Madman Across The Water – Elton John

elton-johnElton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947, is a five-time Grammy Award winner, and has been one of the more dominating forces in rock and popular music for over forty years. He has sold over a quarter billion albums, and 100 million singles, making him one of the most successful artists of all time.

He is a composer, singer, and pianist who collaborates with songwriter partner Bernie Taupin to write some of the most recognizable music of the 20th century.

Known for some of his most flamboyant fashions and on-stage showmanship.

Madman Across the Water

Madman Across the Water was set to be released on Elton John’s previous album Tumbleweed Connection. However, it was set aside and would eventually serve as the title track of the album, of the same name. Previous versions of the song (from the Tumbleweed era) can still be found, specifically on the remastered Tumbleweed Connection CD.  (I have it posted below)

There have been several theories as to the meaning behind this song.  Some think that it is autobiographical and that the song is about Elton being from the UK and making it big in the US.  Some think it was about Richard Nixon, and some think it was about Bernie Taupin’s inlaws.

I think the song has to do with a person whose family has put him into a home for the mentally insane and he has been trying to cross those waters to sanity but has failed.

I can see very well.
There’s a boat on the reef with a broken back
And I can see it very well.

He is the boat, and was trying to reach the shore but couldn’t.

There’s a joke and I know it very well,
It’s one of those that I told you long ago.
Take my word I’m a madman don’t you know.

A long time ago he tried to talk to his loved ones (family) about his problem.  They wouldn’t believe him, they thought he must be joking.  Now his family sees him as a sad joke.

Once a fool had a good part in the play,

His family feels that he was born into a good family, with good financial and emotional support. He foolishly squandered his resources and benefits and is now unable to cope.

If it’s so would I still be here today?

If he was raised so good, and his family gave him all the opportunities he could need then, why is he still in the nut house?

It’s quite peculiar in a funny sort of way,
They think it’s very funny everything I say.
Get a load of him, he’s so insane

He feels that his family laughs at him behind his back.

You’d better get your coat dear
It looks like rain.

The visit is over, they are getting to leave.

We’ll come again next Thursday afternoon.
The Inlaws hope they’ll see you very soon.

Things that they are saying to him as they are getting ready to leave.

But is it in your conscience that you’re after
Another glimpse of the Madman across the Water.

The reason why he thinks they visit him is just to take another look at their crazy relative.

The ground’s a long way down but I need more.

The distance from his window to the ground is not far enough to guarantee death if he were to jump.

Is the nightmare black
or are the windows painted?

Many crazy people retreat from the ‘outside world’ or reality into their minds where they are more comfortable. His room represents his inside world and the windows represent a view to the outside world or reality, a place that is “nightmarish” to him.

Will they come again next week,
Can my mind really take it?

He really hates it when he gets visitors. He wishes that they would just forget about him and leave him alone. He feels like a spectacle in a freak show.

[flv]http://djallyn.org/media/elton-john-madman-across-the-water.flv[/flv]

I can see very well.
There’s a boat on the reef with a broken back
And I can see it very well.
There’s a joke and I know it very well,
It’s one of those that I told you long ago.
Take my word I’m a madman don’t you know.

Once a fool had a good part in the play,
If it’s so would I still be here today?
It’s quite peculiar in a funny sort of way,
They think it’s very funny everything I say.
Get a load of him, he’s so insane
You’d better get your coat dear
It looks like rain.

We’ll come agan next Thursday afternoon.
The Inlaws hope they’ll see you very soon.
But is it in your conscience that you’re after
Another glimpse of the Madman across the Water.

I can see very well.
There’s a boat on the reef with a broken back
And I can see it very well.
There’s a joke and I know it very well,
It’s one of those that I told you long ago.
Take my word I’m a madman don’t you know.

The ground’s a long way down but I need more.
Is the nightmare black
or are the windows painted?
Will they come again next week,
Can my mind really take it?

We’ll come agan next Thursday afternoon.
The Inlaws hope they’ll see you very soon.
But is it in your conscience that you’re after
Another glimpse of the Madman across the Water.

  • Audio is the original version from the 1970 album, Tumbleweed Connection (Remastered):


  • Audio from the 1971 album, Madman Across the Water:

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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

8 thoughts on “Madman Across The Water – Elton John

    1. D.j. Allyn I just heard this song like 2 days ago when my Mom played it so I need to hear the version that was originally meant for Tumbleweed Connection. <3

  1. I can see very well.
    There’s a boat on the reef with a broken back
    And I can see it very well.
    There’s a joke and I know it very well,
    It’s one of those that I told you long ago.
    Take my word I’m a madman don’t you know.

  2. I can see very well.
    There’s a boat on the reef with a broken back
    And I can see it very well.
    There’s a joke and I know it very well,
    It’s one of those that I told you long ago.
    Take my word I’m a madman don’t you know.

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