Madman Across The Water (as made famous by Elton John)

This was the last album to feature John’s regular touring band (Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson) on only a single song. Later band member, percussionist Ray Cooper, makes his first appearance with this album. As with all John songs during this period, the lyrics were penned by his writing partner, Bernie Taupin. This was the 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.

Madman Across the Water barely reached No. 41 on the UK Albums Chart, spending only two weeks there. It has been the lowest-charting album of his career to date. The album fared much better in North America, peaking at No. 8 on the US Billboard Top Pop Albums and placing at No. 10 on the year-end list of 1972.[5] 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.[6] In 1998, the album was certified Multi-Platinum, representing shipments of over 2 million units in the US.[7]In May 2017 the album was certified Silver for sales of 60,000 units by the British Phonographic Industry.

The title song was set to be released on John’s previous album Tumbleweed Connection. However, it was set aside and was re-recorded for this album. The earlier version (with Mick Ronson on guitar) was included on the remastered Tumbleweed Connection CD.

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 in which he plays his piano and no other keyboards and the first album on which Davey Johnstone played, a role that would continue for decades, and he contributed acoustic guitar, mandolin and sitar; he would join John’s band full-time for Honky Château.

Elton John – piano, vocals
Brian Dee – harmonium (2)
Rick Wakeman – Hammond organ (3, 4, 7)
Jack Emblow – accordion (3)
Diana Lewis – ARP synthesizer (4, 7)
Caleb Quaye – electric guitar (1, 2, 3), acoustic guitar (6)
B. J. Cole – steel guitar (1)
Davey Johnstone – acoustic guitar (1, 4, 7), mandolin (6), sitar (6)
Chris Spedding – electric guitar (4), slide guitar (7)
David Glover – bass guitar (1, 3, 6)
Brian Odgers – bass guitar (2)
Herbie Flowers – bass guitar (4, 5, 7)
Chris Laurence – double bass (5)
Dee Murray – bass guitar (8)
Roger Pope – drums (1, 3, 6)
Barry Morgan – drums (2)
Terry Cox – drums (4, 5, 7)
Nigel Olsson – drums (8)
Ray Cooper – percussion (4), tambourine (7, 8)
Paul Buckmaster – orchestral arrangements and conductor (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9)
David Katz – orchestra contractor
Lesley Duncan, Sue & Sunny, Barry St. John, Liza Strike, Roger Cook, Tony Burrows, Terry Steele, Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson – backing vocals (1, 6, 7)
Cantores em Ecclesia Choir – backing vocals (5, 8)
Robert Kirby – choir director

Honky Cat (as made famous by Elton John)

“Honky Cat” is a song from the 1972 Elton John album Honky Château, the album’s lead-off track.[1][2]

“Honky Cat” reached the Billboard top 10 when released as a single, reaching  No.  31 in the UK. The song fared better in the U.S., hitting  No.  8 just as John launched an American tour in September 1972. [3] The song remains a staple of “classic rock” radio.

A live version was released on the Here side of the Here and There live set in 1976 (and its expanded CD version in 1995), and a solo piano version appeared on the “Live in Madison Square Garden” Vol. 1 limited edition CD, recorded in October 1999.[citation needed]

Lee Ann Womack covered the song on the 2018 tribute album Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Love Lies Bleeding (as made famous by Elton John)

“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” is the opening track on the double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. The first part, “Funeral for a Friend”, is an instrumental created by John while thinking of what kind of music he would like at his funeral.[1] This first half segues into “Love Lies Bleeding”.

In the Eagle Vision documentary, Classic Albums: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, John said the two songs were not written as one piece, but fit together since “Funeral for a Friend” ends in the key of A, and “Love Lies Bleeding” opens in A, and the two were played as one elongated piece when recorded.

The grandiose introduction to “Funeral for a Friend” was performed on ARP synthesizer (erroneously credited as A.R.P.) by the album’s engineer, David Hentschel, who, John recalled, overdubbed track after track of music and synthetic atmospheric effects until the mini-opus was complete. With lyrics like “And love lies bleeding in my hand/Oh, it kills me to think of you with another man”, lyricist Bernie Taupin uses death symbolism as an angry take on a breakup song.[1]

In an interview for John’s official website, Hentschel recalled that he used melodies from Danny Bailey, I’ve Seen That Movie Too, Candle In The Wind and others in creating the track.[2]

The song was well received by critics. AllMusic’s Donald Guarisco called “Funeral for a Friend” “a stunning instrumental” with “a powerful fusion of classical and rock elements where a gentle, lyrical motif is developed and energized until it builds into a powerhouse full of emotion and bombast.”[1]

“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” was too long for a single release, but got significant airplay on FM stations that were predisposed toward rock epics.[1] The whole piece is just over 11 minutes long. A fan favourite, it became a staple part of many Elton John tour set lists.

