Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

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"Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"
Song by Elton John
from the album Honky Château
Released1972 (1972)
RecordedJanuary 1972
GenreSoft rock
Composer(s)Elton John
Lyricist(s)Bernie Taupin
Producer(s)Gus Dudgeon

"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.[citation needed] 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."[1][2] 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.[3] It was released as the B-side of the "Harmony" U.K. single in 1980.

Rolling Stone magazine's Jon Landau praised the song when it was released, writing:

Elton John himself called the song "one of my all-time favourites"[5] 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 also used in the film Almost Famous, in a scene in New York City, highlighting the loneliness of Kate Hudson's character, who overdoses on quaaludes and champagne.[3]

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".

A more upbeat sequel to the song called "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (Part Two)" was recorded about 15 years later for John's album Reg Strikes Back.

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ "Ben E. King - Spanish Harlem Lyrics". 2011-12-26. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  2. ^ "Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters by Elton John Songfacts". Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  3. ^ a b Mason, S. "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-02-29.
  4. ^ Jon Landau (1972-08-17). "Honky Château". Rolling Stone.
  5. ^ Nate Chinen (2007-03-27). "Elton John Celebrates 60, Lavishly, in His Garden". New York Times.

External links[edit]