My brother Elton John? He’s just my warm-up act! One’s a global megastar, the other builds yurts and has just been fined for possession of magic mushrooms but Geoff Dwight claims his talent will be recognised
Of all the stories that Sir Elton John’s younger half-brother Geoff Dwight tells about their estranged relationship, perhaps one of the most bizarre concerns an incident he says occurred in 1995.
As you might expect from a long-time cannabis smoker, 56-year-old Geoff’s memories are somewhat hazy. But that summer, as he recalls it, his battered old Bedford van broke down near the rock star’s Berkshire mansion, and when he rang the bell near the gates for help he was turned away by security guards.
Unable to afford a hotel, he spent that night sleeping under some nearby bushes.
As we chat in the living room of Geoff’s run-down, two-bedroom terraced house in the market town of Ruthin, North Wales, he expresses the hope that he and Elton might enjoy a closer relationship one day.
He expresses the hope that he and Elton might enjoy a closer relationship one day
Sir Elton John’s younger half-brother Geoff Dwight tells about their estranged relationship
‘There’s nothing more I would like than to get to know him better,’ he says. But before that can happen, he might need to measure his comments about his notoriously short-tempered rock-star relative.
Take the question of any physical resemblance between them. Although both have red hair, what remains of Sir Elton’s is famously augmented by transplants, while Geoff’s bald pate is fringed by the matted tufts of a man who cares little about his physical appearance.
‘I’m not bothered by my outside shell,’ he admits. But he also can’t resist pointing out that his and Elton’s ‘outer shells’ are very different. ‘I’ve got my mother’s build and he’s got my dad’s so I’m like a stick and Elton’s like a barrel.’
We can only wonder how that description would go down with the entertainment legend, whose six decades at the top of the business have earned him a £400 million fortune, with two neighbouring mansions in Beverly Hills and a stunning 1920s villa in the South of France, each worth about £15 million.
Although both have red hair, what remains of Sir Elton’s is famously augmented by transplants, while Geoff’s bald pate is fringed by the matted tufts of a man who cares little about his physical appearance
Singer Elton John pictured with his father and brothers: Left to right: His dad, Stanley Dwight with his sons Michael, Robert and Geoff (aged seven) and Elton
Geoff, by contrast, lives hand to mouth. He makes yurts — the circular tents beloved of bohemian types — and also builds Celtic harps, organises music festivals and sells firewood to get by.
The only stunning thing about his house is the astonishing amount of hippy paraphernalia he has managed to shoehorn into it — from the huge zodiac calendar on the wall to the large statue of the Hindu god Shiva in the grimy front window.
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Each week Geoff spends about a fiver on flowers for Shiva — but unlike Elton, who once splashed out nearly £300,000 on bouquets for his former boyfriend and manager John Reid in a single year, he shops around for a bargain. ‘If you’re clever you get them from the supermarket when they’re selling them cheap,’ he says.
Most noticeable of all in the incense-filled gloom is the huge three-pronged Hindu trident he was carrying on his shoulder this month as he arrived at Llandudno Magistrates’ Court to be fined £120 for possession of magic mushrooms, a class A hallucinogenic.
The security guards made him leave the trident in the foyer, but no less striking was the colourful women’s clothing he had thrown on for the occasion, including multicoloured Ali Baba trousers, a lacy top and a striped cardigan.
Most of it came from the lost property box filled following gatherings of his ‘tribe’, the Fairy Pirates — more of which later — over the years.
‘I took the trident with me so I had something to swear on as I wasn’t going to use the Bible,’ he says. ‘The women’s clothes were because I didn’t want to look like some warrior guy carrying the trident. I wanted to make myself as unaggressive-looking as I possibly could.’
That flamboyant flair is one of several things he has in common with Elton, who is on a worldwide farewell tour which ends at Glastonbury this summer. His stage outfits for that include a baby pink blazer with bejewelled lapels and a diamante-embroidered kimono.
While Geoff is now quick to insist there is no real rift between them, he has previously been very critical of how Elton has described their father Stanley Dwight, a former World War II fighter pilot.
Famously, Elton was born in the London suburb of Pinner in 1947, the only child from Stanley’s first marriage. He has depicted Stanley as an absentee father and a control freak. He claims he banned him from playing football in the garden, wearing trendy clothes and even eating celery because it was too noisy.
The only stunning thing about his house is the astonishing amount of hippy paraphernalia he has managed to shoehorn into it
While Geoff is now quick to insist there is no real rift between them, he has previously been very critical of how Elton has described their father Stanley Dwight
‘I don’t know what his problem was,’ Elton wrote in his autobiography, Me, published in 2019. ‘Maybe it had something to do with him being in the forces, where there were rules about everything as well.’
Similar themes were explored in the movie Rocketman, co-produced by Elton’s husband David Furnish and starring Taron Egerton as the singer. In Geoff’s view, it took insufficient account of how unhappy his father was in that first marriage, particularly when he discovered that Elton’s mother Sheila was cheating on him.
‘I remember my dad telling me that he caught a bloke climbing over his fence at the back of the garden, like running out,’ he says.
‘How would Elton feel if he came home to find someone who’d been with David Furnish scarpering over his back fence? You’re not going to be a barrel of laughs, are you?’
