Shock the Monkey

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"Shock the Monkey"
Single by Peter Gabriel
from the album Peter Gabriel
B-side "Soft Dog"
Released September 14, 1982
Format 7", 12" single
Recorded June 23, 1981–July 10, 1982
Genre New wave[1]
Length 3:57 (7" single edit)
5:23 (Full-length version)
Label Geffen
Writer(s) Peter Gabriel
Producer(s) David Lord, Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel singles chronology
"I Have the Touch"
"Shock the Monkey"
"Wallflower / Kiss of Life"
Music video
Peter Gabriel - Shock The Monkey on YouTube
Music video
Peter Gabriel - Shock The Monkey (Acoustic) on YouTube

"Shock the Monkey" is a 1982 song by English rock musician Peter Gabriel. It was released as a single and peaked at No. 29 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart.[2] The song was Gabriel's first Top 40 hit in the U.S. In the UK, the song charted at No. 58. It was included on Gabriel's fourth self-titled album, issued in the U.S. as Security. 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 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; one as a businessman-type in a dark suit, and the other 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" picture disc in addition to the 7" and 12" 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 (1982/1983) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[6] 25
UK Pop Singles[7] 58
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[8] 29
Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 1
Billboard Dance/Disco 26
Billboard Hot Black Singles 64
U.S. Cashbox Pop Singles[9] 33

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
Format CD
Genre Gothic metal, industrial metal
Label Roadrunner
Coal Chamber featuring Ozzy Osbourne singles chronology
"Not Living"
"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]

  1. "Shock the Monkey" (Album version)
  2. "Shock the Monkey" (Gorilla mix)
  3. "El Cu Cuy" (Man-To-Monster mix)

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.

Other cover versions[edit]

  • Hawaiian recording artist Don Ho covered "Shock the Monkey" on the 2002 compilation album When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You'd Hear
  • Finnish metal band Suburban Tribe covered "Shock the Monkey" on their 2007 album Recollection.
  • The Vitamin String Quartet featured the song on their Peter Gabriel tribute album.
  • The Italian acid jazz pioneers GAZZARA covered the song in a Motown 60's style on their 2013 album The Bossa Lounge Experience.
  • American grunge duo Local H performed a version of the song in June 2015 for The A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover series.[10]

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". 
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 246.
  3. ^ Allmusic song review. Retrieved June 7, 2008.
  4. ^ iFilm synopsis. Retrieved June 7, 2008.
  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, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 120. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  7. ^ Retrieved June 22, 2008.
  8. ^ Retrieved June 22, 2008.
  9. ^ Retrieved June 22, 2008.
  10. ^ 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]