Li'l Red Riding Hood
|"Li'l Red Riding Hood"|
Cover artwork from the album Li'l Red Riding Hood
|Single by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs|
|from the album Li'l Red Riding Hood|
|B-side||"Love Me Like Before"|
"Li'l Red Riding Hood" is a 1966 song performed by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. It was the group's second top-10 hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1966 and No. 2 on the Canadian RPM Magazine charts. It was certified gold by the RIAA on August 11, 1966.
It is a prominent plot element in the 1993 film Striking Distance with Bruce Willis, and is featured in the film Wild Country in 2005 and a cover by Laura Gibson in a 2012 Volvo commercial for its S60T5. The song appeared in the TV show Grimm where it was played at the beginning of the season 3 episode "Red Menace" that aired in 2014.
The song is built around Charles Perrault's fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood", adapted by ending before the grandmother makes her entrance, and explicitly using the ambiguity of modern English between "wolf", the carnivore, and "wolf", a man with concealed sexual intentions. The effect, whether intentional or incidental, is to strip away the fairy tale's metaphorical device and present the relationship between the two characters without literary pretense.
The singer remarks on "what big eyes" and "what full lips" Red has, and eventually on "what a big heart" he himself has. An added element is that he says (presumably aside, to the song's audience) that he is disguised in a "sheep suit" until he can demonstrate his good intentions, but he seems to be having a hard time suppressing his wolf call in the form of a howl, in favor of the baa-ing of a sheep, at the very end of the song when Sam repeats the word "BAAHED" a few times during the song's fade. One of its signature lines is "you're ev'rything that a big bad wolf could want". The song begins with a howl, and a spoken recitation that goes: "Who's that I see walkin' in these woods?/Why it's Little Red Riding Hood".
The song whose lyrics are described just above is widely attributed to Ronald Blackwell. There seems to be no controversy (although various titles are occasionally used) that one with a similar title was earlier written and recorded by the Big Bopper, and released as "Little Red Riding Hood" (N.B.: with "little" spelled out) late in 1958 as the B-side of his second hit. The searchable sites with its complete lyrics as text seem to constitute no more than a handful, but a recording, purported to be of his voice and thus presumably as being authoritative as to lyrics, exists online.
Though related in concept to the later Blackwell song, these differ in:
- Conflating into one the wolves of Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs (and implying he is on good terms with the pigs)
- Having the singer call himself both the Big Bopper and the Big Bad Wolf
- Encountering Red from outside her locked door, where he knocks seeking entrance
- Being apparently more frank, in saying "you're the swingin'est and that's no lie", and insisting on being let in promptly lest the rest of the household return first
- Foregoing mentioning any fairy-tale-wolfish characteristics or behavior except a Three-Pigs-wolfish threat to blow the house down (unless one counts cackling laughter).
However, at least one site, which ignores the Bopper-recorded lyrics in listing his work, attributes the Blackwell/Pharaohs lyrics to the Big Bopper.
Subsequent recordings of the Blackwell composition include:
- a cover by The Royal Guardsmen in 1967, on their album Snoopy vs. the Red Baron;
- a cover by punk pioneers 999, released as a single in 1981;
- a cover by The Bobs on their 1987 album My, I'm Large;
- a cover by The Smashing Pumpkins, released in their Live Smashing Pumpkins album series;
- a cover version of the song on the Voodoo Glow Skulls 2002 album Steady as She Goes, listed as 'Untitled Hidden Track';
- a version by pop-punk band Bowling for Soup on their 2005 album Bowling for Soup Goes to the Movies;
- a version by experimental rock band Patife Band on their 1987 album Corredor Polonês.
- a version by Psychobilly band The Meteors released in 1985 as the B-side to Stampede
ApologetiX parodied this song as "Little-Read Bible Book" on their 2004 album, Adam Up.
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- on YouTube
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