Madman Across the Water

Madman Across the Water is the fourth studio album by English musician Elton John, released in 1971 through DJM and Uni Records. The album was his third album to be released in 1971, at which point John had been rising to prominence as a popular music artist. The album contains nine tracks, each composed and performed by John and with lyrics written by songwriting partner Bernie Taupin.

Madman Across the Water
Elton John - Madman Across the Water.jpg
Studio album by
Released5 November 1971[1]
Recorded27 February; 9, 11, 14 August 1971[1]
StudioTrident, London
GenreSoft rock, pop
LabelUni, DJM
ProducerGus Dudgeon
Elton John chronology
Madman Across the Water
Honky Château
Singles from Madman Across the Water
  1. "Levon"
    Released: 29 November 1971[2]
  2. "Tiny Dancer"
    Released: 7 February 1972[3]

There were two singles released from Madman Across the Water, "Levon" and "Tiny Dancer". The album was certified gold in February 1972, followed by platinum in March 1993, and 2× platinum in August 1998 by the RIAA.[4] The album was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[5]

Yes band keyboardist Rick Wakeman plays Hammond organ on 3 songs.

On 10 June 2022, the album will be reissued as a deluxe edition for its 50th anniversary, featuring 18 unreleased tracks, including piano demos. It will release in a variety of formats, including a 3CD super deluxe set, a 4LP set, a 2CD set and the original LP on limited edition coloured vinyl. It will also be packaged with a 40-page book detailing the album's creation with notes from John and Taupin.[6][7]


The nine tracks were each composed and performed by John and with lyrics written by songwriting partner Bernie Taupin as with his previous material. As with all of John's other studio albums at the time, Madman featured John's touring band, which consisted of bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson on only a single song, due to producer Gus Dudgeon's lack of faith in the group for studio recordings. Instead, most of the tracks were backed by studio players and string arrangements put together by Paul Buckmaster. Davey Johnstone, who had previously worked with Dudgeon as a part of Magna Carta, was also put on as the main guitarist.[8]

Murray and Olsson would be fully featured in John's succeeding album, Honky Château.[8] Percussionist and later band member Ray Cooper made his first appearance with this album. This was John's last album to be recorded at London's Trident Studios, although subsequent albums would be remixed or overdubbed at Trident. Caleb Quaye and Roger Pope would not play with John again until Rock of the Westies in 1975, following Murray and Olsson's departure from the band.


The album's title song was initially set to be released on John's previous album Tumbleweed Connection, featuring guitarist Mick Ronson as the primary musician; however, it was set aside and was re-recorded for this album, with Johnstone on the guitar.[8] The earlier version was included on the remastered Tumbleweed Connection compact disc.

Dispelling rumours that the song's lyric referred to then US President Richard Nixon, Bernie Taupin had this to say:

Back in the seventies, when people were saying that "Madman Across the Water" was about Richard Nixon, I thought, That is genius. I could never have thought of that.[9]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [10]
Christgau's Record GuideC[11]
Tom Hull – on the WebB–[12]

Madman Across the Water was one of John's lowest-charting album efforts. It continued a streak of mediocre performance in the UK for John, peaking at No. 41 on the UK Albums Chart[8] and spending two weeks there. The album fared much better in North America, peaking at No. 8 on the US Billboard Top Pop Albums[8] and later on at No. 10 on the year-end list of 1972.[13]

The album received Gold by the RIAA in February 1972, achieving $1 million in sales at wholesale value just in the United States. In 1993, the album was certified Platinum, representing shipments of more than one million units in the US.[14] In 1998, the album was certified Multi-Platinum, representing shipments of over two million units in the US.[14] In May 2017 the album was certified Silver for sales of 60,000 units by the British Phonographic Industry.

On release, Alex Dubro of Rolling Stone was mixed towards Madman Across the Water, who found it inferior to its two predecessors. Although he gave commends to "Tiny Dancer" and "Levon", he found the lyrics throughout the record confusing, concluding that it is a "difficult, sometimes impossibly dense record" that would not upset John's current fans, but not gain new ones either.[15] On the other hand, Penny Valentine was more positive in Sounds magazine, highlighting John as "a music man of immense feeling and power" that is full of unexplored talent.[16]

When it was released in 'The Classic Years' collection, it was the first album not to feature any bonus tracks. One known track recorded at the time, "Rock Me When He's Gone", was released on the 1992 compilation Rare Masters. The song was written for and recorded by one of John's long-time friends, Long John Baldry.


Alice in Chains member Jerry Cantrell covered the closing track "Goodbye" for his third solo album Brighten and told Wall of Sound that John gave his approval for his rendition revealing he said "absolutely you should put it on the record. You got my permission. You did a great version."[17] In 1991, Bruce Hornsby and The Range produced a jazzier version of "Madman Across the Water" highlighted by Hornsby's piano virtuosity.

