Madman Across the Water

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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 (US only)[2]
  2. "Tiny Dancer"
    Released: 7 February 1972 (US only)[3]

Madman Across the Water is the fourth studio album by Elton John, released in 1971 through DJM and Uni Records. The album was the fourth studio album released by John, as well as 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 9 tracks, each composed and performed by John and with lyrics written by songwriting partner Bernie Taupin.

There were two singles released from Madman Across the Water, "Levon" and "Tiny Dancer." It 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]


Madman Across the Water was the fourth studio album released by Elton John. The 9 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.[6]

Murray and Olsson would later be fully featured in John's succeeding album, Honky Château.[6] Later band member, percussionist 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.[6] The earlier version was included on the remastered Tumbleweed Connection CD.

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.[7]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[8]
Christgau's Record GuideC[9]
Rolling Stone(mixed)[citation needed]

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[6] and spending two weeks there. The album fared much better in North America, peaking at No. 8 on the US Billboard Top Pop Albums[6] and later on at No. 10 on the year-end list of 1972.[10]

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 1 million units in the US.[11] In 1998, the album was certified Multi-Platinum, representing shipments of over 2 million units in the US.[11] In May 2017 the album was certified Silver for sales of 60,000 units by the British Phonographic Industry.

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. This was John's first album to feature Davey Johnstone, who contributed acoustic guitar, mandolin and sitar. He would join John's band full-time for Honky Château.

The album was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[12]

Track listing[edit]

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.


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)[19]
sales since 1993
Silver 60,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[11] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger 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". Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  3. ^ "What is the Meaning Behind the Song "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John? – American Songwriter". Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Dimery, Robert (Editor) (2013). 1001: Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. London: Cassell Publishing. p. 323. ISBN 1844037355.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b c d e Giles, Jeff (5 November 2016). "How Elton John Matured on 'Madman Across the Water'". Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  7. ^ Esquire, "Bernie Taupin: What I've Learned," Cal Fussman, Jan 2, 2012
  8. ^ Madman Across the Water at AllMusic
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ a b "Allmusic: Madman Across the Water : Charts & Awards : Billboard Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  11. ^ a b c "American album certifications – Elton John – Madman Across the Water". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  12. ^ Dimery, Robert (Editor) (2013). 1001: Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. London: Cassell Publishing. p. 323. ISBN 1844037355.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 16, No. 26". RPM. 12 February 1972. Archived from the original on 26 April 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  15. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1972" (in Italian). Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  16. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  17. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  18. ^ "Elton John > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  19. ^ "British album certifications – Elton John – Madman Across the Water". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 9 October 2020.