Elton John: I learned by touring Europe in the 60s. Young artists need the same chanceFebruary 8, 2021
Brexit negotiators have screwed up the deal for Britain’s emerging musicians. They need our support
Report: Brexit negotiators ‘screwed up’ deal for British musicians
In 1966, I went to Hamburg. I was the keyboard player in Bluesology, and we had a residency at the Top Ten Club, where the Beatles had famously cut their teeth. It was a real baptism of fire. We played on the Reeperbahn, five hours a night in among the brothels and sex shows, to audiences who hadn’t come to see us. But it was still great: we played so much we didn’t have any choice but to improve as a band. Certainly, it was better than my solo debut on the continent a few years later, when some bright spark booked me as the support act to Sergio Mendes in Paris. One audience member was so aggrieved at having his evening of bossa nova interrupted by the strains of Your Song that he threw his hotdog at me. Clearly, the only way was up. I kept touring Europe and gradually built up an incredibly loyal audience.
This was all a long time ago. If I was the keyboard player in a young band, or a solo artist just starting out now, it’s unlikely I’d get the chance to go to Hamburg, or indeed have hotdogs thrown at me in Paris. As a result of Brexit, British artists who want to play in Europe will now need visas, work permits and equipment carnets for each country they visit. It’s an administrative nightmare that vastly increases the cost of staging a European tour.