By Madeline Bocaro ©
© Madeline Bocaro, 2020. No part of this site may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
Welcome to the jungle!
The only non-humans known to have a sense of rhythm
are birds and elephants.
We have seen them dance.
I think they would really dig these songs!
Let’s begin with a strange, yet familiar animal in the music world – the ‘Wooly Bully’! In 1965 Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs released a wacky million-selling fast blues dance single with an exciting Spanish count-in by Sam. The song spent 18 weeks on the charts, longer than any record that year. Billboard declared it the No. 1 Record of the Year although it stalled at No. 2. In the lyrics, two ladies (Mattie and Hattie) discuss a creature with two big horns and a wooly jaw. There is also talk of learning to dance and not be L7 (square). The song was titled after Sam the Sham’s pet cat.
‘See You Later Alligator’ was written in 1955 by Robert Charles Guidry – a pioneer of Louisiana’s swamp pop genre. It was a self-made record under his stage name Bobby Charles. A cover version by Bill Haley & His Comets became a smash hit. Guidry also wrote hits for other performers including Fats Domino.
One night as he left a gig, Charles said to his friends, “See ya later, alligator,” and one of them yelled back, “In a while, crocodile.” The song “See You Later, Alligator” came to him, fully formed. Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks sang a promotional jingle about their Bearsville Records label-mate Bobby Charles in the early 1970s. “Bobby Charles – He’s dif-fe-rent and in-te-rest-ing!”
‘The Purple People Eater’ was written and recorded by Sheb Wooley. The song is about a “one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eater” coming to Earth with the desire to be in a rock band. It refrains from eating the song’s narrator ‘cause he’s so tough’. The song was covered by Judy Garland on her 1958 album Garland at the Grove.
Judy’s live version is GREAT! Watch the amazing video!!!
Peruvian singer Yma Sumac must have the highest pitch AND the widest range span of any vocalist ever – said to be six octaves. Her highest notes resemble a whistle. They called her a couratura soprano. Her voice is beyond operatic. Her 1953 song ‘Chuncho (The Forest Creatures)’ illustrates the full range of her vocals and has a cool example of her whistling, trilling bird calls. Her first appearances were on radio in the early 1940s.
Yma could also sing in a double voice! No overdubs needed! My mom had one of her albums and I was always mesmerized by this woman who pretended to be an Incan princess. Her real name was Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo.
Watch & Listen: ‘Chuncho (The Forest Creatures): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KprLT-JxPY
Yma Sumac also had a hit with ‘Gopher Mambo’ in 1954. It’s not really about a gopher. In fact, there are no actual words – but her incredible vocals are ridiculous! Stay with this until the final sustained high note!!
Listen ‘ Gopher Mambo’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JWxNqyIRtk
A remix called ‘Mambo Confusion’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yafRSXElD-M
Here is a video illustrating Yma’s vocal range: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvAq5yTfFP0
“I am a Mole and I Live in a Hole” a.k.a. ‘The Mole In a Hole’ was a 1958 single on Decca Records by the British & Jamacian group, The Southlanders. This is really fun… especially the funny echo-drenched voice of the mole.
‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ was a hit for the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary in 1963. The lyrics are about a dragon that lives forever named Puff who is abandoned by a child named Jackie Paper who no longer needs his imaginary friend. The song was later interpreted to be about smoking pot.
I loved animals as a kid. My mom (who watched the Ed Sullivan show every Sunday) called me into the room saying, “They’re gonna have the animals on next!” My excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I saw Eric Burdon and the Animals appear instead of my fuzzy friends. I went right back to bed. But they deserve a song on here, if just for their name and for the titles of their first three albums; The Animals, Animal Tracks and Animalisms. The Animals performed ‘I’m Crying’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’ on The Ed Sullivan Show.
‘(Oh No!) Not the Beast Day’ is by Marsha Hunt, mother of Mick Jagger’s first child Karis. This is the coolest song but I can’t find her incredible performance anywhere on YouTube anymore, so I’ll just include the audio.
And here is Marsha’s cool version of ‘Desdemona’ by John’s Children – the band which featured Marc Bolan before he formed T. Rex.
