Monday, September 27, 2010

Rock Nation: Being an EJ Member Experience

"It was the best, most fun show I've ever done. I feel......amazing....and loved.... Loved by all my friends who came......" first Ben's reaction was glory: he succeed. The Rock Nation concert, featuring Elton John band members: Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson and John Mahon, paid tribute to Elton himself but also to the late and unforgettable Guy Babylon. For the occasion, Ben joined the band playing keyboards and singin' three of his own songs.

"We played a bunch of Elton John Songs, and Davey played on 4 of them, and John played on two, and Nigel sang on a bunch. In the beginning, I played No Goodbyes on the Road with John. And then I brought out Davey and Jesse for "write your own song", and then I brought out Nigel for "Goodbye Superman". All of it sounded amazing....." explained me an euphoric Ben Babylon, while adding: "I cannot express how amazing I feel!". That will be an unforgettable experience for him, for sure. Two very influential people in Ben Babylon's life, Chasen Hampton, the musical director at Rock Nation School, and Tony Avalon, the owner of the school, were at his side.

Rock Nation is a private rock-music school in Los Angeles owned by Tony Avalon, son of the famed actor/singer Frankie Avalon. The school produces several tribute shows several times a year, focusing on the music of different rock stars. But rarely do actual musicians from bands being honored perform in the shows. “Everybody in the audience was blown away, and the kids were awesome,” Avalon said. “Having them play with rock stars that I looked up to when I was growing up was amazing. It was a night to remember.”

As Ben introduced before, John Mahon joined him on “No Goodbyes on the Road,” a poignant reflection on how people are often too busy to say goodbye to each other. Next up was the happier “Write Your Own Song,”. Then, Davey Johnstone and his electric guitar brought new energy to the superb “Goodbye Superman,” the beautiful song that the young Babylon wrote in the days following his father’s untimely passing, just over one year ago; that brought Nigel Olsson to the stage. “It means a lot to me, to be here for Guy,” Davey Johnstone said, before the show. “He was my closest bud in a musical sense, and in a sports sense. Whenever we were touring, we would discuss basketball and soccer as much as music. I miss him dearly". “Guy was an influence on all of us musically and as a friend,” agreed Mahon. “It is a fitting tribute to him, for us to actually play on stage with his son.” “Ben has come a long way through a tough time,” Olsson added. “It’s very impressive to see him rock out.”

"Ben did a pretty good job with the "Funeral For A Friend" intro" explained Jan Kemp from website, who attended the show. "That was the first song once Nigel, John and Davey left the stage. There were six separate bands of kids who then performed, and Ben played keys throughout the night. Ben also did a great job on Philadelphia Freedom and I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues" reminded Kemp.

Many of Guy Babylon’s friends and relatives were in the audience, including his widow, songwriter Kathy Babylon, his parents, Graham and Mary, and his sister, author Donna Babylon. Also present were VIP guests from music, film and television: actor/singer Frankie Avalon; keyboardist Lindsay Vannoy, who has worked with Elton John, Ann Wilson, Alice Cooper and others; composer and music producer Max Di Carlo, who has worked with Elton John; television writer/producer Charlie Bowyer; and film producer/director Peter R.J. Deyell. “After watching him (Ben Babylon) perform, it’s clear that he really understands music,” Deyell said. “When he plays keyboards, his whole body is playing. He is very aware of what he is doing at every moment, and what the other musicians on stage are doing. He is really terrific.”

Everybody agreed. The sold-out show brought hundreds of people to the famed Canyon Club near Los Angeles. Young students, in the two hours show, played a selection of Elton's best tunes. The set list is listed as it follows:

No Goodbyes on the Road
(by Ben Babylon; performed by Ben Babylon and John Mahon)
Write Your Own Song
(by Ben Babylon; performed by Ben Babylon, Davey Johnstone and Jesse Johnstone)
Goodbye Superman
(by Ben Babylon; performed by Ben, John, Nigel, Jesse Johnstone and Davey Johnstone)

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Bennie and the Jets
All the Young Girls Love Alice
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
The Bitch is Back
I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
Crocodile Rock
This Song Has No Title
Don't Go Breaking My Heart
I'm Still Standing
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
Philadelphia Freedom
Rocket Man
Take me to the pilot
Saturday Night's All Right

Information about Ben Babylon is available at and

Information about Rock Nation is available at

Pictures courtesy of Fred Anderson

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ben Elton Babylon

Hi Babylonists. Next live performance, produced by Rock Nation School, in Agoura Hills will join Ben Babylon with current Elton John band members paying tribute to the late Guy Babylon and the Rock Star Elton John. Both Elton and Guy have influenced Ben is his songwriting and in his music. "Goodbye Superman", as you know, the tribute to his dad, found inspiration on "Funeral for a friend" and "Goodbye yellow brick road". Happily, this song will be played on the event. They both talked about each other; Elton has it clear: "You better watch out for this kid! He can really play!". What Ben feels for Elton is devotion: "He is one of the most talented people I have ever met. He is also so kind. It is amazing how nice he is. Everytime I see him, he brings me joy". Two great musicians. Ben's starting his career, Elton is on the top. Is there a parallelism between the two singers?

