Shock the Monkey

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"Shock the Monkey"
Single by Peter Gabriel
from the album Peter Gabriel
B-side "Soft Dog"
Released 14 September 1982 (1982-09-14)
Recorded 23 June 1981 – 10 July 1982
Genre New wave[1]
Label Geffen
Songwriter(s) Peter Gabriel
  • David Lord
  • Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel singles chronology
"I Have the Touch"
"Shock the Monkey"
"I Don't Remember (live)"

"Shock the Monkey" is a song by English rock musician Peter Gabriel. It was released in September 1982 as the second single from his fourth self-titled album, issued in the US under the title Security.

The song peaked at number 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[2] The song was Gabriel's first Top 40 hit in the US. In the UK, the song charted at number 58.

Critical reception[edit]

According to AllMusic, the song has a "relentlessly repeated hook" that "sounded nothing like anything else on the radio at the time".[3]

Music video[edit]

The track is also known for its popular, and somewhat disturbing, music video, written and directed by Brian Grant, which was played heavily in the early days of MTV featuring Gabriel (in white face paint) and a frightened-looking capuchin monkey. The music video features Gabriel in two guises; the one is as a businessman-type in a dark suit, and the other is 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 book Obedience to Authority.[4] 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.[5]


"Shock the Monkey" was released as a 7-inch picture disc in addition to the 7-inch and 12-inch black vinyl singles. Club DJ remix service Hot Tracks crafted an 8:12 version that intersperses verses and choruses sung by Gabriel in German with the more familiar English lyrics. A seven-minute-long concert version of the song appears on Gabriel's album Plays Live (1983). It is also included on the compilation albums Greenpeace (1985), Shaking the Tree (1990) and Hit (2003). The music video appears on the DVD compilation Play (2004).

Remix contest[edit]

An online contest was held in September 2006 by Realworld Remixed in which musicians and engineers were invited to submit a remix of the song. The original tracks were made available for download, offering a rare opportunity to work with the raw material from a hit song. The winner was Multiman's "Simian Surprise".


Chart (1982-83) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[6] 25
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[7] 10
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[8] 58
US Billboard Hot 100[9] 29
US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 1
US Billboard Dance/Disco 26
US Billboard Hot Black Singles 64

Coal Chamber featuring Ozzy Osbourne version[edit]

"Shock the Monkey"
Coal Chamber-Shock The Monkey (CD Single)-Front.jpg
Single by Coal Chamber featuring Ozzy Osbourne
from the album Chamber Music
Released 1999 (1999)
Format CD single
  • 3:33 (radio edit)
  • 3:45 (album version)
Label Roadrunner
Producer(s) Josh Abraham
Coal Chamber singles chronology
"Not Living"
"Shock the Monkey"
Ozzy Osbourne singles chronology
"Buried Alive"
"Shock the Monkey"

The nu metal band Coal Chamber covered "Shock the Monkey" on their 1999 album Chamber Music. The cover featured guest vocals by Ozzy Osbourne.

Track listing[edit]

Maxi single
1."Shock the Monkey"3:45
2."Shock the Monkey" (Gorilla Mix)3:35
3."El Cu Cuy" (Alternate Mix)4:20
4."Shock the Monkey" (music video)3:33
Promo single
1."Shock the Monkey" (LP Version)3:45

Music video[edit]

The music video was directed by Dean Karr. It shows the band playing with Osbourne and it has shots of a monkey.

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1999) Position
US Main[10] 26
UK[11] 83


Coal Chamber
  • B. Dez Fafara – lead vocals
  • Meegs Rascón – guitar
  • Rayna Foss-Rose – bass
  • Mike "Bug" Cox – drums

Other cover versions[edit]

Use in other media[edit]

  • "Shock the Monkey" is included in the opening sequence to the film Project X.
  • The song is used in the South Park episode "Raisins." After Wendy breaks up with Stan, he asks Wendy's friend Bebe how to win her back. She tells Stan to "stand outside her window, and play Peter Gabriel" (a reference to Lloyd Dobler's playing "In Your Eyes" in the movie Say Anything), so he chooses this song to play on the boombox. However, Stan sees Token standing beside Wendy.
  • The song and the artist, Peter Gabriel, are mentioned in The Key of Awesome's parody of Walk off the Earth's "Somebody That I Used to Know" cover.
  • "Shock the Monkey" is used in the Houston hosted morning radio show by Walton & Johnson in their "Taser Report" as an intro.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Peter Gabriel". Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 246.
  3. ^ Allmusic song review. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  4. ^ iFilm synopsis. Retrieved 7 June 2008.[dead link]
  5. ^ Chris Welch (1998). The Secret Life of Peter Gabriel: p.136
  6. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. p. 120. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  7. ^ Canada Top Singles peak
  8. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  9. ^ Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  10. ^ "Mainstream Rock Songs: Coal Chamber Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 20 September 2017. 
  11. ^ "Coal Chamber Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 20 September 2017. 
  12. ^ Modell, Josh (30 June 2015). "Local H covers Peter Gabriel". The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 


  • Martin C. Strong (2004). The Great Rock Discography (7th Edition)
  • Dean Clark..((cover))...1977

External links[edit]