Watch ‘Desdemona’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbNexaMw1U8
‘She Was Born to be My Unicorn’ by Tyrannosaurus Rex is on their first (double) album, Unicorn released in the summer of 1969. The pre-electric future T. Rex duo comprised Marc Bolan and percussionist Steve Peregrin Took. Whenever I play Marc’s songs, I get sucked into his shiny little world filled with unicorns and wizards, Cadillacs and glitter – and I refuse to leave for months. No other music is important for a while, and no other world feels more like home. He disappeared so suddenly, a cruel death at the height of his beauty at age 29 in 1977 (Marc and Elvis Presley died within a month of each other) at the onslaught of Punk Rock which he embraced, and whose denizens worshipped him.
Marc, along with his dear friend David Bowie colored our dreary teenage lives. Although they are both now departed, they have never really left us in spirit, nor in song.
She was born to be my Unicorn
Robed head of ferns
Cat child tutored by the learned
‘The Bunny Hop’ was a song by Ray Anthony and his big band which created a dance sensation in 1952. Unfortunately, it lingers on and we still must face embarrassment at witnessing this at weddings and parties even today. To make things worse, a hip-hop version has been made.
The Bunny Hop from The Ray Anthony Show (1953)
Watch and Learn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmC1KyxhEJU
The Monkey was a popular dance in the 1960s, with a rope climbing motion and the peeling of a banana.
Major Lance had a hit with ‘The Monkey Time’ in 1963 written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. It’s the title of his album which features Chris Kenner’s 1962 hit ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’ (covered by Cannibal and the Headhunters in 1965 and also by Wilson Pickett in 1966. Among the 1,000 dances were The Pony, The Mashed Potato and The Watusi).
The Monkey Time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0KlRpQeyvo
Land of a Thousand Dances: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mz_EXHKGHs
Speaking of Monkeys, there is a very groovy theme song to the 1970/1971 TV show Lancelot Link Secret Chimp. It’s performed by The Evolution Revolution – a ‘secret recording group’ comprised of the same chimpanzee spies who starred in the show.
Television comedian and children’s show host Soupy Sales had a song and a dance called ‘The Mouse’ which he created in the mid-1960s when his show moved from Detroit to New York. You can see what it was like from the photo below of his September 1965 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Soupy performed ‘The Mouse’ just before The Beatles came on the show and was seen by millions of people. Soupy also had similar dances called ‘The Idiot’ and ‘The Bunny’.
Read my Soupy story: I Was a Soupy Groupie: https://madelinex.com/2018/10/22/i-was-a-soupy-groupie/
Elvis (with The Jordanaires) sang ‘(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear’ in the 1957 movie Loving You. It remained at No. 1 for seven weeks.
Let’s not forget the danceable reggae ‘Rat in Mi Kitchen’ by UB40 from their 1986 album Rat in the Kitchen featuring Herb Alpert on trumpet!
AT THE ZOO
‘I Am the Walrus’ from The Beatles’ 1976 album Magical Mystery Tour was John Lennon’s cryptic psychedelic trip. He is the Egg man AND the Walrus!
John Lennon wrote ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey’ which appears on The Beatles (White Album) 1968.
“It was about me and Yoko. Everybody seemed to be paranoid except for us two, who were in the glow of love. Everything is clear and open when you’re in love. Everybody was sort of tense around us: you know, ‘What is she doing here at the session? Why is she with him?’ All this sort of madness is going on around us because we just happened to want to be together all the time.”
– John to David Sheff, All We Are Saying 1980
Listen (2018 50th Anniversary mix) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fv_gCn1CUU
‘Piggies’ is a George Harrison composition on The Beatles (white album) in 1968 – Despite its misconstrued connection to the Manson murders, George’s harpsichord-based tune had nothing to do with policemen. It referenced the politically allegorical tale of George Orwell’s story ‘Animal Farm’. Harrison’s mom added the line about them needing a ‘damn good whacking’.
‘Piggy in the Middle’ is on The Rutles album Tragical History Tour. It merges the lyrics of ‘Piggies’ with music mimicking ‘I am the Walrus’. This is from the brilliant Beatles parody documentary All You Need Is Cash – from the folks behind Monty Python’s Flying Circus – encouraged and endorsed by George Harrison. The soundtrack album was released in 1978 along with future albums by the fictitious group who toured as a real band!
