Peter Gabriel: “Shock The Monkey” (1982)

A song that isn’t about shocking monkeys that literally appeared in a film about shocking monkeys.

Kronomyth 4.1: Shocked monkeys and soft dogs.

An edited version of Shock the Monkey became Peter Gabriel’s biggest US hit to date, driving endless speculation on what the song might actually be about. The title suggested a song about experimenting on animals, an idea that gathered traction when the song was used in a movie (Project X) about that very subject and seemingly confirmed when Gabriel revisited shock treatments on his next album, “We Do What We’re Told.” Yet the video for the song suggested a modern man at odds with his primitive side, something that the album Security seemed to reinforce as a common theme. And then Gabriel apparently dispelled all myth by announcing the song was about jealousy.

The flip side was a nonalbum instrumental track, Soft Dog, that probably should have stayed on the editing room floor. Whether it was intended as an original song or simply consists of discarded backing tracks is open to debate, in case you’ve got a little left in you. To date, I haven’t heard a nonalbum B side from Gabriel that warrants much interest.

Original 7-inch single version

A1. Shock The Monkey (Peter Gabriel) (3:58)
B1. Soft Dog (Peter Gabriel) (4:10)

Original 12-inch single version
A1. Shock The Monkey (Peter Gabriel) (5:23)
B1. Soft Dog (Peter Gabriel) (4:10)

12-inch promotional single version
A1. Shock The Monkey (Peter Gabriel) (5:23)
B1. I Have The Touch (Peter Gabriel) (4:31)
B2. Kiss of Life (Peter Gabriel) (4:16)

Back-to-back hits single version
A1. Shock The Monkey (Peter Gabriel) (3:58)
B1. Solsbury Hill (live) (Peter Gabriel) (3:58)

The Plastic
Released on 7-inch, 7-inch picture disc and 12-inch single on September 24, 1982 in the UK (SHOCK 1/122/12), in October 1982 in the US (Geffen, 29883, 0-29863) and in 1982 in Canada (Geffen, 92 98837/98630) and Germany (Chraisma, 6000 876) with picture sleeve. Reached #58 on the UK charts and #29 on the US charts (charted on October 23, 1982 for 18 weeks). Also released as promotional 7-inch single in 1982 in the US (Geffen, 29883) feat. A stereo and mono. Also released as three-track promotional 12-inch single in 1982 in the US (Geffen, PRO-A-1062).

  1. Re-released with “Solsbury Hill (live)” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in the US (Geffen, GGEF 0481).

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