Guitarist Davey Johnstone, who joined Elton John's band in 1971 and currently serves as his musical director, admits that launching the three-year "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" tour is as daunting as it is exciting. Johnstone spoke with Rolling Stone and was asked if he felt it was strange to finally be saying goodbye to the fans across the globe. Johnstone, who's now 67, said, "No, because it’s a long farewell tour. They’re planning a lot of gigs. In a sense it is strange, but my only real concern as the musical director and the guy who puts the band together is to make sure everybody’s on point with what they’re playing and that we don’t just diss our audience. So we try and play arrangements that are interesting enough where people say, '. . . They didn’t play that last time out,' or 'That’s new,' or 'Oh, wow, listen to that.' I’m more intent on this being an extension of what we’ve always been known for, which is great musicianship and giving a really powerful show. And I think there’s gonna be no problem where that’s concerned."

Johnstone is one of the rare musicians who's collaborated musically with Elton, and recalled co-writing the 1983 Top 10 hit "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" during sessions for that year's Too Low For Zero album. Johnstone recalled the set up at George Martin's AIR Studios on Monsterrat: "We’re sitting and Elton said, 'I’ve got this lyric and I think it’s a guitar song.' I said, 'OK.' He showed me the lyric and I went, 'Oh, what a beautiful lyric.' We wrote the song right there in about 20 minutes. He said, 'That’s it. Let’s record it.' The next day, I think, we invite the whole band in the room. We played them the song and we proceeded to record it and that was it. I mean, when you start with a lyric like that, you’re already halfway there. So I really can’t emphasize enough how important Bernie (Taupin)’s contribution has been over the years through this whole thing."

Johnstone went on to defend some of Elton's late-'80s albums, which he feels have been unfairly knocked: "If you’ve produced a number of really great things, people expect the next thing to be amazing. And sometimes it’s not what they expect. And so therefore they go, 'Well, what the f*** happened?' I think John Lennon said it best. He certainly said this to me. He said, 'Look, an album is really just a little postcard of where you are at that time. If you’re honest enough to put it out like that, that’s what it is. And what people think of it really is neither here nor there, because if you’re a true artist that’s what it’s gonna be.'"

Amazingly, Davey Johnstone has been lucky enough to witness the Elton John - Bernie Taupin songwriting partnership up close for nearly 50 years and has literally seen some of rock's most beloved songs being written in front of him: "Elton’d have a stack of lyrics and he’d just look through them. He wouldn’t do any pre-work (on the songs) in those days, y’know, he wouldn’t ever sneak ‘em at home with them, he’d wait till he get to the studio, and then literally sit down after breakfast and write a song. I mean, I’ve seen him write songs in the time that it’s taken me to make a chicken sandwich, or something." at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.

AUDIO: DAVEY JOHNSTONE ON ELTON JOHN'S SONGWRITING