Sparks’ song ‘Bon Voyage’ from their 1974 album Propaganda is sung from the viewpoint of pairs of animals left behind when Noah’s ark departs – voiced beautifully by Russell Mael. The animals contemplate disguises, imitation and other ways to sneak aboard the ark within the orchestrated operatic tune. Russell performs a gruff sea shanty style call-and-response with himself, ‘Glad that we could know you / I wish that we could join you’.
Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother (1970) had a beautiful Holstein-Friesian cow (whose name was Lulubelle III) in a pasture on the cover, designed by Hipgnosis (the design collective responsible for many psychedelic 1960s/1970s album covers. The designer, Storm Thorgerson was inspired by Andy Warhol’s cow wallpaper. He photographed this random cow, with more cows which appear on the back cover. A promotional pink balloon in the shape of a cow udder came with the album. The album art had no mention of the band’s name on the cover, nor were there any photographs of the band. Later editions of the album have added the band’s name and title. Later, in the mid 1970s, a bootleg of rare singles and B-sides mimicking the album art appeared, titled The Dark Side of the Moo. Film director Stanley Kubrick asked if he could use the suite in his forthcoming dystopian drama A Clockwork Orange. The band refused, as Kubrick wanted to edit the piece. However, the album sleeve made a fleeting appearance in the movie.
Animals was a 1977 Pink Floyd album with the tracks ‘Pigs on the Wing’, ‘Dogs’ and ‘Sheep’. The lyrics reference George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Chubby Checker’s ‘Pony Time’ was originally recorded by its writer Don Covay in 1960. Checkers’ version was released in early 1961 – his follow-up to his smash dance hit ‘The Twist’. (Chubby Checker’s name was modeled after the moniker of Fats Domino – both nicknamed for their stout stature, and from popular games of their era; checkers and dominoes). It’s pony time when you hear this call; “Boogety boogety boogety boogety shoo.”
The beautiful ballad ‘Wild Horses’ is a Jagger/Richards song on the 1971 album Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones, recorded at the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. There’s a gorgeous live version by Debbie Harry during her 1993 Debravation tour.
Debbie Harry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdPpf62Ukq0
The Osmonds sang ‘Crazy Horses’ in 1972. CRAZY IS RIGHT!!! This is a heavy rock song with wild, whinnying keyboards and a Native American Indian beat. One comment on this said that this should have been called ‘Dark Side of the Mormon’! Jay Osmond sings lead as Donny was then going through puberty and his voice was changing. The song was one of the first about ecology and pollution. The picture sleeve depicts the band in a junkyard.
Horses is the title of the brilliant debut album by Patti Smith.
Here is my review of Patti’s 40th Anniversary concert in NYC 11-10-2015
Iggy Pop has a few animal songs. My favorites are ‘ I Wanna Be Your Dog‘ 1970 (see the Dogs section) 1970 and ‘The Horse Song’ on Zombie Birdhouse (1982 / – reissued on vinyl in 2019) produced by Blondie’s Chris Stein and with Clem Burke on drums. Iggy utters the name of the Mishima novel Spring Snow in this song. Iggy wore a lovely horse tail on-stage during his 1977/1978 tour.
‘Talking Snake’ is on Iggy’s 2001 album Beat ‘Em Up.
“Life’s to take / said the talking snake
Everybody should be happy…”
Read my review of Beat ‘Em Up:
‘Mother Whale Eyeless’ is another strange and wonderful song by Brian Eno on his second solo album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) 1974. It’s as fantastic as his previous album Here Come the Warm Jets.
‘Stranded in the Jungle’ by The New York Dolls is on their second album Too Much Too Soon released in 1973. Our singer makes lots of monkey noises. He has crash landed in the jungle. As he is being boiled in a pot, his girlfriend in the states is having fun with other guys. He jumps out of the pot, hitches a ride on a whale and gets back to his girl.
Watch live on Musikladen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t69u9J9pQuk
Read my New York Dolls story:
The incredible ‘Great King Rat’ is on the 1973 debut album from Queen. Luckily, I was curious to see this band who were opening for Mott The Hoople on Broadway in 1974. I became a fan right away! I have the gold embossed promo copy of the album, with introductory band announcement…
Rock N’ Roll Animal is a classic live album (recorded in 1973/release in 1974) by Lou Reed featuring stellar versions of The Velvet Underground songs ‘Sweet Jane’, ‘Rock n’ Roll’ and more…
My story all about the album
Animal Boy is the 9th album by The Ramones released in 1986. The subject of the song ‘Animal Boy’ insists that he is not an animal. This is complemented by ‘Apeman Hop’ which takes place in the jungle where the cannibalistic, barely human Apeman dwells.