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Side one
1."Tiny Dancer"6:17
3."Razor Face"4:42
4."Madman Across the Water"5:57
Side two
1."Indian Sunset"6:47
2."Holiday Inn"4:17
3."Rotten Peaches"4:58
4."All the Nasties"5:09


  • The SACD version of the album contained a longer version of "Razor Face", which extended the song-ending jam to 6:42 instead of the early fade on the original album. This extended version can only be heard in the 5.1 surround mix, or on the 50th Anniversary reissue of the album.

50th Anniversary Deluxe EditionEdit

Disc 1
1."Tiny Dancer (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)"6:15
2."Levon (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)"5:20
3."Razor Face (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)"4:41
4."Madman Across The Water (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)"5:57
5."Indian Sunset (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)"6:44
6."Holiday Inn (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)"4:15
7."Rotten Peaches (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)"4:55
8."All The Nasties (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)"5:07
9."Goodbye (2016 Bob Ludwig Remaster)"1:46
10."Indian Sunset (Live Radio Broadcast)"5:17
11."Madman Across The Water (Original Version, featuring Mick Ronson)"8:50
12."Rock Me When He's Gone"5:01
13."Levon (Mono Single Version)"4:44
14."Razor Face (Extended Version)"6:43
Total length:75:35
Disc 2
1."Madman Across The Water (1970 Piano Demo)"5:07
2."Tiny Dancer (Piano Demo)"6:00
3."Levon (Piano Demo)"5:03
4."Razor Face (Piano Demo)"3:45
5."Madman Across The Water (1971 Piano Demo)"5:11
6."Indian Sunset (Piano Demo)"7:33
7."Holiday Inn (Piano Demo)"4:32
8."Rotten Peaches (Piano Demo)"4:06
9."All The Nasties (Piano Demo)"4:47
10."Goodbye (Piano Demo)"1:58
11."Rock Me When He's Gone (Piano Demo)"4:01
12."Rock Me When He's Gone (Full Version)"7:11
Total length:59:14
Disc 3
1."Tiny Dancer (BBC Sounds For Saturday)"6:11
2."Rotten Peaches (BBC Sounds For Saturday)"5:10
3."Razor Face (BBC Sounds For Saturday)"4:21
4."Holiday Inn (BBC Sounds For Saturday)"3:55
5."Indian Sunset (BBC Sounds For Saturday)"6:59
6."Levon (BBC Sounds For Saturday)"4:57
7."Madman Across The Water (BBC Sounds For Saturday)"10:55
8."Goodbye (BBC Sounds For Saturday)"1:39
Total length:44:07


Track numbers refer to CD and digital releases of the album.


  • Gus Dudgeon – producer, liner notes
  • Robin Geoffrey Cable – engineer
  • Tony Cousins – remastering
  • Gus Skinas – editing
  • Ricky Graham – digital transfers
  • Greg Penny – surround sound
  • Crispin Murray – assistant
  • David Larkham – art direction, design, illustrations, photography, cover photo
  • Gill – artwork
  • Yanis – artwork
  • Bob Gruen – photography
  • John Tobler – liner notes



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[23]
sales since 1993
Silver 60,000 
United States (RIAA)[14] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
  Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b Madman Across The Water Retrieved 19 December 2017
  2. ^ "Behind The Song: Elton John, "Levon" – American Songwriter". 16 September 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  3. ^ "What is the Meaning Behind the Song "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John? – American Songwriter". 4 October 2019. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Gold & Platinum". Recording Industry Association of America.
  5. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2013). 1001: Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. London: Cassell Publishing. p. 323. ISBN 978-1844037353.
  6. ^ Kreps, Daniel (21 April 2022). "Elton John Announces 50th-Anniversary Reissue of 'Madman Across the Water'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  7. ^ Rapp, Alison (21 April 2022). "Elton John Announces Deluxe Reissue of 'Madman Across the Water'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d e Giles, Jeff (5 November 2016). "How Elton John Matured on 'Madman Across the Water'". Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  9. ^ Esquire, "Bernie Taupin: What I've Learned," Cal Fussman, Jan 2, 2012
  10. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Madman Across the Water – Elton John". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: J". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 27 February 2019 – via
  12. ^ Hull, Tom (22 June 2021). "Music Week". Tom Hull – on the Web. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  13. ^ a b "Allmusic: Madman Across the Water : Charts & Awards : Billboard Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  14. ^ a b c "American album certifications – Elton John – Madman Across the Water". Recording Industry Association of America.
  15. ^ Dubro, Alex (20 January 1972). "Madman Across the Water". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  16. ^ Valentine, Penny (30 October 1971). "Elton John: Madman Across The Water (DJM)". Sounds. Retrieved 21 April 2022 – via Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  17. ^ Brown, Paul 'Browny' (28 October 2021). "Jerry Cantrell – 'Back to Brighten Your Life with Rock's Finest Figures'". Wall Of Sound. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  18. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  19. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 16, No. 26". RPM. 12 February 1972. Archived from the original on 26 April 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  20. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  21. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  22. ^ "Elton John > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  23. ^ "British album certifications – Elton John – Madman Across the Water". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 9 October 2020.

External linksEdit