June 8, 2013

The Bird World War... ................. .....50 Years of Surfin' Bird (1963-2013)

What's the Word?
The Bird is the word. But does it surf?

Prelude to war:

The Rivingtons' Papa Oom Mow Mow was a 1962 novelty tune that took up the funny-sounding Anglicized nickname of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army, the "Mau Mau". These anti-colonial fighters helped win Kenyan independence at around the same time Surfin' Bird was released a year later, their name having found its way into a New York mafia gang and US exotica culture in the late 50s. It was turned into novelty tunes by Screamin' Jay Hawkins and others. A possible Mau Mau/Ooga Booga Tarzan connection? I don't have much evidence to back this up, and maybe it's another cockamamy Tapewrecks theory. Factcheck me. But did this war of national liberation spark a global 50-year war we never heard of?

1963 USA at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and corresponding violent backlash: Red Prysock's What's the Word? Thunderbird! (1957) and maybe a little of the drink itself provided the inspiration for the Rivingtons follow up The Bird's the Word. The Trashmen start screwing around with both Rivingtons tracks at band practice, and Surfin' Bird is born. The song quickly hits #4 on the national charts, the Trashmen claim all credit, as was common practice in those days, and the original authors promptly sue, sparking a bilateral three-year milking war...

The Trashmen - Bird Bath
The Rivingtons - Shaky Bird (Part 1)
The Trashmen - Bird Dance Beat (1964)
The Rivingtons - Mama-Oom-Mow-Mow
The Trashmen - Bird '65 (1965)

...followed by World War B:

The Beach Boys - Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow (US 1965)
Wade Curtiss & the Rhythm Rockers - Puddy Cat (Mama-Meow-Mow) (US c1965)
The Freshmen - Papa Oom Mow Mow (Ireland)
The Hep Stars - Surfin' Bird (Sweden 1968 - PreABBA Benny!)
Les Celibataires - Papa Oom Mow Mow (France)
Ernos - Papa Oom Mow Mow (Finland 1970)
Gary Glitter - Papa Oom Mow Mow (UK 1975)

Back in the USA:

King Uszniewicz & his Uszniewicztones (US 197?)
The Ramones - Surfin' Bird (1977)

Postwar skirmishes:

Pee Wee Herman - Surfin' Bird (1987)
The Dwarves - Motherfucker (1990)
Supersnazz - Papa Oom Mow Mow (1993)
Sodom - Surfin' Bird (2001)

And then there's this:

Peter Griffin - Surfin' Bird (2008)


  1. My favorite version might be Sweden's The Hep Stars (of which Benny Anderson from ABBA was a member)

  2. I hereby absolve Benny of any and all subsequent sins.

  3. Now, if you got through all that and you still want more, there's always the 10-hour version of Surfin' Bird here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eni4MG98A78

  4. I am prejudiced because of friendship w/Trashmen...Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...it all cracks me up....and 10 hours would drive me insane but not at 18 (50 years ago)