Animal Boy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RzNwDdBsDY
Apeman Hop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eaSRJgIGUI
We can’t forget The Ramones’ Pet Sematary. This was on the band’s 1989 album Brain Drain. The song was commissioned by horror film director Stephen King as a theme for his movie of the same name.
Watch the video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJWFsZ_YUc4
Gabba Gabba Meow!
‘Animal’ was the second single from Def Leppard’s 1987 album Hysteria. There are plenty of circus animals in the really cool video!
‘Animals’ is by GOASTT (Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger) appears on their album Midnight Sun released in 2014. The band features Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl.
‘Animal Lover’ and Animal Nitrate ‘ by Suede are both on their debut album from March 1993. (Both songs are not actually about animals.) Brett Anderson wrote many songs about his ex, Justine Frischmann who left him for Blur’s Damon Albarn. However, greatly influenced by David Bowie, he disguised the meanings of the songs to be about androgynous, animal or homosexual experiences.
Listen: ‘Animal Lover’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw4YeoKS9XE
Watch: ‘Animal Nitrate’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7mEB2wnDLQ
The best song to follow ‘The Ostrich’ by The Primitives – written and sung by Lou Reed in 1964 (which appears in my ‘Bird is the Word’ playlist) is ‘Alligator Stomp’ is a popular dance in space according to The Cramps. It’s a brand new stomp from outta the swamp in which you chomp, chomp, chomp, rub your belly and fall on the floor, You whip your tail, bite peoples legs and ‘do the gator’ until the bouncer throws you out of the dance club! Lux Interior growls this one out – it’s hard to resist! It’s from their 1991 album Look Mom No Head!
‘Ask the Elephant’ and ‘Ask The Dragon’ are twin songs by Yoko Ono.‘ Ask the Elephant!’ evolved from ‘Ask the Dragon’ (Rising 1995) which features a sample from ‘Greenfield Morning’ from her debut solo album Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band – 1970. (There is also a remix of ‘Ask the Dragon’ by Ween on the Rising Mixes EP). These twin songs with their syncopated trip-hop beat have a funky way of telling us to do as animals do. Go with the flow! We should not think so hard about what our instincts are telling us – just do whatever comes naturally, as one of Yoko’s tweets implies…
“You know about the dragon with eight legs.
He was walking very well, until somebody asked him,
‘How do you walk with eight legs?’
Don’t ask questions like that if you like me at all, please!”
– Yoko, Twitter
‘Ask the Dragon’
‘Ask the Elephant!’ (Chimera Music Release No. 0)
‘The Doggie in the Window’ is by Patti Page in 1953. It’s based on the nursery rhyme ‘Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?’ The harmonies are all sung by Patti. The song spent 8 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s chart. And remember, “You can’t take a goldfish for a walk!!”
Elvis Presley’s version of ‘Hound Dog’ (written by Lieber & Stoller) was released in 1956. This fast blues was originally done by Big Mama Thornton in 1952. It is one of the most covered songs of all time. He sang the song to an actual hound dog who wore a matching tuxedo to the one Elvis was dressed in on The Steve Allen Show. This was on the day prior to Presley’s recording of the song. The dog was not impressed.
‘Puppy Song’ was commissioned from Harry Nilsson by Paul McCartney who produced the song for young singer Mary Hopkin’s first album Postcard (1969) on the Beatles’ label Apple Records. Nilsson was the Beatles’ favorite American singer/artist. It’s an old-fashioned song in the vein of his own ‘Honey Pie’. It first appeared on Nilsson’s 4th album Harry in 1969. It has a lovely little chorus: David Cassidy also took the song to No. 1 in the UK. It appears on his 1973 album named after the sweet little refrain of the song
Dreams are nothing more than wishes
And a wish’s just a dream
You wish to come true, oooh oooh oooh
Harry Nilsson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zl32KZ-_Gb4
Mary Hopkin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efLFhjYgwk8
David Cassidy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwvvD31du7o
‘Hey Bulldog’ is a fabulous 1968 Beatles rocker. It was unfortunately not so popular, as it was hidden amongst their Yellow Submarine animated film soundtrack and cut from the original film! It was released as a single.
