A fast, spirited number (171 bpm) played without any guitar, with Davey Johnstone playing banjo instead, "Honky Cat" is essentially about the illusion created by city life. The song is dominated by John's piano, but features the most extensive horn section on any Elton John song of the time to provide additional rhythm elements.
"Honky Cat" reached the Billboard top 10 when released as a single, but only reached #31 in Britain and did not chart in Australia - though it is still a staple of "classic rock" radio. The song hit #8 on the U.S. charts, just as Elton John launched an American tour, in September 1972. The album title "Honky Chateau" is a reference to where the entire record was made, at Château d'Hérouville, about 30 miles outside of Paris.
The song has gone on to become one of the centerpiece numbers of John's live stage show, played in all sorts of arrangements, including solo piano. A live version with Elton's 1974 band (including Dee Murray, Johnstone, Nigel Olsson and Ray Cooper) was released on the Here side of the "Here and There" live set in 1976 (and its expanded CD version in 1995), and a solo piano version appeared on the EltonJohn.com "Live in Madison Square Garden" Vol. 1 limited edition CD, recorded in October 1999.