One of the highlights of 2020 has been the recent release Elton John & Ray Cooper Live From Moscow. The set, which commemorates the "Rocketman's" historic 1979 Russian two-man tour with percussionist Ray Cooper, was recorded live on May 28th, 1979 at Russia's Rossya Hotel Concert Hall, with the original BBC multi-track tapes newly remastered by Bob Ludwig.

In a new interview with Goldmine, Ray Cooper looked back to the groundbreaking tour, which changed lives across the board: "We spent quite a lot of time working out what would be the best for two people to play. What songs would be the most dramatic, and how to get the most out of them. Elton wanted to push his vocal prowess and his piano prowess as far as it could go. And his piano playing got better and better, and his voice got stronger and stronger over the course of that tour. I think this two-man show was the beginning of how he pushed the barriers.”

He went on to say, "Each concert revealed something different about the Russians. The way they put concerts on for instance, the people you met, and the audiences. So it kept us on our toes. There was nothing that we could, in a sense, rely upon. Everything was fresh. They listened fervently; they wanted to take every moment of Elton’s music into their soul. But they also eventually got up, and they clapped and they danced, and that was wonderful."

For both Elton and Cooper, the fact that this music was not only known but actually beloved left the pair absolutely gobsmacked: "They knew the music; they’d been listening to it illegally on American Forces radio. A lot of people in Russia, strangely enough, were speaking English because of listening to pop records. Because of listening to the Beatles, to Elton John, to the stuff that they could listen to from across the borders, where the American and Allied Forces radio managed to get through. They would make illegal recordings of it, and they would learn the language and learn it well. Spoke fluent English purely by listening to pop records; that’s the strength of the human survival factor and human nature. Isn’t that wonderful?”

Cooper revealed that Elton was actually warned not to perform the Beatles' "Back In The U.S.S.R.": "If you tell him not to do something, that’s the best way to get him to do it! That was a red flag to the bull. And so he did it! And the audience loved it, too. And then it was accepted. He did it at every concert."

While in the Soviet Union, Elton John appeared on TV and sang the praises of the Russian audiences, when asked how they were accepting his music in concert: ["Very, very good. I mean, I was very worried the first night, because it was a big challenge to come to the Soviet Union to play because we don't know what the audiences are like. But they've been very, very warm and receptive audiences throughout the whole seven concerts, so far. We've had a great time and everybody's been tremendously kind to us. And hopefully, we will come back. I would like to come back very much"] SOUNDCUE (:19 OC: . . . back very much)

Elton John On Performing In Russia :