‘Atomic Dog’ is on George Clinton’s 1982 album Computer Games. It has since been sampled in hundreds of other songs. It was the final P-Funk Collective single to reach No. 1. Most of the lyrics were ad-libbed.
George Clinton told Creem Magazine in 1983:
“‘I’m chasin’ the cat’ and lines like that, I was just doing that symbolically, like chasin’ a woman or chasin’ whatever, those instinctive things that you don’t have much to do with, the automatic muscles.”
Yeah, this is a story of a famous dog
For the dog that chases its tail will be dizzy
These are clapping dogs, rhythmic dogs
Harmonic dogs, house dogs, street dogs
Dog of the world unite
Countin’ dogs, funky dogs
Nasty dogs (Dog)
Iggy Pop has a few songs in the dog category; the now classic ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ with The Stooges (1970), ‘Dogfood’ from his album Soldier (1979)
Listen: ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gsWt7ey6bo
Listen: ‘Dogfood’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDNSs_f-y7Y
Iggy also sings ‘King of the Dogs’ on his 2009 album of songs sung mostly in French, Preliminaires. There are two really cool videos featuring an animated dog. I love Iggy’s little howl at the end,
I got a smelly rear, I got a dirty nose / I don’t want no shoes, I don’t want no clothes
I’m livin’ like the king of the dogs
I got a piece of meat in between my teeth / I’ll bite your throat if you move on me
I’m soverign ‘cos I’m the king of the dogs…
I’m hanging out where the spirits dwell / I can smell the things that you cannot smell.
I’m the king of the dogs
Watch the adorable videos: – King of the Dogs (bum version) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjErM4LYyJc
King of the Dogs (business man version) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kAoc1CvAXI
See my review of Iggy’s album Preliminaires:
David Bowie appears as a half man-half dog chimera on his Diamond Dogs album cover. The title track sets the scene for Bowie’s unmade film… The Diamond Dogs are a street gang in a ‘Mythological’ future time – in the decaying remains of Hunger City. Food has become ‘a legend’ and people subsist on a protein-stimulant called Meal caine! The ‘crazed’ inhabitants wear ‘rags of cloth and plastics and furs.’ Sounds like the (future) days of Punk!
Listen: ‘Diamond Dogs’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36lWAcY9IXE
Read my full story here:
Diamond Dogs – The Unmade Film
‘Dog Eat Dog’ is on Adam & The Ants’ 1980 album Kings of the Wild Frontier.
The English punk band Slaughter & the Dogs ‘got their name by combining album titles of their idols, Mick Ronson (Slaughter On 10th Ave.) and David Bowie (Diamond Dogs). Their first album released in 1978 called Do It Dog Style featured Mick Ronson playing guitar on two of the songs including a cover of the New York Dolls song ‘Who Are the Mystery Girls’. Their track ‘Run Rudolph Run’ is on the 2015 compilation album Punk Rock Christmas (Cleopatra Records).
‘Quick Joey Small’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkfXGLqIB0M
‘Who Are The Mystery Girls’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Enwoh1GRwo
I’m not sure if this belongs in the dog or cat category, but ‘Can Your Pussy Do the Dog’ Is on The Cramps compilation album A Date With Elvis. Cha cha cha!
Mick Jagger has said that ‘Stray Cat Blues’ from The Rolling Stones album Beggar’s Banquet was inspired by The Velvet Underground song ‘Heroin’ on their debut album. Being a huge fan of both songs, I still can’t make the connection, other than that the intros are similar. The subject matter could not be more different; pining for an underage lover, or singing the praises and depravations of heroin. The song features Nicky Hopkins on piano, Brian Jones on mellotron and slide guitar by Keith Richards.
‘Stray Cat Strut’ is a great swinging rockabilly track from the Stray Cats.
‘Cool For Cats’ by Squeeze is on the 1979 album of the same name.
‘Fall On Me’ by Kitten is based on the song ‘Trash’ by one of my favorite bands, Suede.
Watch – Kitten – ‘Fall On Me’ : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z9mvUCL-5U
Watch – Suede – ‘Trash’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PdKGDMhau4
My favorite Kitten Covers:
See more in my Playlist category
About A Song
Eat to the Beat
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