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Sleeping with the Past
Studio album by Elton John
Released August 1989
Recorded November-December 1988 Puk Studios, Randers, Denmark
Genre Pop
Length 47:55
Label MCA (US/Canada)
Rocket Records
Producer Chris Thomas
Professional reviews
Elton John chronology
Reg Strikes Back
Sleeping with the Past
To Be Continued

Sleeping with the Past is the twenty-second studio album by British singer/songwriter Elton John, released in 1989. It is his best-selling album in Denmark (where it was recorded for tax purposes) and is dedicated to his longterm writing partner Bernie Taupin. This album featured his first solo number one single, "Sacrifice", in his home country of the United Kingdom, which helped the album also hit number one there. John and Taupin meant for the songs to reflect the style of 1960s R&B icons such as Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and Sam Cooke, whom they admired. It also became his first platinum album since 1978's A Single Man. Guy Babylon made his debut on this album and would continue to play keyboards with Elton until his death in 2009. It is also the last album for Fred Mandel. It would also be his final release until his rehabilitation in 1990.



With renewed creativity after 1988's Reg Strikes Back, Elton John and Bernie Taupin sought to create a cohesive album that had maintained a consistent theme. They decided to pay tribute to the R&B sound of the 1960s and 1970s who inspired them as youths. Bernie would listen to 60s soul songs and use those songs from the past to inspire new lyrics for their album. He would then write down which artists or songs influenced him. Elton would then use Bernie's guide to write a soul song that sometimes ventured away from the original source of inspiration. Many of the songs have a somewhat clear influence while others contain a mixture of various soul influences.

The songs "Whispers" and "Blue Avenue" were released as singles in Continental Europe. "Whispers" reached #11 in France whilst "Blue Avenue" vaguely touched the Top 75 in the Netherlands.

This is also the last album to feature Elton John's once-trademark falsetto vocals (most notably on "Blue Avenue"). His ability to sing in falsetto had been hindered by his throat surgery two years earlier, and after this album, he would only rarely venture into his upper register.

Track listing

All songs by John/Taupin.

Side One

  1. "Durban Deep" – 5:32
  2. "Healing Hands" – 4:21
  3. "Whispers" – 5:30
  4. "Club at the End of the Street" – 4:49
  5. "Sleeping with the Past" – 4:58

Side Two

  1. "Stones Throw From Hurtin'" – 4:55
  2. "Sacrifice" – 5:09
  3. "I Never Knew Her Name" – 3:32
  4. "Amazes Me" – 4:39
  5. "Blue Avenue" – 4:21

Bonus tracks (1999 Polygram International reissue)

  1. "Dancing in the End Zone" – 3:55
  2. "Love is a Cannibal" – 3:55

The version of "Durban Deep" on the 1998 remaster features a different vocal mix and is slightly extended from the original album version (the fade out lasts about ten seconds longer).

Critical judgment

Sleeping with the Past received lukewarm reviews when the album was released in 1989. However, long time fans of Elton John loved the album and deem it to be one of his best from the 1980s. Despite the critical judgment of the album, it became his first platinum album in 11 years and spawned his first solo #1 hit in the UK.


Song Format
"Sad Songs (Say So Much) (Live)" Healing Hands CD (UK)
"Dancing in the End Zone" Healing Hands 12"/CD (UK), 7" (US/UK)
"Love is a Cannibal" Sacrifice 12"/CD (UK), 7" (US/UK)
"Give Peace a Chance" Club at the End of the Street 7"/12"/CD (UK)
"I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That (Live)" Club at the End of the Street 12"/CD (UK)
"Healing Hands (Eltone Mix)" Healing Hands 12" (UK)
"Healing Hands (Shep Pettibone Remix aka The Healing Hands Mix)" Healing Hands 12" (UK)



Preceded by
The Essential Pavarotti by Luciano Pavarotti
UK number one album
July 28, 1990 – July 31, 1990
Succeeded by
Graffiti Bridge by Prince

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