January usually goes out with a bang, firing winter storms over most of America. When that last day of January finally arrives, spirits are high in anticipation of spring just a little over a month away.
Fifty years ago January went out with a different sort of bang. On January 31, 1961, NASA placed Ham the Chimp in a rocket and launched him for a 16 and a half minute flight. The rocket landed in the Atlantic Ocean, where Ham was safely recovered.
Folk singer John Prine wrote a delightful song, “Space Monkey,” inspired by the event. Here are some other songs that could be played during the fiftieth anniversary of Ham the Chimp’s space ride.
10.”Porcelain Monkey” by Warren Zevon: This catchy pop-rock number from Life’ll Kill Ya typifies the wit of the late singer-songwriter.
9.”Monkey Suit” by Elton John and Leon Russell: These two legends created a magical duet on The Union, and this rollicking track combines bouncy jazz with upbeat blues.
8.”Welcome to the Monkey House” by The Dandy Warhols: The lyrics from this title track are intriguing, especially the line, “When Michael Jackson dies we’re covering Blackbird.”
7.”What Makes the Monkey Dance” by Chuck Prophet: This associate of Alejandro Escavedo can slow it down throughout an album. He chooses an ethereal rhythm for this track from No Other Love.
6.”Monkey Gone to Heaven” by The Pixies: Black Francis and his alternative band made indie pop-rock years before the genre had a name. This track from Doolittle foreshadows the music of Modest Mouse and the Kaiser Chiefs.
5.”Monkey to Man” by Elvis Costello: The versatile wordsmith returned to his late 70s new wave sound on this clever tune from The Delivery Man.
4.”Siamese Twins (The Monkey and Me)” by The Knack: Better songs from the band’s debut will be forever shadowed by “My Sharona,” and this pop ballad is the best among them.
3.”Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey” by The Beatles: One of John Lennon’s most exciting tunes from The White Album is often overshadowed by hits such as “Back in the USSR” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
2.”Tweeter and the Monkey Man” by The Traveling Wilburys: Bob Dylan (as Lucky Wilbury) does the lead vocals on this electric tale from the first volume of the supergroup.
1.”Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel: The disturbing video really enhanced this song from the former member of Genesis. The song stands out even without the video, thanks to its eerie keyboard work and haunting percussion.