Rooster (song)

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This article is about the Alice in Chains song. For the song by OutKast, see Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
Single by Alice in Chains
from the album Dirt
Released March 15, 1993
Format CD, cassette, vinyl
Recorded March–May 1992 at Eldorado Recording Studios, Burbank, California; London Bridge Studio, Seattle, Washington; One on One Studios, Los Angeles, California
Genre Alternative metal,[1] grunge
Length 6:15
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Jerry Cantrell
Producer(s) Dave Jerden
Alice in Chains singles chronology
"Angry Chair"
"What the Hell Have I"
Dirt track listing
(Track 5)
(Track 6)
(Track 7)

"Rooster" is a song by the band Alice in Chains. The song was released as a single in 1993 and is featured on the band's second studio album, Dirt (1992). It is the fifth song on the original pressing of the album and sixth on others. The song was included on the compilation albums Unplugged (1996), Music Bank (1999), Greatest Hits (2001), and The Essential Alice in Chains (2006). A demo version of the song was also included on Music Bank.

Origin and recording[edit]

In the liner notes of 1999's Music Bank box set collection, guitarist Jerry Cantrell said of the song: "I think there's some darts on the demo that maybe we didn't get here (on Dirt), but this has something all of its own... quality, for one thing."[2]


This song was written by Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell for his father Jerry Cantrell Sr., who went by the nickname "Rooster" while serving with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Jerry Cantrell has stated that his father, Cantrell, Sr., had this family nickname "Rooster" since childhood due to the way his hair stood up on end as a youth.[3] The "Rooster" nickname is often mistakenly attributed to a reference to men carrying the M60 machine gun ("Walking tall machine gun men"), the muzzle flash from which makes an outline or pattern reminiscent of a rooster's tail. It is also often mistakenly attributed to the 101st Airborne Division - in which Cantrell's father served - who wore shoulder sleeve insignia on their arms featuring a bald eagle. As there are no bald eagles in Vietnam, the closest thing to which the Vietnamese could draw a comparison was the chicken, thus leading to the pejorative "chicken men."[4]

In the liner notes of 1999's Music Bank box set collection, Jerry Cantrell said of the song:

It was the start of the healing process between my Dad and I from all that damage that Vietnam caused. This was all my perception of his experiences out there. The first time I ever heard him talk about it was when we made the video and he did a 45-minute interview with Mark Pellington and I was amazed he did it. He was totally cool, totally calm, accepted it all and had a good time doing it. It even brought him to the point of tears. It was beautiful. He said it was a weird experience, a sad experience and he hoped that nobody else had to go through it.[2]

In a 1992 interview with Guitar for the Practicing Musician magazine, in response to the question "Do you feel you communicated with (your father) with this song?", Cantrell responded:

Yeah. He's heard this song. He's only seen us play once, and I played this song for him when we were in this club opening for Iggy Pop. I'll never forget it. He was standing in the back and he heard all the words and stuff. Of course, I was never in Vietnam and he won't talk about it, but when I wrote this it felt these were things he might have felt or thought. And I remember when we played it he was back by the soundboard and I could see him. He was back there with his big gray Stetson and his cowboy boots — he's a total Oklahoma man — and at the end, he took his hat off and just held it in the air. And he was crying the whole time. This song means a lot to me. A lot.[5]

Release and reception[edit]

"Rooster" was released as a single in 1993. "Rooster" peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

Ned Raggett of Allmusic said that the song "[keeps] both the volume and the tenderness in play while tackling a slightly unexpected subject" and that it "alternates between almost dreamy verses, and surging, blasting choruses."[6]

MMA fighter Tim Kennedy, himself an Army veteran, uses the song as his entrance theme at UFC events.[7]

In an episode of Beavis and Butt-head, an Army recruiter tells the duo his nickname, "The Rooster"; upon hearing this, Beavis and Butt-head reply with "they come to snuff the rooster".

The song is featured in several films and TV shows including Supernatural, Terminator Salvation, This is 40 and Daria.

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Rooster" was released in 1993 and was directed by Mark Pellington. The music video featured real Vietnam War documentary/news footage as well as some very realistic, graphically re-enacted combat scenes.

The "Rooster" character was based on AIC guitarist Jerry Cantrell's father (Jerry Cantrell Sr.) whose lifelong nickname was "Rooster." Cantrell Sr. served two combat tours in Vietnam, and also appears in the music video. Cantrell Sr.'s scenes were filmed on what was then Cantrell's great uncle's property and is now the site of Jerry Cantrell's family ranch in Atoka, Oklahoma. Cantrell Sr.'s scenes, filmed in stark black & white, show him hunting in the woods as an older man, while having "flashback" memories of his youthful Vietnam combat experiences (which are shot in full color). The uncut (more graphic) version of the video is available on the home video release Music Bank: The Videos. "Rooster" was the last music video to feature original bass player Mike Starr, who is pictured on the cover of the single.

