Elton John said he made John Lennon “physically sick” as a result of a bet the pair made. John played piano on Lennon’s song “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” and persuaded the former Beatle to release it as a single in 1974.
Lennon told John if the song reached No. 1, he’d appear onstage with John. When it became Lennon’s only solo No. 1 hit during his lifetime, he kept his word and made good on his promise.
On the night of Nov. 28, 1974, Lennon arrived at New York’s Madison Square Garden to take part in John’s show. “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,” John explained in the upcoming BBC radio documentary John Lennon at 80 (via Music-News.com).
“He was terrified,” John recalled. “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.”
Some time after what would be his last large-scale concert appearance, Lennon remembered things slightly differently, saying he attended John’s recent concert in Boston to prepare himself for the New York experience. “I was thinking, ‘Thank God it isn’t me,’ as he was getting dressed to go on,” Lennon said.
“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.”
As he prepared to play “I Saw Her Standing There” as the last of his three songs, Lennon told the audience: “We tried to think of a number to finish off with so I can get out of here and be sick.”
Watch John Lennon Onstage With Elton John
Lennon would have turned 80 on Oct. 9.