Billboard magazine listed this song as #2 in the list of Elton John’s best songs as picked by critics, second only to “Bennie and the Jets”.[3] Rolling Stone readers picked this song as #3 in a list of “deep cuts” by Elton John, songs that only a true fan would know, even though it has received significant exposure over the years.[4] The song had a strong influence on the Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion albums and, in particular, the song “November Rain”.[5] Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows lists the song among the ten songs that helped shape how he relates to music.[6]

Levon (as made famous by Elton John)

“Levon” is a song written and recorded by Elton John, with lyrics by Bernie Taupin. It was recorded on February 27, 1971, and is from John’s fourth album Madman Across the Water.[1] The song reached number 24 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at number six on the Canadian RPM singles chart.[2]

According to Gus Dudgeon, Bernie Taupin was inspired by The Band’s co-founder, drummer and singer Levon Helm to name the song after him. The Band was apparently John and Taupin’s favourite group at the time. In 2013, however, Taupin said that the song is unrelated to Levon Helm.[3]

The “Alvin Tostig” mentioned in the song (Levon’s father) is, according to Taupin, merely fictional.[4]

Someone Saved My Life Tonight (as made famous by Elton John)

“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is an Elton John song from his album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

The song concludes side one of the album’s narrative, chronicling the early history of John and lyricist Bernie Taupin and their struggles to find their place within the music industry. When released as the album’s only single in 1975, it was the first album to ever enter at #1 in the history of music on the Billboard Hot 100 and entered the top 25 on the UK Singles Chart. In the U.S., it was certified Gold on 10 September 1975 by the RIAA. In Canada, the single narrowly missed being his ninth number one there, hitting #2 on the RPM 100 national Top Singles chart on August 30.[1]

Taupin’s lyric refers to a time in 1968, before John was popular as a musician, when John was engaged to be married to girlfriend Linda Woodrow. John and Woodrow were sharing a flat with Taupin in Furlong Road in Highbury, London, hence the opening line “When I think of those East End lights.” While having serious doubts about the looming marriage, John contemplated suicide.[2] He took refuge in his friends, especially Long John Baldry, who convinced John to abandon his plans to marry in order to salvage and maintain his musical career. After “sticking his head in the gas oven, but with the windows open”, his parents arrived the next day, in a van, to take him back to their apartment in Pinner.[3][4]

As a sign of respect and gratitude to Baldry, Taupin wrote him into the song as the “someone” in the title, and also as “Sugar Bear”.[5]

Comparisons can[according to whom?] be drawn to the earlier John/Taupin composition Skyline Pigeon – as both songs contain the metaphor of a creature flying free towards the sky to signify escape from marriage, with the creature in this case being a butterfly.

Some radio stations altered the song or refused to play it due to the use of the phrase “Damn it” in the second verse.[citation needed]

In the liner notes to the Deluxe Edition of Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy, writer Paul Gambaccini related a recollection from producer Gus Dudgeon. During the recording of the song’s lead vocal, Dudgeon said he was pushing John for more in terms of his delivery of the vocal, not paying attention to the lyric. According to Gambaccini, guitarist Davey Johnstone leaned over and told Dudgeon, “You know he’s singing about killing himself.” Dudgeon was apparently mortified by the revelation and relented.

At 6:45 this was one of John’s longest singles and was supposed to be edited to a shorter version for radio consumption. However, John refused to let MCA Records cut it down, saying that it was to be released as a whole, and the record company acquiesced. Its B-Side song, “House of Cards”, was recorded by UK singer Linda Kendrick.[6]

John has played the song live many times, one of the best known recorded performances coming during the Central Park concert in September 1980.

Elton John – piano, Rhodes piano, ARP String Ensemble synthesizer, vocals
Davey Johnstone – Leslied electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Dee Murray – bass guitar, backing vocals
Nigel Olsson – drums, backing vocals
Ray Cooper – tambourine, shaker, cymbal