Shock the Monkey
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|"Shock the Monkey"|
|Single by Peter Gabriel|
|from the album Peter Gabriel|
|Format||7", 12" single|
|Length||3:57 (7" single edit)|
5:23 (Full-length version)
|Producer(s)||David Lord, Peter Gabriel|
|Peter Gabriel singles chronology|
"Shock the Monkey" is a 1982 song by Peter Gabriel. It was released as a single and peaked at number 29 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart. The song was Gabriel's first Top 40 hit in the US. In the UK, the song charted at number 58. It was included on Gabriel's fourth self-titled album, issued in the U.S. as Security. The song has a "relentlessly repeated hook" that "sounded nothing like anything else on the radio at the time".
The track is also known for its popular and somewhat disturbing music video featuring Gabriel (in white face paint) and a frightened-looking capuchin monkey. The music video features Gabriel in two guises; one as a businessman-type in a dark suit, and the other as a mysterious persona in a white suit with white face paint. The video occurs as a back-and-forth between two rooms, each vaguely resembling an office. A movie projector plays zoo footage of a gibbon (technically a lesser ape not a monkey) in both rooms. As the video proceeds, events in the 'normal' (black suit) office become increasingly irregular and disturbing, with Gabriel displaying increasing pressure, anger, and fear, and with objects in the room in increasing disarray. The office footage is increasingly interspersed with black-and-white footage of Gabriel fleeing from something unknown in a wilderness, and a disoriented Gabriel in different settings including central London and what looks to be a hospital. At the end of the video, the dark-suited Gabriel appears to have merged with the face-painted Gabriel, and to have accepted whatever he was fleeing or resisting previously. In the final shot, the two Gabriel's faces are superimposed over that of the gibbon.
Due to its title and the content of the video, the song is frequently assumed to be either an animal rights song or a reference to the famous experiments by Stanley Milgram described in his bookObedience to Authority. It is neither, although another Gabriel song, "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)", from his 1986 album So, does deal directly with Milgram. Gabriel himself has described "Shock the Monkey" as "a love song" that examines how jealousy can release one's basic instincts; the monkey is not a literal monkey, but a metaphor for one's feelings of jealousy.