Elton’s parents divorced when he was 14 and soon afterwards Stanley met Geoff’s mother Edna. They moved to the Merseyside village of Port Sunlight, where Stanley worked for Unilever as a purchasing manager and Edna gave birth to four boys in five years.
The eldest was Stan, who went on to become an accountant, then came Robert who works for Lottery operator Camelot, followed by Geoff and then Simon, a civil engineer. Geoff was about five or six when Elton, well on the road to rock’n’roll superstardom, visited them in his Rolls-Royce, and that night the family were invited to watch him perform at the Liverpool Empire.
‘I remember seeing all these people outside, screaming and pushing at the glass doors,’ he says. But he doesn’t recall Elton taking the time to visit them again after the family moved to Ruthin.
Geoff was then seven and, like all his brothers, eventually won a scholarship to Ruthin School — one of the oldest public schools in the country. Stanley had a commute of about 60 miles daily but felt it was worth the sacrifice to give the boys the best education — just one example of what a caring father he was, according to Geoff.
That flamboyant flair is one of several things he has in common with Elton, who is on a worldwide farewell tour which ends at Glastonbury this summer
At 15, Geoff travelled alone to Manchester to see Elton in concert and visit him backstage
Also contrary to Elton’s claims in Me, Geoff insists that Stanley was delighted with his eldest son.
‘Whenever Elton came on TV, you could see the pride and the love in his eyes,’ he says.
At 15, Geoff travelled alone to Manchester to see Elton in concert and visit him backstage. ‘After that, he rang me up once, but then I never heard anything from him again,’ he remembers. ‘I was a bit gutted at the time but he was a busy man going all over the world so you’ve got to take things in context.’
Although he excelled at school and began studying for a degree in engineering design at Warwick University, Geoff dropped out after his girlfriend became pregnant. They married and had two children before divorcing eight years later, by which time he was ‘disillusioned with the world I was living in’.
Persuaded to take part in a bungled burglary, he ended up serving 17 months in prison and, although he subsequently found work as a cost clerk with a kitchen company, he was eventually made redundant.
He has not had a conventional job since, and at one point ended up living in his garden shed while he rented out his home. He managed to pay off his mortgage ten years ago and has outgoings of £300 a month. He proudly rejects the suggestion that he might ever ask his multi-millionaire brother for a handout.
Indeed, he clearly thinks he might be able to help Elton with a little of his philosophy on happiness.
‘Elton has got money but he has to sacrifice his time for that money,’ he says. ‘I can choose to do what I want with my day and there’s no pressure on me to do anything or be anything. He has the freedom that money can give you so that you can live in a nice luxurious prison. But, as my dad used to say, “Money doesn’t make you happy, it just enables you to be miserable in comfort”.’
The last time Geoff and Elton spoke to each other was in 1991 when Stanley was on his deathbed. ‘I rang up to see whether he wanted to come to see him and he just said: “We never connected so I’m not going to.”
‘I thought it was sad because once someone’s gone you can’t connect with them, but I’m glad he didn’t come to the funeral because it would have made a complete circus out of it.’
Since then, Geoff has got on with his own life and the biannual meetings of the Fairy Pirates — a loose affiliation of 200 people who come together for what he describes as ‘spiritual gatherings’ in remote parts of the Welsh countryside.
His attendance at such an event in August 2020 saw both him and his long-term partner Karen Webb fined £200 for breaching Covid restrictions. Photographs showed people gathered in a circle around a fire next to a DJ tent, and it’s a safe bet that the music played was not Elton’s. ‘He’s not exactly my cup of tea,’ Geoff says before revealing that he has written about 30 songs himself, the first when he was in prison as a young man.
He plays a selection to me on his guitar as I sit by his roaring log fire along with his cat Ganapati, another name for the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh. Unlike Elton, who famously relies on his long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin for his lyrics, Geoff writes both words and music for the ballads, whose titles include Is This A Dream? and Veteran Of War.
They might not quite be up there with Your Song but, to my untrained ear, they actually sound quite good. The people of Ireland certainly seemed to think so when he went busking in County Galway in 1996.
‘I was making around £50 a night when the others were only pulling in a fiver,’ he says. ‘I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I know I can do it.’
Some years ago Geoff began receiving Christmas cards from Elton, David and their young sons
While he’s not seeking to muscle into Elton’s dazzling spotlight, Geoff hopes his music will get the recognition he feels it deserves, adding with a smile: ‘You’ve got to let the warm-up act finish and he’s still playing, at least until Glastonbury this year. I feel I’ve been like Prince Charles waiting for the Queen to die.’
Calling your megastar brother your ‘warm-up act’ is perhaps not the best way to endear yourself to him — but some years ago Geoff began receiving Christmas cards from Elton, David and their young sons.
Featuring photographs of the boys, they were not personally signed and always bore a printed message saying ‘Happy Holidays, Wishing For Peace and Happiness on Earth — Elton, David, Zachary and Elijah’.
After three years, Geoff, who does not normally bother with such conventions, says he decided to send his celebrity sibling an elaborate, hand-made Christmas card in return.
‘I even lined the envelope with special paper,’ he says. ‘But I’ve never had one back since.
‘Maybe he didn’t get my card or took it the wrong way. Who knows? But it looks like I’m deleted from the database.’
Will his name ever be restored? Maybe so, but for now the relationship remains as thin as the proverbial candle in the wind.
Additional reporting: Vivek Chaudhary
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