavily criticised for its toothless portrayal of Freddie Mercury’s worst excesses, and the same could be said for the John Lewis advert. Elton John isn’t a great pop star because he sings songs about little dancers, crocodiles that rock and being able to stand up. No, Elton John is a great pop star because he is knotty and complicated and, well, a bit of a dick sometimes.
If the John Lewis Christmas ad is going to go down as a lasting tribute to Elton’s career – and, boy, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write – then it should have picked some better memories for him to have. Luckily for you, I have written a new version. There is still time to make this before Christmas, John Lewis.
It is Christmas morning. Elton John sits alone at his piano, wistfully tapping out opening notes of Your Song. He looks old and vulnerable. He blinks. He swallows. Then, as the melody soars beneath his fingers, he drifts into a reverie and is transported to …
Las Vegas, March 2018. Elton John is in the middle of his Million Dollar Piano residency, playing Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting for all it’s worth. But something is troubling him. He leans over to look at an audience member he invited onstage. “Fuck off,” he mouths. Ten seconds later, more aggrieved, he mouths it again, then points angrily, then stops playing, then leaves the stage in a huff. When he returns, he tells the entire audience “You fucked it up”, before he spins away again, lost in a dream.
Australia, 2012. Elton John is being interviewed for Australian TV by one of his best friends, Molly Meldrum. It’s a chance for Elton to examine the incredible journey that has brought him untold fame and wealth. Instead, he just slags off Madonna for some reason. “She’s such a nightmare,” Elton says. “Her career’s over, I can tell you that. Her tour’s been a disaster …” Then back, back he goes.
Taiwan, 2004. Elton John’s private plane touches down in Taipei. It’s distant and exotic, just one of many astonishing places that Elton has visited as a direct consequence of his mother scrimping and saving for a piano all those years ago. He is swarmed by photographers, amazed that such a global star is visiting their country. His response? “Rude, vile pigs! Do you know what that means? Rude, vile pigs! That’s what all of you are.” An appalled photographer shouts: “Get out of Taiwan!” To which Elton replies: “We’d love to get out of Taiwan if it’s full of people like you. Pig! Pig!” The strings soar as he is swept even further into a river of nostalgia.
New York, March 2000. Elton John becomes upset during a performance of his own musical and storms out.
France, 1996. A woman says “Yoo-hoo” to Elton John while he is playing tennis. In response, Elton storms off the court. “I’m never coming to the south of France again,” he seethes.
London, the 1980s. After spending the last few days fully awake, Elton John phones one of his employees and angrily orders him to somehow make London less windy.
The music now reaches a crescendo, and then …
It’s Christmas morning again. Elton finishes playing Your Song and, with a nostalgic tear in his eye, gently shuts the lid. But then he notices the cameraman in his peripheral vision and loses his temper, screaming profanities and flinging vases until the cameraman is forced to escape and flee for his life. Finally, the new slogan appears: “John Lewis. If we can deal with him, we can deal with you.”
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