Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
|"Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"|
|Song by Elton John|
|from the album Honky Château|
"Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" is a song from the Elton John album Honky Château. The lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin and is his take on New York City after hearing a gun go off near his hotel window during his first visit to the city. The song's lyrics were partly inspired by Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem," written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector, in which he sings "There is a rose in Spanish Harlem." In response to this, Taupin writes,
Now I know
Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say
I thought I knew,
but now I know that rose trees never grow in New York City.
Allmusic critic Stewart Mason noted that the song is "less saccharine than many similar Elton John and Bernie Taupin ballads" and praised the "somewhat uncharacteristic emotional directness" of its lyrics. It was released as the B-side of the "Harmony" U.K. single in 1980.
|“||"Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" shows how much John can really do in the space of a single cut. Using minimal instrumentation and singing one of Taupin's most direct lyrics, John effortlessly reveals the myth beneath the myth of "... a rose in Spanish Harlem." He expresses his involvement with the city, his need for its people, and his final desire to be alone through one of his best tunes, simplest arrangements, and most natural vocal performances.||”|
Elton John himself called the song "one of my all-time favourites" when introducing it at his 60th-birthday concert in New York's Madison Square Garden. He also delivered a heartfelt rendition at "The Concert for New York City" at Madison Square Garden on 20 October 2001. The concert was meant primarily as a tribute for family members and fellow workers of New York's Fire and Police and Emergency Medical Services departments, who had been participating in the ongoing recovery efforts at the demolished World Trade Center complex following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. John dedicated the song to the emergency workers and their families, as well as to New York City.
The song was used in the finale of the American version of Life on Mars. It was also used for the bridal dance in the final episode of the TV series Brothers and Sisters entitled "Walker Down the Aisle".
- Branford Marsalis' jazz/hip-hop fusion project Buckshot LeFonque covered the song with jazz vocalist Frank McComb for the group's self-titled album.
- Ryan Adams (duet with Elton John) in 2002 on the television show CMT Crossroads.
- Mandy Moore covered the song on her 2003 album Coverage.
- Heart covered the song on their album Seattle Live.
- The Indigo Girls recorded a version of this song which was included on their 2005 CD 'Rarities'.
- Judith Durham recorded a version for her "Mona Lisas" album which was also produced by Gus Dudgeon.
- Matthew Morrison sings this song in duet with Elton John on his album Matthew Morrison in 2011.
- Two covers of the song appeared on 2018 John and Taupin tribute albums. A rock version by The Killers was included on Revamp: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin and a country version by Maren Morris was included on Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
- "Ben E. King - Spanish Harlem Lyrics". Metrolyrics.com. 2011-12-26. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
- "Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters by Elton John Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
- Mason, S. "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-02-29.
- Jon Landau (1972-08-17). "Honky Château". Rolling Stone.
- Nate Chinen (2007-03-27). "Elton John Celebrates 60, Lavishly, in His Garden". New York Times.