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News May 3, 2017

Excerpt: Mark Holden spills all in book ‘My Idol Years’

Excerpt: Mark Holden spills all in book ‘My Idol Years’

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

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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