Saturday, October 24, 2009
"Iko Iko" by the Dixie Cups (1965)
Apparently, the song "Iko Iko" is rooted deep in New Orleans folklore, coming from Creole and Amerindian heritages - things that ought to make the song worthy of an exhibit at the Smithsonian, and things that, I believe, have allowed this song a certain amount of prestige, despite the fact that it is indesputably crap.
The lyrics consist of verses that rhyme 'fire' with 'fire', talk about warring grandmothers and flag boys, and feature a chorus of gibberish.
But here's the thing: that's the best part of it. I know other people have recorded this song, but the only other version I'm familiar with is the one from Rain Man, which at least has nice bass. This version, by far the most famous one, is perfomed on a Coke bottle. That's correct. The cynicism of the music industry in the nineteen sixties was such that a group of teenage girls with painfully flat singing voices could bang on a Coke bottle, sing a half-remembered song from their grandparents' and publicly release it and make a hit from it. Remember that this is the decade that so many people, in a bleary-eyed fashion, describe as the 'golden age of pop'. 1965 is the year that, among other things, the Beatles released Revolver, John Coltrane released A Love Supreme, Bob Dylan released Highway 61 Revisited, and both the Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd played their first concerts... yet we were still in a world where Coke bottle music could become commercially successful and, what's more, iconic.