Sleeping with the Past
Studio album by Elton John
Released 29 August 1989
Recorded November–December 1988 at Puk Studios, Randers, Denmark
Genre Pop[1]
Length 47:55
Label MCA (US/Canada)


Producer Chris Thomas
Elton John chronology
The Complete Thom Bell Sessions


Sleeping with the Past


To Be Continued


Singles from Sleeping with the Past
  1. "Healing Hands"

Released: 1989 (first release), 1990 (second release)

  1. "Sacrifice"

Released: October 1989 (first release), May 1990 (second release)

  1. "Club at the End of the Street"

Released: 1990

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [2]
Chicago Tribune [3]
Los Angeles Times [1]

Sleeping with the Past is the twenty-second studio album by British singer/songwriter Elton John, released on 29 August 1989. It is his best-selling album in Denmark (where it was recorded for tax purposes) and is dedicated to his longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin. The album featured his first solo number-one single, "Sacrifice", in his home country of the UK, which helped the album also hit number one there, his first since 1974's Elton John's Greatest Hits. John and Taupin meant for the songs to reflect the style of 1960s R&B icons such as Marvin GayeOtis Redding and Sam Cooke, whom they admired. It also became his first platinum album in the UK since 1983. In the US it was certified gold in October 1989 and platinum in April 1990 by the RIAA. Guy Babylonmade his debut on this album and would continue to play keyboards with John for the next 20 years, while Fred Mandel left the band shortly after. John went into rehabilitation in 1990.


 [hide*1 Background


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 '70s that inspired them as youths. Taupin 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. John would then use Taupin'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.

In addition to "Sacrifice" and "Healing Hands", which were singles in both the UK and US, the songs "Whispers" and "Blue Avenue" were released as singles in parts of Continental Europe. "Whispers" reached #11 in France, whilst "Blue Avenue" managed to reach the Top 75 in the Netherlands.

Like Reg Strikes Back the previous year, of note is the lowering of John's vocal register. While he does hit higher, falsetto notes on songs such as "Stones Throw from Hurtin'" and "Blue Avenue", after this album he would write in keys more suited to his new vocal range, and trips to the upper register would become few and far between.

Wynonna Judd recorded a contemporary country music cover version of "Stones Throw from Hurtin'" which was featured in the 1992 film Leap of Faith starringSteve Martin.

Sinéad O'Connor recorded a cover version of "Sacrifice" for the 1991 Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin tribute album.

This was John's first album since Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy with John and Taupin writing every song on the album without additional writing credits from others.

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. (Published By Big Pig Music Ltd.)

Side one[edit]Edit

  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[edit]Edit

  1. "Stones Throw from Hurtin'" – 4:55
  2. "Sacrifice" – 5:11
  3. "I Never Knew Her Name" – 3:32
  4. "Amazes Me" – 4:39
  5. "Blue Avenue" – 4:21

Bonus tracks (1999 Polygram International reissue)[edit]Edit

  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).


Sleeping with the Past received lukewarm reviews when the album was released in 1989. However, longtime fans of Elton John loved the album and deem it to be one of his best from the 1980s, often vying with 1983's Too Low for Zero as John's strongest album of the decade. After peaking at #6 in October 1989 on the UK Albums Chart, the re-release of "Sacrifice" as a double A-side with "Healing Hands" in June 1990, and that single's rise to the #1 spot, Sleeping with the Past was propelled back up the #1 position on the UK Albums Chart shortly afterwards.

Despite the critical judgment of the album, it became his highest-selling studio album in the UK, being certified 3× Platinum[4] and spawned his first solo #1 hit in his home country.


Song Format
"Sad Songs (Say So Much)" (Live in Verona) "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 in Verona) "Club at the End of the Street" 12"/CD (UK)
"Healing Hands" (Shep Pettibone Remix aka The Healing Hands Mix) "Healing Hands" 12" (UK)




Chart positions[edit]Edit

Chart (1989/90) Position
Australian ARIA Albums Chart[5] 2
Austrian Albums Chart[6] 5
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[7] 23
Dutch Albums Chart[8] 5
French SNEP Albums Chart[9] 2

Media Control Albums Chart[10]

Hungarian Top 40 Albums[11] 25
Italian Albums Chart[12] 6
New Zealand Albums Chart[13] 1
Norwegian VG-lista Albums Chart[14] 7
Spanish Albums Chart[15] 3
Swedish Albums Chart[16] 23
Swiss Albums Chart[17] 1
UK Albums Chart[18] 1
United States

Billboard 200[19]


Year-end charts[edit]Edit

Chart (1989) Position
Canadian Albums Chart[20] 63
French Albums Chart[21] 7
Italian Albums Chart[12] 11
Swiss Albums Chart[22] 23
Chart (1990) Position
Australian Albums Chart[23] 8
Dutch Albums Chart[24] 82
UK Albums Chart[25] 9


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[26] 2× Platinum 200,000^
France (SNEP)[27] Platinum 300,000
Germany (BVMI)[28] Gold 250,000^
Italy (FIMI)[29] 4× Platinum 400,000
Netherlands (NVPI)[30] Gold 50,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[31] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[32] 2× Platinum 100,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[33] 3× Platinum 900,000^
United States (RIAA)[34] Platinum 1,000,000^

  • sales figures based on certification alone ^shipments figures based on certification alone xunspecified figures based on certification alone

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