Madman Across the Water

Album: Madman Across the Water (1971)
Play Video


  • A very dark song with a Leon Russell influence, Bernie Taupin made up the story about a lunatic ranting on visiting day at the asylum. Predictably, it wasn't chartworthy, but it did provide the album title as well as plenty of speculation that Elton was singing about United States president Richard Nixon. Taupin says that wasn't the case, although he was quite amused by the interpretation. He says the lunatic in the song wasn't based on anyone in particular.
  • "Tiny Dancer" and "Levon" were the most popular songs on the Madman Across the Water album, but Elton says that he feels most connected to the title track. The album marked a major musical shift for Elton, as he brought a guitarist into his band for the first time, enlisting Davey Johnstone.

Comments: 9

  • George Royster from Tennesseealways thought the song was about hitler....thinking about the battle of britain......which the brits stopped hitler
  • Joannasunday from AzThe song makes me think about John the Baptist. To me, it's about him.
  • Elton Mercury from WisconsinMy god i totally forgot about this until now. I went to the second concert in minnesota and it was AMAZING!!
  • Elton Mercury from Janesville, WiI think It's about a sane person who is going insane because he was accidentally put in an insane asylum
  • Double7 from San DiegoThis song is about a father or grandfather getting a visit, mental hospital is an extreme example. Lots of people think an elderly person doesn't have a contribution and they are somehow antiquited? Thus the line referencing a conscience check!
  • Kk from Mpls MnI think he is in the wrong place because his family thinks.he is wacko. He is.just different. No harm. I have worked in psych hospitals for 35 years. Just because someone is different doesn't mean their freedom should be take away
  • Johnnyzhivago from Holmby Hills, CaI always heard, "Is the madman blind or are the windows painted?" Meaning, can he not see out because he's blind or is it because the windows are blacked out.
  • Mike from Pittsburgh, Pa, PaAfter listening to this tune for the 4000th time in the last 7 months since I "discovered" it as a tune from my youth(I was about 7) at the time, i have determined today as a matter of fact that the lyric "Is the nightmare black or are the windows painted" means this, BOTH!
  • Robin from Milford, Nj"is the nightmare black or are the windows painted?' Incredible lyric!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

90s Music Quiz 1

90s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

First question: Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson appeared in videos for what artist?

Charles Fox

Charles FoxSongwriter Interviews

After studying in Paris with a famous composition teacher, Charles became the most successful writer of TV theme songs.

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Greg talks about writing songs of "universal truth" for King Crimson and ELP, and tells us about his most memorable stage moment (it involves fireworks).

Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues

Justin Hayward of The Moody BluesSongwriter Interviews

Justin wrote the classic "Nights In White Satin," but his fondest musical memories are from a different decade.

The 10 Bands Most Like Spinal Tap

The 10 Bands Most Like Spinal TapSong Writing

Based on criteria like girlfriend tension, stage mishaps and drummer turnover, these are the 10 bands most like Spinal Tap.

Sarah Brightman

Sarah BrightmanSongwriter Interviews

One of the most popular classical vocalists in the land is lining up a trip to space, which is the inspiration for many of her songs.