The former pop star, actor, Australian Idol judge, ‘touchdown’ founder, ‘Absolutely Everybody’ co-writer and barrister has released his memoir ‘My Idol Years’.
His honest, unfiltered portrait of the music industry, his mistakes and wins and growing up in the public eye features tales about David Haselhoff, Sia, Molly Meldrum, John Paul Young, his fellow Idol presenters and even the Bobo the Clown incident on Dancing with the Stars.
In the below excerpt, given exclusively to TIO, Holden recounts the day he blew it with Elton John.
In 1980, I left my life as the Carnation Kid and dived into life
in Los Angeles. A pop star’s career arc is finite. Mine lasted five
years. After three albums, a swag of hit singles, a star turn in
Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, countless TV appearances
on Countdown, The Mike Walsh Show, The Don Lane Show and
The Ernie Sigley Show, two movies and a role as Dr Greg Mason in
The Young Doctors, I could tell the end was nigh.
I knew if not the next album then the one after that would
see the star fade and descend from pop heaven. The same had
happened for the Cassidys, Marty Rhone, John Paul Young,
Adam Faith and even the great Farnham before his extraordinary
comebacks. Only a handful can come out the other side of that
arc with a lasting showbiz career. I saw the end coming, so I was
on the lookout for a way out.
The first shot came when Elton John’s manager, John Reid,
was ensconced in the infamous Sebel Townhouse in the Cross,
a place of wanton excess for stars and their entourages. He saw
Carnation Kid on the telly and told his minder to ‘find that boy’.
Once found, I was delivered to Reid’s suite with promises of
a possible record deal with Elton’s label, Rocket Records. I don’t
remember much of the meeting but I must have impressed Mr
Reid enough to elicit an invitation to London to meet Elton and
the Rocket Records team. Elton was the biggest pop star in the
world at the time – he was having hits with Kiki Dee and looking
for likely lads to sign and develop.
My manager at the time was Peter Rix (who was then and
remains Marcia Hines’s manager). He was somewhat sceptical
about Reid’s promises and what might lie behind them, but he
finally gave in and agreed to accompany me to London, watch
over the auditions (if any were to actually happen) and manage
the deal should one be forthcoming.
We arrived at Heathrow, where we were met by a white Rolls
Royce and delivered to Elton’s townhouse in Knightsbridge – it
was at least four or five storeys high. It was heady stuff, glamorous.
We were paraded in front of Elton and then invited to Wembley
Stadium that night where The Eagles were triumphantly touring
Hotel California as it tore up the global charts and dominated the
airwaves. Elton played piano with the Eagles and it was a huge
night – an incredible concert, with all concerned at the height
of their powers and popularity. Afterwards we were invited back
to Elton’s place for a post-gig party with all the luminaries and
hangers-on, us included.
The Carnation Kid was in fine form. Later that evening, I
was standing around with Elton and his entourage when someone
asked me what I thought of the gig. With impish joviality and
boyish delivery, I exclaimed that the band was really great but
the piano player was pretty average – incredibly humorous Aussie
stuff, or so I thought.
It went down like a lead balloon.
Not a single phone call was returned from that moment.
Calls to Rocket went unanswered. Calls to John Reid went
unanswered. That was it. Poor old Rixy had flown all the way
to London at his own expense for me to totally screw it up on
the first night in town. We stayed a few days, did some touristy
things, played with some Aussie girls Rixy knew who were living
in London, and returned to Australia with no deal and no prospect
of a deal.
The above in an edited extract from My Idol Years by Mark Holden (Transit Lounge $29.99), now available where all good books are sold and online at www.transitlounge.com.au