Honky Château

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Honky Château
Elton John - Honky Chateau.jpg
Studio album by
Released19 May 1972
RecordedJanuary 1972
Studio Château d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France; mixed at Trident, London
Genre Rock, pop
Label Uni (US), DJM (UK)
Producer Gus Dudgeon
Elton John chronology
Madman Across the Water
Honky Château
Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
Singles from Honky Château
  1. "Rocket Man"
    Released: 17 April 1972
  2. "Honky Cat"
    Released: 31 July 1972

Honky Château is the fifth studio album by English musician Elton John. It was released in 1972, and was titled after the 18th century French chateau where it was recorded, Château d'Hérouville. The album reached number one in the US, the first of John's seven consecutive US number one albums. [1]


Two singles were released worldwide from Honky Château, "Rocket Man" and "Honky Cat". A third single, "Hercules", was prepared for release, but this never materialised. [2] This was the final Elton John album on the Uni label in the US and Canada before MCA consolidated all of its various labels under the MCA brand. This and John's earlier Uni albums were later reissued on MCA Records.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 357 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was revised to number 359 in 2012, and raised to number 251 in a 2020 list. [3] It was certified gold in July 1972 and platinum in October 1995 by the RIAA.


Honky Château was the first in Elton John's streak of chart-topping albums in the US, which culminated with 1975's Rock of the Westies . Writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the album as an eclectic collection of "ballads, rockers, blues, country-rock, and soul songs." [4]

It was also the first album to feature John's road band of Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, along with new member Davey Johnstone on electric and acoustic guitars and other fretted instruments, as the core group of musicians. Previously, the record label insisted that John use them for only one track each on Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water ; the rest of the songs on those two albums were performed by session players. Johnstone had played acoustic guitar, mandolin and sitar on Madman Across the Water, but on Honky Chateau, he would be invited to join permanently as a full-band member and he extended his contributions to electric guitar, banjo, slide guitar and backing vocals.

The opening track "Honky Cat" is a New Orleans funk track reminiscent of Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, and features a four-piece horn section arranged by producer Gus Dudgeon. Also of note is the on-record debut of the backing vocal combination of Johnstone, Murray and Olsson, who first added what would soon become their "trademark" sound to "Rocket Man". The trio's unique approach to arranging their backing vocal tracks would be a fixture on John's singles and albums for the next several years.

In 1995, Dudgeon remastered the album, adding only an uptempo, piano-based, rock and roll version of "Slave", that was originally sidelined in favour of the slower, guitar-based version on the original LP. This alternate version was originally due to be released as the B-Side to the ultimately unreleased "Hercules" single. [2]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [4]
Christgau's Record Guide A– [5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [6]

Critical appraisal

Critically, Honky Château is regarded as one of John's finest records. Jon Landau of Rolling Stone approved the original LP as "a rich, warm, satisfying album that stands head and shoulders above the morass of current releases". [7] Other reviews were likewise mostly positive.

In a retrospective review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic has written that "it plays as the most focused and accomplished set of songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever wrote". [8]

Chart success

Honky Château became the first of a string of albums by Elton John to hit No. 1 in the Billboard Charts in the US. In Canada, the album peaked at No. 3 on the RPM 100 Top Albums Chart, reaching this position on 29 July 1972, dropping two places to No. 5, then returning to No. 3 for a further twelve consecutive weeks before falling to No. 9 on 4 November of the same year.

Track listing

All tracks are written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Side one
1."Honky Cat"5:13
3."I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself"3:35
4."Susie (Dramas)"3:25
5."Rocket Man"4:42
Side two
4."Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"5:01
Total length:45:15
Bonus tracks (1995 Mercury and 1996 Rocket reissue)
11."Slave" (Alternate version)2:53
Total length:48:08


Track numbers refer to CD and digital releases of the album.



Related Research Articles

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