Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

"Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" is a song from the Elton John album Honky Château. It reflects Bernie Taupin's take on New York City after hearing a gun go off near his hotel window during his first visit to the city.[citation needed] The song's lyrics were partly inspired by Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem", in which he sings "There is a rose in Spanish Harlem."[citation needed] In response to this, Taupin writes, "Now I know Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say / I thought I knew, but now I know that rose trees never grow in New York City." A more upbeat sequel to the song called "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (Part Two)" was recorded about 15 years later for Elton's later album Reg Strikes Back.

Genre: Ballad

Rolling Stone magazine's Jon Landau praised the song when it was released, writing:

"Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" shows how much John can really do in the space of a single cut. Using minimal instrumentation and singing one of Taupin's most direct lyrics, John effortlessly reveals the myth beneath the myth of "... a rose in Spanish Harlem." He expresses his involvement with the city, his need for its people, and his final desire to be alone through one of his best tunes, simplest arrangements, and most natural vocal performances.[1]

Elton himself has called the song "one of my all-time favourites,"[2] upon introducing it at his 60th-birthday concert in New York's Madison Square Garden. John also delivered a heartfelt rendition at "The Concert for New York City" at Madison Square Garden on October 20, 2001. The concert was meant primarily as a tribute for family members and fellow workers of New York's Fire and Police Departments, as well as EMT workers, who had been participating in the ongoing recovery efforts at the demolished World Trade Center complex following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. John dedicated the song to the emergency workers and their families, as well as to New York City.

The song was also used in the film Almost Famous, in a scene in New York City, highlighting the loneliness of Kate Hudson's character, who overdoses on quaaludes and champagne.

The song was used in the finale of the American version of Life on Mars. It was also used for the bridal dance in the final episode of the TV series Brothers and Sisters entitled "Walker Down the Aisle".

Cover versions

The song also inspired a line in the Rob Thomas-penned Santana hit, "Smooth," in which the singer refers to "my Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa."


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