Madman Across the Water turns 50

One of Elton John’s most acclaimed works is going for its 50th anniversary this year, and exciting things are coming to celebrate it!

Madman Across the Water turns 50

First released back in the 70s, after only two years of starting his career, Madman Across the Water is Elton John’s fourth studio album. By the time the album came out, the British singer and songwriter had gained considerable popularity across the UK. Madman Across the Water immediately reached the US audience, escalating to the Top 10 on Billboard charts. 

The largely acclaimed work, recorded at Trident Studios in London, featured nine tracks composed by Elton John, with lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. Among the many incredible musicians who took part in creating this album, Rick Wakeman (YES band keyboardist) made an appearance playing the Hammond organ on three tracks. The album was first released through two singles: Levon and Tiny Dancer. Like Tiny Dancer, Levon only became a fanbase quintessential with time; at first, it only reached #24 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and it wasn’t included on Elton John’s first Greatest Hits compilation, but on the second one. 

Today, it is one of his signature songs, alongside Rocketman, Your Song, or Levon’s sibling, Tiny Dancer. Despite the album’s relatively-bad reception when it first came out, it has become one of Elton John’s most critically-acclaimed works, gaining multiple platinum, gold and silver certifications. 

To honour the 50th year of the release of Madman Across the Water, Elton John is releasing a reissue of the album in four different formats, featuring 18 unreleased tracks, and set to come out on June 10. 

Tiny Dancer: the unheard demo  

Madman Across the Water contains one of Elton’s most beloved songs, Tiny Dancer. A song that tried to capture the very soul of California after the musician’s first US tour, the single was the first song of the album. Surprisingly enough, it didn’t receive the attention it gained over time; it only reached the #41 position in the US charts, and due to its length (a little over 6 minutes long), many radio stations would cut it out. Today, Tiny Dancer has become a classic and was even certified gold in the US and the UK (in 2005 and 2018, respectively). 

After many other artists made covers of the song, Tiny Dancer was immortalised yet one more time. In the 2000s movie “Almost Famous” (directed by Cameron Crowe), one of the most memorable scenes from the film captured the essence of the song in a way that was never done before. Just like the song, the film became a classic too. 

Still a live-performance favourite, Tiny Dancer will be performed by Elton John on the tour that is intended to be his last one, the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour (consisting of over 300 live performances worldwide). After some suspense, it was finally announced that the tour is getting its own Disney documentary, with a retrospective look at Elton’s early career.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Madman Across the Water, Elton John has released a previously unheard demo of the song, recorded at Dick James Studios in London in 1971. Besides the fact that this recording is taken from the archives, the demo features a very special performance: Elton John playing the song alone on the piano moments before taking it to the rest of the band. This demo is now available to stream everywhere. 

Header Image Credit: "Elton John" by Zanastardust is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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Candelaria Gómez

Candelaria Gómez Contributor

Hey! I'm a violinist and music student based in Argentina. I love art in all its expressions -and I love to write about it.
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