Ahab the Arab
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|"Ahab the Arab"|
|Single by Ray Stevens|
|from the album 1,837 Seconds of Humor|
2:47 (single version)3:45 (album version)
|Ray Stevens singles chronology|
The song portrays a "sheik of the burning sands" named Ahab. He is highly decorated with jewelry, and every night he hops on his camel named Clyde on his way to see Fatima, who is the best dancer in the Sultan's harem. Fatima is described with a modified quote from the 1909 hit, "I've Got Rings On My Fingers": "with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes and a bone in her nose, ho ho". During the ride, Ahab "speaks" (actually, sings/chants in a pseudo Middle Eastern style) in mock Arabic. (A later version adds the advertising catch phrase "Sold, American!" to the end of one chant. This is perhaps due to a Kinky Friedman (famous for the song and album Sold American) cover version which also added those lines).
When Ahab finds Fatima in her tent, she is "eating on a raisin, grape, apricot, pomegranate, bowl of chitterlings, two bananas, three Hershey bars, sipping on an ice cold RC Co-Cola, listenin' to her transistor, watchin' the Grand Ole Opry on the tube, readin' a Mad Magazine while she sung, 'Does your chewing gum lose its flavor?'"
The second time that Ahab speaks in his phony Arabic chant, the translation is, "Let's twist again like we did last summer, baby!"—a line from a song by Chubby Checker.
Ahab loves Fatima, which apparently doesn't sit too well with the Sultan, and later prompts an escape attempt, which does succeed, because Clyde was the fastest camel in the desert, and they "lived happily ever after". (The original single version was edited and does not mention the escape attempt at all, instead ending the song with Fatima saying, "Crazy, baby!")
In Stevens' career
Along with "The Streak", it was one of Stevens' biggest hits and contributed greatly to his popularity. It reached number 5 on the Billboard top 40 during July 1962.
A later song by Stevens, a Christmas novelty number called "Santa Claus Is Watching You", features a "cameo" by Clyde. The intrepid camel is pressed into service in place of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (in different recordings of the song, the famous reindeer's reason for being absent alternates between "He's at a stakeout at your house" or being "all stove up in the hospital" after injuring himself during "a twist contest"). The song also repeats the "Ahab the Arab" schtick of reciting a random list of objects, in this case gifts for "all the good little girls and boys."
Stevens has said that Clyde the camel was named after rhythm-and-blues singer Clyde McPhatter, formerly the lead singer of The Drifters. Clyde is arguably the most memorable character of the song, due to Stevens' exaggerated imitation of a camel's braying vocalization. Clyde has become something of a mascot for Stevens, and for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s the artist released albums and video entertainment under the label Clyde Records (complete with camel-shaped logo). Clyde Records continues to be the outlet for a lot of contemporary material from Stevens.
Stevens' music publishing company was once named Ahab Music Inc. before he changed its name in 1977 to Ray Stevens Music. His publishing company is affiliated with BMI.
A cover version of Stevens' song was released in July 1962 by disc jockey Jimmy Savile, backed by the English pop group The Tremeloes, featuring Brian Poole. Stevens himself re-recorded the song for his 1969 album Gitarzan and a third re-recording shown up in 1995 for its official music video release. Kinky Friedman also recorded a version of the song on his 1977 album Lasso from El Paso.
- "Ahab the Arab", Mad Music Archive.