"When You Gonna Learn" is the debut single released by Britishfunk/acid jazz band Jamiroquai. It was originally released in 1992 by Acid Jazz Records, then re-released on Sony Records in 1993 as the lead single from the band's debut studio album, Emergency on Planet Earth. The lyrical themes, like many of Jamiroquai's early songs, speak of environmental awareness. While the single commercially flopped, due to the lack of promotion, the song still remains well-known among fan circles, while it's respective single, especially the Acid Jazz Records release, is a rare collectible, also valued much among fan circles.
The oldest demo tape of the song dates back to 1989. The demo version has a different chorus to the released song, and a largely different feeling to itself.[vague] The demo was recorded without didgeridoo player Wallis Buchanan. While the most commonly known version of the song lasts for 3:50, and can be found on the band's album, another, longer version exists. Known as the "J.K. mix", it lasts for 6:28 and appears on the vinyl version of the Emergency on Planet Earth album as well as on the "When You Gonna Learn" and "Blow Your Mind" singles. "When You Gonna Learn" was performed a great number of times during the band's tours and a live version can be found on a bootleg called Songs For Manitu. During the Emergency on Planet Earth and The Return of the Space Cowboy tours, the song had a very lengthy didgeridoo introduction which almost always overshadowed the rest of the song in length. There are many versions of the song, with the most notable being the 30-minute performance in Amsterdam in 1994, which actually consists of multiple songs segueing seamlessly into one another.
"When You Gonna Learn" was not the first single written and issued by Jay Kay, though it is the first single as Jamiroquai. Kay's first single was actually a white label acetate called "Natural Energy", which was pressed only in three copies.Kiss 100 FM was the first radio station to play the single. The chord progressions of the song bear a striking resemblance to the chord progressions of a Johnny "Hammond" Smith's track called "Los Conquistadores Chocolatés", taken from his 1975 album Gears. The booklet of the Acid Jazz Records release of the single bears a "special thanks" note to Smith, who gave permission to Kay to use the composition's structure. It is unknown whether Hammond received any royalties. The chord progressions of the Cantè Hondo Mix of the song bear even more resemblance to "Los Conquistadores Chocolatés". The Cantè Hondo Mixes also uses the wind sound effect from Hammond's song. The cover used by Acid Jazz Records is completely different from the cover on Sony's release, although a Spanish promo issued by Sony bears the Acid Jazz Records cover. There have been legal disputes between Acid Jazz Records and Epic Records because Epic re-released the single without Acid Jazz Records' consent.
A music video was shot for "When You Gonna Learn". It was directed by Morgan Lawley and interspersed artistic shots of lead singer Jay Kay, footage of the band playing and graphic stock footage of animals being experimented on and whaling operations. The original version was banned from MTV because of this imagery, and was replaced with a "cleaner" edit. The uncut video can be viewed on YouTube. When Kay talked about the video in an interview he stated that it had been his intention to make an intense 'shock video', depicting various experiments done on animals, whaling operations, and the Nazis, all in the most negative light: "I remember I did the video in America, and I remember the video got banned - you know the video got banned. Well, because I just went to Greenpeace and just took loads of footage of stuff... Stuff I just didn't think was right. So they said to me "We can't play that, it's got the Nazi party in there -- we can't play that".