Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Madman Across the Water, Elton John

So last week Kathy & I saw Elton John & Billy Joel at the Rose Garden (FACE 2 FACE) and during Elton's solo portion of the evening when he said, "The next three songs are all from my album Madman Across the Water," I kinda squealed like a little girl--well, at least inside my head I did, and I know I pounded Kathy's knee in an excited-perhaps-painful-for-her sort of way--and I knew what those three songs would be, of course: Levon, Tiny Dancer, and the title track. Levon was one of the first Elton John songs I ever knew, and even though I know Tiny Dancer has jumped much higher in popularity post-Almost Famous, and although believe me I love screaming along to Tiny Dancer as much as the next sane person, I still think I like Levon more. Perhaps because it is one of those storytelling songs which I rambled about back in December. Even though the story it tells is very strange and who the hell knows what it really means, but singing along with it is so fun who really cares. And, I also previously stated that Tom Petty's "Oh my my, oh hell yes, honey put on that party dress" were the best lyrics of all time, but I have to say now that a close second is, "And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus." And the way he sings this line! It is glorious!

Then the title track, Madman Across the Water. Okay, listen. This is probably the most badass song Elton John has ever produced, if an Elton John song could be badass. Which, when I listen to this song, I think it can be.

Then there is Holiday Inn, which is another Tiny Dancer-esque rock-and-roll-life-on-the-road-in-the-70s tune, which I love love love really just for the first sprightly sung lines, "Boston at last, and the plane's touching down / The hostess is handing the hot towels around / From a terminal gate to a black limousine, it's a ten minute ride to the Holiday Inn." This is, of course, because I lived in and love(d) Boston, which is perhaps silly and superficial, but it is funny how a good reference in a song can catch you.

The album then ends with a combination of two of the weariest sounding Elton songs ever, All the Nasties and then Goodbye, and when I say weary I of course mean very not Crocodile Rock but very, very great. All the Nasties is particularly epic and almost surprisingly angst-ridden, wherein Elton is giving love to some unknown group saying, "Oh, I'm fond of them, and only them, they would understand," which is a sentiment all of us have felt when we have been lucky enough to know awesome people and the rest of the world is seeming really un-awesome. But then, with 2:15 minutes left in the song, Elton starts a chant of "Oh, my soul," which continues to just get louder and more dramatic over and over - OH MY SOOUUUULL, OH MY SOOOUUULLL, OH MY SOOOUULLLLL - until the end of the song. IT IS AMAZING.

Then Goodbye, which is really just altogether depressing, includes these great lyrics, "I'm sorry I took the time, I am the poem that doesn't rhyme," and the last lines of the album are these cheery words: "Just turn back the page, I'll waste away, I'll waste away." Listening to this song, it is hard to imagine him in sparkly pants and oversized sunglasses, but the combination of the two makes him all the more remarkable a person.

In general, this album is in my Top 10 Albums of All Time. This is a list I haven't actually compiled, although I may just naturally compile it throughout this blog, but I know it would be there. You may think you don't like Elton John all that much because of all that Don't Go Breakin' My Heart type stuff, and although I personally think most of his collection is pure pop genius I still wouldn't quite blame you, but I'll tell you, listen to this album. And then maybe Honky Chateau, but first this one. You won't be disappointed. Or, if you are, just don't tell me about it and we can still be friends.


  1. YES I LOVE LEVON! I think he played that when I saw the "Face 2 Face" tour back in 2002...I didn't know they were doing it again!

    I think you should change the name of this blog to "Things JillS like."

  2. I have this on vinyl... MADMAN!!