Wednesday, July 10, 2013

In Which Trish Shares With You Her Crazy Theory About Was (Not Was)' "Walk the Dinosaur"

Hey, do you like dinosaurs?  Do you like music?  Do you like dinosaurs AND music?

Well, too damn bad.  Because according to anyone having to come up with a music cue for anything involving dinosaurs in the past, like, thirty-odd years, there has only ever in the history of the world been one appropriate piece of music: the chorus of Was (Not Was)' "Walk the Dinosaur".

Because it has the word "dinosaur" in the title, you see.  Which is very probably the reason why it is one of the most impressively lazy music cues of our time, popping up in almost anything involving a dinosaur, up to and including that crazy Electrical Water Pageant in Walt Disney World.  And if you're like me, and you like dinosaurs and music, this particular song has probably haunted you for most of your life, inspiring groans and silent wishes that someone -anyone- would write a new song with "dinosaur" in the title.

But I'll take it.  First off because there are indeed other pop songs that have the word "dinosaur" in the title that they could be using and that are far, far worse.  Here's an example.  Have a very strong drink handy.

But also and more importantly, if you listen to the lyrics beyond the chorus of "Walk the Dinosaur", it is some seriously trippy sh*t.  And my pet crazy theory that helps me survive every damn time I, as a paleo-nerd, get to hear this song, is this:

"Walk the Dinosaur" describes daily life long after the nuclear apocalypse.

Now, let me reassure you that this isn't just me being all, "LOL, this supposedly innocuous thing is really Dark and/or Edgy!"  It's really hard not to come to such a conclusion if you try to parse the lyrics.


Wikkid Important Addendum: And I should note that I came to this conclusion independently, having no knowledge whatsoever that the band's guitarist has confirmed that, yes, that is in fact what the song is about.  I have to thank Albertonychus for sharing this article in the comments.  It's a little dated (gee willikers, a remix of one of their old songs is available as a ringtone!) but read it, because the fact that most of us (and this is a collective "us" as in, "most people, myself included") know very little of Was (Not Was) beyond this one stupid song used as a lazy music cue everywhere is a God-damn tragedy.  Turns out they've had one of the most fascinating careers imaginable.  Anyway, we now join the original version of this post in progress.


I know hardly anyone plays the song past the chorus and the "Boom-Boom Acka-lacka-lacka-BOOM" part, so to refresh your memory:

Okay.  Let's review.

The opening lines claim that the song takes place "forty million years ago", which, as we all know, doesn't place us in the Mesozoic Era, (which, naturally, was the first thing that stood out to me as a child).  But the song obviously doesn't take place sometime in the middle of the Eocene, a time when there weren't any humans, either.  Therefore, we're going to assume that "forty million years ago" simply means, "a long-ass time ago", and is therefore akin to the "You've been jealous of me since fourth grade" line in "Monster's Inc."  It's just an expression, chill out and move on.

Because, you see, there are many more interesting anachronisms that force me to make some very odd assumptions.  In a world that initially feels "prehistoric," where humans live in caves, paint all over the cave walls, and live on whatever they can find that's remotely edible, we're told by the narrator that he "lit a cigarette" and watched both "Miami Vice" and "a passing car".  This is the first indication that something's up and I can't coherently explain what without skipping to the end of the song.

So let's skip right to the final verse because there's the kicker, the smoking gun of my crazy theory:

"A shadow from the sky, much too big to be a bird.
A screaming, crashing noise louder than I've EVER heard!"

"It looked like two big silver trees that somehow learned to soar.
Suddenly, a summer breeze and a mighty lion's roar!"

Okay, stay with me here.  Ever see "Mad Max" and/or any of the many and varied lowfat "Mad Max" substitutes?  Because if so, you may note that this sounds an awful lot like someone who cannot possibly comprehend what happened trying very hard to describe a nuclear war years and years after the fact.

The story has passed down through the generations since the war sent what was left of humanity back to stone-age level technology, and has therefore been adapted to the listeners' understanding.  Nobody knows what an "atom bomb" is, and rockets are only used by the gods (more on that in a bit).  But "two big silver trees" that fly and produce ominous shadows and frightening sounds is as decent an analogy as you're going to get in this kickin' it, wasteland style, post-technology world.

