Walk Like an Egyptian

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"Walk Like an Egyptian"
The Bangles Walk Like An Egyptian.jpg
North American edition of 1986 12-inch vinyl artwork
Single by the Bangles
from the album Different Light
B-side
  • "Angels Don't Fall in Love"
  • "Not Like You"
Released1986
RecordedSunset Sound Factory (1985)
GenrePop rock[1]
Length3:24
Label
Songwriter(s)Liam Sternberg
Producer(s)David Kahne
The Bangles singles chronology
"If She Knew What She Wants"
(1986)
"Walk Like an Egyptian"
(1986)
"Walking Down Your Street"
(1987)

"Everything I Wanted"
(1990)

"Walk Like An Egyptian (remix)"
(1990)

"The Eternal Mix"
(1990)
Music video
"Walk Like an Egyptian" on YouTube

"Walk Like an Egyptian" is a song recorded by the American band the Bangles. It was released in 1986 as the third single from the album Different Light. It was the band's first number one single, being certified gold by the RIAA, and became Billboard's number-one song of 1987.

Composition[edit]

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 blond waitresses, school kids and police officers.[2]

Recording[edit]

Sternberg finished a demo version by January 1984 with singer Marti Jones. He offered it to Toni Basil, who turned it down.[3] 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 from Peer Southern Publishing was the producer of Different Light; he received a copy of the demo and liked it, especially Jones's "offhand quality".[3]

Kahne took the song to the Bangles, who agreed to record it. He 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.[4] She can be seen playing the tambourine during their 1986 performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test.[5] The whistling in the song was played by a machine.[6]

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.[7]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Walk Like an Egyptian" was nominated for Best Group Video at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards.[8] 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 Princess Diana, 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.[9]

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.[10][11] It was also included in a "list of records to be avoided" drawn up by the BBC during the Gulf War.[12][13][why?]

Accolades[edit]

Year Publisher Country Accolade Rank
1986 Hot Press Ireland "Singles of the Year" (20)[14] 4
1986 The Village Voice United States "Singles of the Year" (25)[15] 16
2003 Giannis Petridis Greece "2004 of the Best Songs of the Century"[16] *
2003 Paul Morley United Kingdom "Greatest Pop Single of All Time"[17] *
2003 Pause & Play United States "Vault of Fame" (Songs)[18] *
2005 Bruce Pollock United States "The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000"[16] *
2009 Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé France "3000 Rock Classics"[16] *
2009 Radio Veronica Netherlands "Best of the 80s" (100)[19] 99

(*) indicates the list is unordered.

Track listings[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Certifications and sales for "Walk Like an Egyptian"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[55] Gold 50,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[56] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[57] Silver 250,000^
United States (RIAA)[58] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lamb, Bill. "Kelly Clarkson – Never Again". About.com. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  2. ^ Price, Mark J. (September 22, 2021). "Akron native's song 'Walk Like an Egyptian,' a smash hit for the Bangles, is still catchy after 35 years". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits (5 ed.). Random House Digital. p. 656. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6.
  4. ^ Alter, Gaby (September 1, 2009). "Classic Tracks: The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian"". Mix. Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  5. ^ The Old Grey Whistle Test Vol. 3 (DVD). BBC Video. 2006.
  6. ^ Peterson, Vicki (November 9, 2018). "Vicki Peterson of the Bangles". Songfacts (Interview). Interviewed by Carl Wiser. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  7. ^ "Bangles – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  8. ^ "1987 Video Music Awards". MTV. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  9. ^ Stewart, Jenny (August 8, 2009). "PlanetOut Talks to Susanna Hoffs". PlanetOut.com. Archived from the original on August 12, 2009.
  10. ^ Mikkelson, David (March 29, 2011). "Clear Channel Banned Songs". Snopes.com. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  11. ^ Murphy, Heather (September 17, 2001). "It's the End of the World as Clear Channel Knows It". Slate. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  12. ^ Kirby, Mark (2000). Sociology in Perspective. Heinemann. p. 164. ISBN 0-435-33160-4.
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  33. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
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