Elton John “Madman Across the Water”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#534 in the Series and #34 in the Whale Wednesday Series) is Elton John, Madman Across the Water. (UNI, DJM Record)

What a run Elton John was on at the outset of his career. On the Billboard Top 200 Chart, his first four albums reached, in order, #6, 4, 5 and 8. This was that fourth release and it actually only hit #8. The next six albums all hit #1. It was a truly, truly magnificent run.  Oddly enough it only hit #41 in the UK. It would go on the sell over 2 million copies in the US alone.

It’s interesting to note that the album I’m calling a Whale for Whale Wednesday was the lowest ranking album of his first 10 releases.  It was indeed incredible acceptance for this great musician. I’m sure you’ll agree that in historic perspective? Yeah, it’s a Whale.

“Madman Across the Water” the single, was supposed to be included on the previous album, Tumbleweed Connection, it was held back to be re-recorded and then included as the title cut for this album.  Oh, did you know that Rick Wakeman played organ on this track, you do now!

Elton and some friends

The one thing that all the releases in that  early period had in common was the songwriting. Nearly every track back them was Elton John writing the music and Bernie Taupin writing the lyrics. Their success is on par with other songwriting duos like Lennon and McCartney or the Glimmer Twins.

One of the highlights on the album, “Tiny Dancer” was written, lyrically by Bernie for his daughter.  I laugh when I think she’s got to be about 50 now.

That was one of the major hits on the album. The other major track was “Levon.”  This is a true Elton classic. Those three songs would remain part of his live shows for years.  As far as the singles chart success, “Levon” peaked at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 while “Tiny Dancer” would peak at #41.

“Holiday Inn” was written about the bands early tours in the States. They said they stayed at many Holiday Inns because there was one in every town.

Please spend some time on the video playlist below. I have the entire album live from 1971. The videos were taken from a BBC television show and are of excellent quality.  All told, the entire album turns into a nearly 50 minute long concert, mainly on the strength of “Madman.” Its 15 minutes long!

— Larry Carta

Track listing

  1.  “Tiny Dancer” – 6:15
  2. “Levon” – 5:22
  3. “Razor Face” – 4:44
  4. “Madman Across the Water” – 5:56
  5. “Indian Sunset” – 6:45
  6. “Holiday Inn” – 4:16
  7. “Rotten Peaches” – 4:56
  8. “All the Nasties” – 5:08
  9. “Goodbye” – 1:48


  • Elton John – Keyboards, Piano, Vocals
  • Tony Burrows – Vocals
  • BJ Cole -Guitar (Steel)
  • Roger Cook – Vocals
  • Ray Cooper – Percussion, Tambourine
  • Terry Cox – Drums
  • Brian Dee – Harmonium
  • Lesley Duncan – Vocals
  • Jack Emblow – Accordion
  • Herbie Flowers –  Bass
  • Dave Glover – Bass
  • Sue Glover – Vocals
  • Davey Johnstone – Guitar, Mandolin, Sitar, Synthesizer, Vocals
  • David Katz – Violin
  • Chris Laurence – Bass)
  • Sunny Leslie – Vocals,
  • Diane Lewis-Steinberg – Synthesizer
  • Diana Lewis – Arp, Synthesizer
  • Barry Morgan –  Drums
  • Dee Murray – Bass, Vocals
  • Brian Odgers  –  Bass
  • Nigel Olsson  – Drums
  • Alan Parker – Guitar
  • Roger Pope – Drums
  • Caleb Quaye – Guitar,
  • Barry St. John –  Vocals
  • Chris Spedding  – Guitar, Slide Guitar
  • Terry Steele –  Vocals
  • Liza Strike – Vocals
  • Les Thatcher – Guitar
  • Rick Wakeman –  Keyboards, Organ


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Posted by Larry Carta

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