My colleague Jenny Sussin interviewed me on a break during our work at a big tech conference this year. It’s offers yet one more peek into the history of Moose In My House.
This intentional dismantling of the old jazz standard, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” was a lot of fun the handful of times we attempted it with the other-wise fusion jazz minded group headed by Austin, Texas guitarist Mitch Watkins. I found it actually took a lot of concentration to play this bad. But there’s something strangely pleasing to me about it. Maybe it’s was a natural venting of frustration from playing this song for real about 1000 times too many.
Monkey Motel has been the second most popular tune from the Laningham writing splurge of the late 1980s/early 1990s. A friend sent me this photo of Monkey coming up on her XM Satellite Radio receiver while on a drive somewhere. She said everyone in her car promptly broke into ho-oo-ho-oo-ha-aa-ha-aas as the song reached the chorus, resulting in a 14-car pileup where, fortunately, no one was injured.
I wrote the song in 1990 with a great deal of editing assistance from my wife, Elizabeth. I would bring draft after draft to her with an enthusiastic, “How about this?” She would listen with a straight face, unmoved by my latest, hurried effort, and point me back to the lyric writing desk. Introspective passages such as following would have never seen the light of day without Elizabeth’s uncompromising editorial stand.
I climbed up to 20, the room was pretty funny
there were monkey pictures on the wall.
Pile of hay for a bed, on the telephone it said
three bananas for a local call
Again, as with Moose in My House, the first idea that came to me was the little hook, who-a-ha-a-who-a-ha-a BUMP BUMP ERRRRRR — the who-a-ha-a being sung, the BUMPs coming from the bass drum and the ERRRRRR being a guitar power chord.
Man, this is getting too deep.
When I recorded it, I could tell it was still missing something in the vocal. My voice was not cartoonish enough. So I slowed the tape down (I was using analog tape them) to record my vocals and then sped the finished product back up to normal, full monkey speed. That gave it the edge I was looking for. It was also easier to say, When you’re dreamin’ and you’re drivin’ you should start realizin’ that you’ve driven just a little too far, at the slower speed. The fabulous Bud Guinn from Dallas, Texas provided the smokin’ guitar work on the final version.
Monkey Motel remains popular on satellite radio and I’ve heard it is often used as a first dance at weddings in Turkey, Texas. That may not be true, but I did hear it somewhere.
I was living in Manhattan in the Fall of 1984, playing drums, working a temp job, taking in the amazing sights and sounds, and being selective about the smells. Walking down Broadway near 79th street, the sound of Mitch Miller and the Gang’s male tenor chorus came rushing into my head as some old song blarred out of some speakers in front of a trinkets store. Then, as often happens to me, the sound morphed into a sample that my mind used to play the monotone chorus of “There’s a Moose in My House.” Where did that idea come from and why did it pop into my head? It had been hanging around for a while. But now I new I was on a mission. All I had to hear was that chorus and I was convinced there was a song to be written.
A few weeks later I sat down and the tune poured out in about two hours. Never had a song come to me that easily before or since. After it won the novelty song contest in Houston in 1989, it found its way to Dr Demento, Rick Dees, Scott Shannon on Pirate Radio, and plenty of other “morning zoos.”
I performed it live one time in Austin, Texas on Halloween in 1985. It was impromptu, unrehearsed, and quite lame. But the delirious Austin Sixth Street audience seemed to enjoy it just the same. I was wearing a very large tutu, so that may have had something to do with it.
I wrote it in 1985. This recording is the one that won a novelty song contest in 1989 on a Houston morning show by John Landers. Can’t remember the name of the station. I’m still trying to find a copy of the original recording I did in my studio apartment on a four-track cassette. It had a trombone solo by Chris Seiter, which was quite cool.
This version was recorded in 1987 with Jeff Kopang engineering.
I’ve posted more tunes here.