Elton John Reveals the Performance That Made John Lennon ‘Physically Sick’

After John Lennon left The Beatles, he didn’t frequently do performances. He never even went on a full tour. However, John Lennon performed in front of a large audience after losing a bet to Elton John. John recalls the performance being his first in a while, and he was “physically sick” before getting on stage. 

John Lennon lost a bet he made with Elton John

Elton John and John Lennon perform at Madison Square Garden
Elton John and John Lennon | Steve Morley/Redferns

John Lennon and Elton John became good friends. The two collaborated on two songs: A cover of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” by Sir Elton and Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.” Lennon helped Elton with his cover of the famous Beatles song but was credited as Dr. Winston O’Boogie, with Winston being his middle name. The song was commercially successful and reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. 

Elton returned the favor by playing piano and adding harmonies to “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.” Elton bet his friend that “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” would reach number one on the charts. Lennon agreed that he would perform onstage with Elton if this happened. The song did reach number one, and the former Beatle made good on his promise. 

Elton John said Lennon was ‘physically sick’ before appearing onstage

In the BBC Radio documentary John Lennon at 80 (via Music-News.com), Elton discussed Lennon joining him in a concert in 1974 at Madison Square Garden in New York. This was his first significant concert appearance in a while and he had nerves before performing. Elton said he seemed sick before it was time to perform. 

“I don’t think he’d played since the Peace Concert in Toronto, to be honest with you, and certainly not in New York, I don’t think, since the Beatles. He was terrified,” John shared. “I can tell you that he was physically sick before the show – absolutely physically sick. … When he came onstage he was fine, because [of] the recaption that he got. … I’ve never heard a noise, a roar like it. … We all get goosebumps thinking about it. A lot of us cried and there were tears running down our faces, because here was one of the four people that were the biggest band ever.”

Lennon only appeared onstage for three songs: “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” 

John Lennon had fond memories of performing that night

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While Elton John remembers John Lennon almost getting sick before the performance, Lennon had fond memories of that performance. In the documentary, Lennon said he saw John’s performance in Boston and that helped him overcome his stage fright before performing in New York. 

“I was thinking, ‘Thank God it isn’t me,’ as he was getting dressed to go on,” Lennon recalled. “I went through my stage fright at Boston so, by the time I got to Madison Square, I had a good time – and when I walked on, they were all screaming and shouting. It was like Beatlemania. I was thinking ‘What is this?’ ’cause I hadn’t heard it since the Beatles.”

Unfortunately, this ended up being Lennon’s last large-scale concert appearance before his death in 1980. John once said he doesn’t do “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” anymore in concert because it reminds him too much of Lennon.