Tag Archives: Major Lance

Monkeying Around: Pop Goes The Primates

The Ape of things.

The Ape of things.

You saw him perform it a few nights ago on MTV’s Video Music Awards and now, Bruno Mars is unleashing “Gorilla” as the fourth single from his former #1 album, Unorthodox Jukebox. Now that “Treasure” is falling down the charts, will Mars be able to rack up a fourth top 5 hit from his album? We’ll just have to wait and see. However, while we all prepare for “Gorilla” to take over the airwaves, here are some of the other characters who swung from vine to vine in order to find the treetop of top 40 hits from 1958 onward:

“The Monkey Time”, Major Lance (#8, 1963)
Mississippi-born Lance became one of the most successful acts for Okeh Records, signed to the label in 1962 after being recommended by another highly regarded singer of R&B music, Curtis Mayfield. “Time” was his first single to chart and was an instant hit, going to #8 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart. He would become best known for “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” (#5, Hot 100), which peaked the next year.

“Mickey’s Monkey”, The Miracles (#8, 1963)
Tamla Records put Smokey Robinson and his band on the map with a series of singles that went high on the Hot 100 and even higher on the R&B charts. This song was their third top ten on Billboard’s national chart and it also went to #3 on the R&B listing. Of course, with many bigger hits to come like “I Second That Emotion” (1967) and the #1 “The Tears Of A Clown” (1970), they entertained audiences for some time.

“Harry The Hairy Ape”, Ray Stevens (#17, 1963)
Comedian and country singer Stevens has been recording music for over five decades and he’s still not run out of punch lines. His first top ten single in 1962 was “Ahab The Arab” (#5). This came the next year, and actually became a bigger hit on the R&B chart (#14) than on the pop chart (#17). Strange indeed, but he can be pretty strange sometimes. His latest release, “Guilt For Christmas”, came out earlier this year.

“One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show (Part 1)”, The Honey Cone (#15, 1972)
The R&B trio out of Los Angeles made their debut in 1969 with a handful of songs that bombed on the national survey, but in 1971, they rose to #1 with the song “Want Ads”. “One” was the third in their string of top 40 hits on the Hot 100, having previously flopped for Joe Tex in 1965. After recording one more album which received little attention, the group split in 1973, though they’ll be reuniting in 2014 for a cruise.

“Shock The Monkey”, Peter Gabriel (#28, 1983)
After splitting with Genesis and making a name for himself on the album chart in the U.S., the only thing Gabriel was missing was a hit single. His first of a handful of charting successes was “Shock”, which reached the top 40 in late 1982 and peaked in early 1983. Though it wasn’t the biggest of his releases, it would open the door for him and allowed “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” from So to go top 5 nationally.

“Monkey”, George Michael (#1, 1988)
Why did he have to share his baby with a “Monkey”? That was question on everyone’s minds during the summer of 1988 when this energetic single was released. Following three consecutive number-one singles from Faith (the title track, “Father Figure” and “One More Try”), this also topped the Hot 100 for two weeks, as well as the Hot Dance/Club Play survey for two weeks. It wasn’t as successful internationally.

You may be wondering specifically about the gorilla itself when it comes to the record charts; after all, it is a larger species of the monkey family. While there have been a few singles released about the great monster King Kong, a gorilla, none were strong enough to make the top 40. That list includes “King Kong (Part 1)” by Jimmy Castor (#69, 1975), “Kong” by Dickie Goodman (#48, 1977), “Theme From King Kong (Part 1)” by the Love Unlimited Orchestra (#68, 1977) and “King Kong” by Jibbs featuring Chamillionaire (#54, 2006). It’s also worth mentioning that there was one minor single that mentioned the word “gorilla” by name, recorded by a now popular disc jockey of several syndicated shows. That would be Rick Dees and His Cast Of Idiots, who went to #56 in 1977 with “Dis-Gorilla (Part 1)”, the followup single to the #1 “Disco Duck”. Seems that not every animal was down with getting down back then.

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