Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Surfin' Bird (But Were Afraid to Ask)

musicDo you watch Family Guy? I do. In 2008 the Family Guy episode "I Dream of Jesus" gave "Surfin' Bird" new life. In fact, if you've ever watched "I Dream of Jesus", you've likely burst into "Surfin' Bird" at one point or another.

Here's Peter singing "Surfin' Bird" in that episode of Family Guy.

Now that we're on the same page, it's time to learn about this Frankenstein monster of a hit that was reborn a couple of years ago.

Surfin' Bird was a hit for The Trashmen back in 1963. Here's their version that reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

I referred to "Surfin' Bird" as a Frankenstein monster of a hit, because it's actually a combination of two R&B hits by The Rivingtons: "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" and "The Bird's the Word".

Here's The Rivington's "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow", a minor hit in 1962.

And here's their "The Bird's the Word", even less of a hit in 1963.

The most famous cover of "Surfin' Bird" belongs to The Ramones who featured it on their 1977 album Rocket to Russia.

Not to be outdone by The Ramones, The Cramps also covered "Surfin' Bird" on their debut EP, Gravest Hits. I actually prefer this version from The Cramps to The Ramones' version.

"Surfin' Bird" was also covered by Pee-Wee Herman in 1987's Back to the Beach, a movie I remember loving in theatres 23 summers ago.

And not to be outdone by Pee-Wee, German thrash metal band Sodom covered "Surfin' Bird" in 2001.

But prior to Family Guy, what was the best use of "Surfin' Bird" in pop culture? That's easy, it was the way Stanley Kubrick juxtaposed the realities of Vietnam with the supreme silliness of The Trashmen's song in Full Metal Jacket. We'll close with that great scene.

Now that's everything you ever wanted to know about "Surfin' Bird" (but were afraid to ask).


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Buffalo Boy Mike

Dont forget with all the beach references The Beach Boys covered Papa Oow Mow Mow on their cult fav album Party!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfHTs_94uys

July 17, 2010 @ 2:33 PM

Christopher

Discovered your blog... really like it (former Torontonian here) and now... that song is stuck in my head. :)

July 17, 2010 @ 11:57 PM

Hobo Joe

So here's what you need to do: Position each clip right at the second the song kicks in, then as fast you can, hit Play on all of them. It's a megamix that may blow your head apart. And for added fun, scroll back and forth between the Kubrick & Pee Wee clips. In the end, it's Pee Wee left standing with the faintness of the The Cramps' version.

July 18, 2010 @ 12:47 PM

Todd

I love Family Guy!!! Say Mike, Is your refrigerator running, cause if it is, it's probally running a little like you... Homosexually! - Peter Griffin. Just kidding man, great blog, I love the Ramones version

July 18, 2010 @ 6:40 PM

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