Toronto Mike

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


Do 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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