Shock the Monkey


"Shock the Monkey"
Single by Peter Gabriel
from the album Peter Gabriel (Security)
B-side"Soft Dog"
Released20 September 1982 (1982-09-20) [1]
Recorded23 June 1981 – 10 July 1982
Songwriter(s)Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel singles chronology
"I Have the Touch"
"Shock the Monkey"
"I Don't Remember (Live)"

"Shock the Monkey" is a song by English rock musician Peter Gabriel. It was released in September 1982 as the second single from his fourth self-titled album, issued in the US under the title Security.

The song peaked at number 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[3] The song was Gabriel's first Top 40 hit in the US. In the UK, the song charted at number 58. According to AllMusic, the song has a "relentlessly repeated hook" that "sounded nothing like anything else on the radio at the time".[4]


Due to its title and the content of the video, the song is frequently assumed to be either an animal rights song or a reference to the famous experiments by Stanley Milgram described in his book Obedience to Authority.[5] It is neither, but the Gabriel song "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" from his 1986 album So does deal directly with Milgram. Gabriel has described "Shock the Monkey" as "a love song" that examines how jealousy can release one's basic instincts; the monkey is not a literal monkey, but a metaphor for one's feelings of jealousy.[6] Gabriel has mentioned that the song's lyrical motif was inspired by King Kong's lightning powers in the film King Kong vs. Godzilla.[7]

Music video

The track is known for its bizarre and disturbing music video, written and directed by Brian Grant of MGMM Studios.[8] The video was played heavily in the early days of MTV. It features Gabriel (in white face paint) and a frightened-looking capuchin monkey. Gabriel appears in two guises; one is as a businessman/CIA-MK-Ultra-type in a dark suit, and the other as a "modern primitive" shaman painted and dressed in white with geometric markings in black on his face.[9] The video cuts between two rooms, each vaguely resembling an office. A movie projector plays zoo footage of a gibbon (technically, a lesser ape, not a monkey) in both rooms. As the video proceeds, events in the 'normal' (black suit) office become increasingly irregular and disturbing with objects in the room in increasing disarray. Gabriel displays increasing pressure, anger, and fear as the chaos occurs. The office footage is increasingly interspersed with black-and-white footage of Gabriel fleeing from something unknown in a wilderness, and a disoriented Gabriel in different settings including central London in what looks to be the office of a hospital. At the end of the video, the dark-suited Gabriel merges with the face-painted Gabriel. In the final shot, the two Gabriels' faces are superimposed over that of the gibbon.


"Shock the Monkey" was released as a 7-inch picture disc in addition to the 7-inch and 12-inch black vinyl singles. Club DJ remix service Hot Tracks crafted an 8:12 version that intersperses verses and choruses sung by Gabriel in German with the more familiar English lyrics. A seven-minute-long concert version of the song appears on Gabriel's album Plays Live (1983). It is also included on the compilation albums Greenpeace (1985), Shaking the Tree (1990) and Hit (2003). The music video appears on the DVD compilation Play (2004).


Remix contest

An online contest was held in September 2006 by Realworld Remixed in which musicians and engineers were invited to submit a remix of the song. The original tracks were made available for download, offering an opportunity to work with the raw material from a hit song. The winner was Multiman's "Simian Surprise".[12]


Chart (1982–83) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[13] 25
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[14] 10
UK Singles (OCC)[15] 58
US Billboard Hot 100[16] 29
US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 1
US Billboard Dance/Disco 26
US Billboard Hot Black Singles[17] 64

Coal Chamber featuring Ozzy Osbourne version

"Shock the Monkey"
Coal Chamber-Shock The Monkey (CD Single)-Front.jpg
Single by Coal Chamber featuring Ozzy Osbourne
from the album Chamber Music
B-side"El Cu Cuy"
  • 3:33 (radio edit)
  • 3:45 (album version)
Songwriter(s)Peter Gabriel
Producer(s)Josh Abraham
Coal Chamber singles chronology
"Not Living"
"Shock the Monkey"
Ozzy Osbourne singles chronology
"Buried Alive"
"Shock the Monkey"

The nu metal band Coal Chamber covered "Shock the Monkey" on their 1999 album Chamber Music. The cover featured guest vocals by Ozzy Osbourne. The music video was directed by Dean Karr. It shows the band playing with Osbourne and it has shots of a monkey.

Track listing

Maxi single
1."Shock the Monkey"3:45
2."Shock the Monkey" (Gorilla Mix)3:35
3."El Cu Cuy" (Alternate Mix)4:20
4."Shock the Monkey" (music video)3:33
Promo single
1."Shock the Monkey" (LP Version)3:45

Chart positions

Chart (1999) Position
US Main[18] 26
UK[19] 83


Coal Chamber

  • B. Dez Fafara – lead vocals
  • Meegs Rascón – guitar
  • Rayna Foss-Rose – bass
  • Mike "Bug" Cox – drums


See also


  1. ^ "Shock The Monkey".
  2. ^ Reed, Ryan. "Peter Gabriel Albums From Worst To Best". StereoGum. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 246.
  4. ^ Allmusic song review. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  5. ^ iFilm synopsis. Retrieved 7 June 2008.[dead link]
  6. ^ Chris Welch (1998). The Secret Life of Peter Gabriel: p.136
  7. ^ Chris Welch (1998). The Secret Life of Peter Gabriel: p.140
  8. ^ a b Durrell Bowman (2016). Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener's Companion. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 110–112. ISBN 9781442252004.
  9. ^ Sarah Hill (2017). Peter Gabriel, From Genesis to Growing Up. Routledge. p. 189. ISBN 9781351554299.
  10. ^ 12-inch, 33⅓ rpm promotional single record sleeve credits (1982). Geffen Records
  11. ^ Daryl Easlea (2018). Without Frontiers: The Life & Music of Peter Gabriel. Omnibus. pp. 320–321. ISBN 9781787590823.
  12. ^ Singh, Amrit. "Remix The Monkey". Stereogum.
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. p. 120. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ Canada Top Singles peak
  15. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  16. ^ Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 222.
  18. ^ "Mainstream Rock Songs: Coal Chamber Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Coal Chamber Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 20 September 2017.