A few things survived the cataclysm.  People have been able to scrounge up recordings of old television programs and have figured out a means to view them.  In true wasteland style, their society is centered on the vehicles they've managed to get working again.  I'm guessing the cigarettes are either scavenged or they're smoking the same thing as whatever the pirates in "Waterworld" were smoking.

Unfortunately, the next few verses are not included in the music video embedded above.  As an aside and because I checked by listening to this damn song three times and you are all going to suffer with me, they are also not included in this cover version by George Clinton (you're going to crap yourself when you see what prompted it) or this OTHER cover version by Queen Latifa (who altered the lyrics a bit, probably due to Executive Meddling reasons even though they hadn't bothered anyone until then because, as is obvious by now, nobody pays attention to the parts of the song that don't involve a dinosaur).  Anyway, have more evidence of a post-apocalyptic setting:

"One night I dreamed of New York
You and I roasting blue pork in the Statue of Liberty's torch!"

It wouldn't be a post-apocalyptic story without an appearance from Lady Liberty now would it?  She managed to make it through the war in an intact-enough form that survivors and their descendants still recognized her.  Due to confusion, people living in the shadow of this green goddess from another civilization keep a fire burning in the remains of her torch.

Note also that people are scavenging whatever food they can: monkeys, rattlesnakes, and the surely only-appetizing-After-the-End "blue pork".  They're also cooking it wherever they can find reliable heat.

Brace yourselves, because here comes my favorite part:

"Elvis landed in a ra-ra-rocketship!
Healed a couple of Lepers! Ah, and disappeared!"
"But where was his beard?!?"

A few tales of the pre-apocalyptic world have survived.  However, over the generations, they have mutated and become conflated and merged with other tales.  One of the results: There is a new religion that confuses Elvis with Jesus.  Because of course there is!  If you think about it, when this song was written, that wouldn't be too far-fetched.  Elvis flies around in a rocket, which in this new religion is a conveyance reserved only for divine beings.  Nobody is really sure what a rocket is exactly, except that it can fly.

And that leaves us with what is, ultimately, the most confounding part of the song: the dinosaur.  The dinosaur that is the only thing people pay attention to in this song because surely, as we have seen, it is the most fascinating element of the song, right?

"I walk the dinosaur! I walk the DINOSAUR!!!"
I'm going to make the bold assertion that the dinosaur of the title that everyone is so hung up on does not actually have a hidden meaning at all.  Yes, even at the end where the narrator claims to "kill the dinosaur".  See, Walk The Dinosaur is just a dance people do in the far-flung crappy future.  It's their equivalent of the Chicken Dance, and the narrator was sick of it so he disrupted it one night.  (Well, there is another theory as to what the chorus is referring to, but, uh, let's ignore it.  I'm trying to run a family-friendly website here.)

So there you have it.  My crazy theory about "Walk the Dinosaur".  And either I'm right, or I'm close, or it's just the narrator describing what he sees during an acid trip as it plays out.


Sketch of the Day! Have some dinosaurs, walking:

Sketchbook Page - 6/4/13


Albertonykus said...

Confirmed. (Ctrl+F "nuclear" for the relevant part.)

Trish said...

Oh my goodness, Al, thank you for that link! I will add that information to the post.

raptor_044 said...

"Because according to anyone having to come up with a music cue for anything involving dinosaurs in the past, like, thirty-odd years, there has only ever in the history of the world been one appropriate piece of music: the chorus of Was (Not Was)' "Walk the Dinosaur"."

Does it have to have "dinosaur" in the title? Otherwise, there's Weird Al's "Jurassic Park" ( ).


Big Cheefski said...

You still there, Trish!? Just came across this way too late! I enjoyed your meta-analysis of my certifiably daft lyric, and must say you found nooks and crannies I myself had well forgotten about. But you are right about the central thesis: that the dinosaurs were fried up in a nuclear holocaust in the last verse, the first two verses setting the stage for the final solution with some surreal tableaus and wordplay, mostly just for fun, but mashing-up prehistory with modern times to set up the apocalyptic last act. In general, I suppose I was trying to suggest a parallel between natural cosmic extinction (big meteor strike) with our own man-made version of how-to-end-life-as-we-know-it. (p.s., the song was suggested to me by my then 4-year-old son, Nicholas, who asked me the following question: "Daddy, when the dinosaurs come back again, will we still be here on this Earth?" I comforted him with a provisional yes, then thought about the idea that we'd one day share cave-space with those terrible lizards. Voila! Walk the Dinosaur came to life, for better or worse!