"I've been a shy since I was a kid" Elton declared. Rufus Wainwright explained once how surprised he was about Elton being shy: "(he) is very quiet away from his public persona and has little belief in his own abilities (...) this very sweet little guy who's constantly feeling very insignificant, which is ironic of course". Ben is also shy, well educated, at his younger age he knows perfectly what he have to do or not to do.

"I didn't have my formal training (at the piano) at first. I just sat down at the piano and I could play" remember Elton. His music instructor, Helen Piena, recognized that his natural ear amazed her and explained how Reg could play a musical piece after hearing it only once. "I've been raised around music my whole life, so it just seemed natural" agrees Ben Babylon. Electra Barakos, singer, recognized that "he is one of the most talented children I know and his maturity and talent overweighs his years of life".

Ben has music in his genes. Guy Babylon was always so supportive and guided Ben's first steps into music: "My dad worked with me a lot to become a good keyboardist". For Elton, is was not that easy: "My father didn't want me to get into music" explained a bit disappointed, "I could never understand that because he'd been a trumpeter in a band".

Starting into music
As we said, Elton started picking out tunes and it was about three years when his parents suggested to take lessons "until I won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Of Music" he said. Ben is making his first steps into music, with desition: "I have to put in a lot of time to practice music, along with trying to do well in school. At school I play with the Jazz "A" Band there, so I do get practice at school". Well done, boy. Also, he is in the music program at Rock Nation.

Writing process
It's well known Bernie & Elton process, beginning with Bernie's lyrics and getting a song when Elton sits down and put them to music: "I'm good at writing melodies and Bernie is great at writing lyrics" Elton defends while adding "We have never been in the same room ever writing a song. He would probably kill me and I would probably kill him". One reason, yes. Ben, for his part, is songwriter and lyricist, but the way is so so different: "Usually I start with the music first and then come up with lyrics (...) sometimes I overhear somebody talking, and I line will stick out, and I will write it down to remember later".

Greg Penny
Penny, as a teenager, met Elton in the early 70s and even visited him at the studio as he recorded "Goodbye Yellow Brcik Road album". On the 90s, he produced "Made In England", after winning a Grammy for his work on KD Lang's album. Greg Penny also helped Ben producing his first ever single,"Goodbye Superman", a loving song in tribute to Guy Babylon, Ben's father. Two versions of this song, an orchestrated version and a piano version, were recorded. "The piano version expresses that I am sad my dad is gone, and the orchestrated version expresses that I am mad he is not here" wrote Ben about that. For Ben, it was the first experience on working with a producer: "He made it so easy and comfortable to be creative. It was fun for me because I got to watch the process of mixing a song by a great producer".

Only one time could Elton had been seen with a guitar on his hands, when he performed "Love Song" in 1986, playing the guitar, with other guitarrists backing him. Ben for his part, could play piano, guitar and drums: "I also play lots of other instruments like the ukelele, and other foreign instruments" he added.

The Rocket Record Company was a record label founded by Elton John, with Bernie Taupin, Gus Dudgeon and Steve Brown among others, in 1972. The label was originally distributed in the UK by Island and in the US by MCA Records, both of to which Elton John was also signed. On the other side, Guy Babylon, Kathy Babylon, and Ben Babylon are part of Babylon Music. Guy Babylon, the keyboardist, programmer, and orchestrator who played for The Elton John Band for over 21 years. He wrote many songs including "Babylon Bleu" and "Las Vegas Twister" that are on his inspired album Best Of Guy Babylon. Kathy Babylon is a singer/songwriter who has written and recorded many songs including "Take A Chance" and "Wait on The Rain" written with her husband Guy and Reggie Burrell, all part of the Singles Collection that is now available, with many more songs, even the succesful "Warpipes" band, on itunes.

Elton is the proud owner of no less than 21 pets. He has a favorite out of all the pack: a black and white cocker spaniel named Arthur, a gift from the man that became his husband in 2005, David Furnish. Arthur became part of the family and was treated as a witness at the marriage between the two men. Ben loves so much his dog too.

"I can't really play football" recognized Elton once, "The only time I played a whole game I broke my glasses in the second minute" he joked. "Football taught me how to accept defeat with dignity" and to listen others point of views, could be added. Ben is the opposite, he loves soccer and he plays on a team with good results.

But eltonites and babylonists are agree, we love them all and couldn't wait to listen their new material. So, Rock on, boys!!!