I’ve always had a weak spot for Elton John tunes, especially ballads penned by his long-time partner and collaborator, Bernie Taupin. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” is one such ballad from John’s 1972 album Honky Chateau. Why this moving and meaningful song never became a hit (and why the despicable, irritating “Crocodile Rock” did instead) I have no idea.
It’s also a song that makes me cry every single time I hear it.
I love the slow buildup, but it never overpowers you. The lyrics touch your heart without being too saccharine. It’s gritty like the big city it serenades but it’s tender at the same time. The simple message seems to be that at the end of the day, as Barbra Streisand sang, “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” No man is an island and all that.
Because it was never a hit (and I never owned a copy of “Honky Chateau”), the first time I heard “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” was in 2000, when I heard it in the movie “Almost Famous” (an incredibly good movie and if you haven’t seen it you must!)
I’m sorry about this being a day late.