Walk Like an Egyptian

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"Walk Like an Egyptian"
North American 1986 12-inch vinyl picture sleeve
Single by the Bangles
from the album Different Light
  • "Angels Don't Fall in Love"
  • "Not Like You"
ReleasedSeptember 1986 (1986-09)[1]
StudioSunset Sound Factory
Songwriter(s)Liam Sternberg
Producer(s)David Kahne
The Bangles singles chronology
"If She Knew What She Wants"
"Walk Like an Egyptian"
"Walking Down Your Street"

"Everything I Wanted"

"Walk Like an Egyptian (remix)"

"The Eternal Mix"
Music video
"Walk Like an Egyptian" on YouTube

"Walk Like an Egyptian" is a song by American band the Bangles. It was released in September 1986 as the third single from their second studio album, Different Light (1986). It was the band's first number-one single, being certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and was ranked Billboard's number-one song of 1987.


Liam Sternberg said he was inspired to create the song while on a ferry crossing the English Channel. When the vessel hit choppy water, passengers stepped carefully and moved their arms awkwardly while struggling to maintain their balance, and that reminded Sternberg of the depiction of human figures in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings. He wrote the words "Walk like an Egyptian" in a notebook. Later, Sternberg looked back in the notebook, and composing the melody with a guitar, he put together an up-tempo song with lyrics about Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Nile River, crocodiles, desert sand, bazaars and hookah pipes and then segued into modern scenes of blonde waitresses, school kids and police officers.[4]


Sternberg finished a demo version by January 1984 with singer Marti Jones, featuring percussion with kitchen implements. He offered it to Toni Basil, who turned it down.[5] Lene Lovich recorded the first version of the song, but it went unreleased when she decided to take a break from music to raise her family. David Kahne, who like Sternberg was affiliated with Peer International Publishing, was the producer of Different Light. He received a copy of the demo and liked it, especially Jones's "offhand quality";[5] and took the song to the Bangles, who agreed to record it.

Kahne had each member of the group sing the lyrics to determine who would sing each verse; Vicki Peterson, Michael Steele, and Susanna Hoffs sang lead vocals in the final version on the first, second, and third verses, respectively. Kahne disliked Debbi Peterson's leads, so she was relegated to backing vocals, which angered her and caused tension within the group. The situation was exacerbated by the use of a drum machine in place of her drumming, further diminishing her role in the song.[6] She plays the tambourine during their 1986 performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test.[7] The whistling in the song was played by a machine.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Di Cross of Record Mirror considered "Walk Like an Egyptian" an example of the Bangles "adopting an eastern flavour amidst the statutory guitars, jangly noises, and quaint vocals, sucking in the candyfloss pop of some predictably inoffensive lyrics", which the reviewer deemed a style regression in the band's career.[9]

Chart performance[edit]

"Walk Like an Egyptian" was released as the third single from Different Light. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1986. The song reached a peak of number three on the UK Singles Chart in November 1986 and reached number one in the US on December 20, staying at the top of the Hot 100 for four weeks, carrying it over into January 1987. The success of the song and "Manic Monday" propelled Different Light to number two on the Billboard 200 chart, making it the group's most successful album.[10]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Walk Like an Egyptian" was nominated for Best Group Video at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards.[11] It features both the Bangles performing the song at a concert and scenes of people dancing in poses similar to those depicted in the Ancient Egyptian reliefs that inspired songwriter Liam Sternberg. Most of these people were filmed on the streets of New York City, although special effects were used to modify photos of Diana, Princess of Wales and the then Prince Charles, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and the Statue of Liberty.

In a popular scene from the video, Hoffs was filmed in a close-up where her eyes moved from side to side, looking left and right. When asked about the scene in an interview, Hoffs explained that she was looking at individual audience members during the video shoot, which took place with a live audience. Looking directly at individual audience members was a technique she used to overcome stage fright, and she was unaware that the camera had a close-up on her while she was employing this technique, switching between one audience member on her left and one on her right.[12]

1990 re-release[edit]

In 1990, "Walk Like an Egyptian" was re-issued as a single in the UK to promote the Bangles' Greatest Hits album. It featured new remixes for the song called Ozymandias Remix. It charted at number 73 in the UK.

Airplay restrictions[edit]

"Walk Like an Egyptian" was one of the songs which were claimed to have been banned by Clear Channel following the September 11, 2001, attacks. Snopes in researching this found that the list was simply suggestions regarding songs to be sensitive about when deciding what to play.[13][14] It was also included in a "list of records to be avoided" drawn up by the BBC during the Gulf War.[15][16][why?]


Year Publisher Country Accolade Rank
1986 Hot Press Ireland "Singles of the Year" (20)[17] 4
1986 The Village Voice United States "Singles of the Year" (25)[18] 16
2003 Giannis Petridis Greece "2004 of the Best Songs of the Century"[19] *
2003 Paul Morley United Kingdom "Greatest Pop Single of All Time"[20] *
2003 Pause & Play United States "Vault of Fame" (Songs)[21] *
2005 Bruce Pollock United States "The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944–2000"[19] *
2009 Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé France "3000 Rock Classics"[19] *
2009 Radio Veronica Netherlands "Best of the 80s" (100)[22] 99

(*) indicates the list is unordered.

Track listings[edit]

7-inch single

  1. "Walk Like an Egyptian" (3:21)
  2. "Not Like You" (3:05)

12-inch single

  1. "Walk Like an Egyptian" (extended dance mix) (5:48)
  2. "Walk Like an Egyptian" (dub mix) (5:17)
  3. "Walk Like an Egyptian" (a cappella mix) (2:47)
  4. "Angels Don't Fall in Love" (3:21)


Personnel are sourced from Sound on Sound.[23]


Certifications and sales[edit]

Certifications and sales for "Walk Like an Egyptian"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[60] Gold 50,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[61] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[62] Gold 400,000
United States (RIAA)[63] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

In popular culture[edit]

The song was used as the ending credits theme for the first 24 episodes of the Japanese animated series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (based on the third part of the manga series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, which is set in Egypt).[64]

The song was also used in Totally Spies! The Movie,[65] in season 3 of Eastbound & Down and during the closing credits of Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra by Alain Chabat, one of the biggest successes in French cinema box-office history.

In Family Guy, Carter Pewterschmidt is shown listening to the song while singing different lyrics that relate to his life.

See also[edit]


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