Madman Across the Water is the fourth studio album by Elton John, released November 5, 1971 through DJM and Uni Records.
Madman Across the Water was the fourth studio album released by Elton 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. It contains 9 tracks, 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. Murray and Olsson would later be fully featured in John’s succeeding album, Honky Château. Later band member, percussionist Ray Cooper makes 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. 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.”
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 and spending two weeks there. The album fared much better in North America, peaking at No. 8 on the US Billboard Top Pop Albums and later on at No. 10 on the year-end list of 1972. It 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. In 1998, the album was certified Multi-Platinum, representing shipments of over 2 million units in the US. 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.
1. “Tiny Dancer” 6:15
2. “Levon” 5:22
3. “Razor Face” 4:44
4. “Madman Across the Water” 5:56
1. “Indian Sunset” 6:45
2. “Holiday Inn” 4:17
3. “Rotten Peaches” 4:56
4. “All the Nasties” 5:08
5. “Goodbye” 1:48