The intense combat scenes for the video were actually filmed on location in Angeles National Forest in January 1993 and have been favorably compared to Oliver Stone's classic Vietnam War film Platoon. VN Veteran and Military Technical Advisor Dale Dye served as advisor on both the "Rooster" video and on Platoon, among many other projects in Hollywood. Actor James Elliott (Southland, Entourage, Mafia II, etc.) portrayed the title role of "Rooster", the Team Leader of a Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRPs) in the combat scenes. Elliott, who is right-handed, had to learn how to handle multiple combat weapons left handed for the production in order to match the real Cantrell Sr.'s footage (Cantrell Sr. is left handed and holds his knife/rifle that way in the video). The military weapons and gear used and worn by the actors in the video are not all period-authentic. The M16A2 is used (which was not used until the 1980s), as well as the Nomex flight gloves which were not used until well into the Vietnam War. Dale Dye provided Elliott with some of his own personal combat gear which Dye had actually worn during multiple tours in Vietnam, including his military watch and map light, among other items.

Other actors who appear in the video include Casey Pieretti (well known real-life amputee actor/stunt performer); and popular character actor Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite, Lost, etc.). Pieretti, who walks/runs extremely well with a prosthetic leg, performed a very graphic and difficult scene in which his leg was "blown off" by a land mine and Elliott's "Rooster" character offers life-saving medical aid on the battlefield. Jon Gries's character is shown being shot in the chest during intense combat with North Vietnamese infantry troops and dying in the arms of Elliott's "Rooster" character in the final emotionally charged combat scenes of the video. Also featured are scenes of a group of children playing with bubbles.

Real life combat veterans have often commented about how moving and realistic these scenes were, yet MTV initially pulled the controversial video from rotation due to complaints about the graphic nature of the war scenes. This upset the band a great deal, especially Jerry Cantrell, who has stated how much of a foolish double standard existed at the time, as "Rooster" simply portrayed actual history with realism, yet MTV routinely showed gangsta rap and other violent videos in which gratuitous violence/death/killing was portrayed and clearly glorified. At the time the video was also the longest music video ever aired in full on MTV (running approximately 7 minutes long).

Live performances[edit]

Cantrell's father joined Alice in Chains during "Rooster" on stage for the October 19, 2007, show in Tulsa, at Cain's Ballroom. Alice in Chains performed an acoustic version of "Rooster" for its appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1996 and the song was included on the Unplugged live album and home video release. Live performances of the song can also be found on the "Heaven Beside You" single, the compilation album Nothing Safe: Best of the Box, and the live album Live. In the Primus DVD Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People, Alice in Chains are seen playing the song live, with Les Claypool joining the band on stage dressed in a chicken suit. Jerry Cantrell reacts by throwing a bottle at Claypool and chasing him off the stage.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Rooster" 6:18
2. "Sickman" 5:29
3. "It Ain't Like That" (from Facelift) 4:37
Australian release
No. Title Length
1. "Rooster" 6:18
2. "Dam That River" 3:10


Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1993) Peak
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[8] 7

Rock Band[edit]

The song was made available to download on May 23, 2011 for use in the Rock Band 3 music gaming platform in both Basic rhythm, and PRO mode which takes advantage of the use of a real guitar/bass guitar, along with standard MIDI-compatible electronic drum kits in addition to vocals.[9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robinson, Joe. "Top 11 Metal Albums of the 1990s". Loudwire.
  2. ^ a b Liner notes, Music Bank box set. 1999.
  3. ^ "Alice In Chains- Interview". Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  4. ^ Chicken Men
  5. ^ Garbarini, Vic (1992-11-01). "The "Chungemaster" of Alice In Chains". Guitar for the Practicing Musician. 
  6. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Rooster". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-02-27. 
  7. ^ McKinnell, Ryan (2013-11-06). "UFC Fight for the Troops 3 Results: Tim Kennedy KOs Rafael Natal in Front of Brothers in Arms". MMA Weekly. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  8. ^ "Alice in Chains – Chart history" Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs for Alice in Chains. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  9. ^ Gonzalez, Michelle (2011-05-18). "Rock Band 3 Goes Gaga...With Foreigner". The Gaming Vault. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  10. ^ Snider, Mike (2010-06-10). "Rock Band 3: What's New, What's Notable". USA Today. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 

External links[edit]