Earth tunes countdown: Kinks in the Works – Descent of (Ape) Man

Welcome to our musical countdown to Earth Day 2018; once a month, B Shawn Clark shares one of his Top Ten nature songs.

TOP TEN EARTH SONGS

By B SHAWN CLARK

In the beginning, sometime after Man took on his current human form (leaving Woman out of this for the moment) he is said to have been given dominion over “all the earth” and over “every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28), which seemed to work out well until a few days later when he ate of the Tree of Knowledge, became all full of himself, and then things got a little dicey, paradise was lost, and not so long after that: there was James Taylor, stuck with everyone else in a Traffic Jam.  

Sometime before then (according to an alternative theory at least) a man (plus a woman) were just like the other creatures on the planet, except they thought they were very clever (mainly because they could stand upright and learned how to use weapons to kill other living things – including each other) and eventually evolved to become lord and master of the other living things on the Earth, plant and animal alike, regarding them as mental midgets over whom they could have their way, which is not the same thing as saying they were wise stewards of the Earth and living things on it over which, by some cruel twist of fate, they had been given dominion.   

Either by divine providence or Natural Selection, humans became the masters of their own fate (as well as everyone else’s), monkeyin’ around with what was intended to be, based on their own concept of the Origin of their Species, and the way in which that species, and all the rest in the world, were to evolve.  

No doubt pondering all of these existential questions (plus many more) as to the way humans evolved, and then took charge of everything, like some sort of marauding primate in a china shop, The Kinks earned their place high on the list of the Ten Best Earth Day Tunes (at Number 5) with their take on the subject with their delightful lyrics (and the music they put to it) in Apeman (1970):

In man’s evolution he has created the cities and

the motor traffic rumble, but give me half a chance

and I’d be taking off my clothes and living in the jungle

‘Cos the only time that I feel at ease

Is swinging up and down in a coconut tree

Oh what a life of luxury to be like an ape man

But while musically and lyrically appealing (not to mention fun-loving), Apeman, released the same year as #6 Nature’s Way (Spirit), which also coincided with the year in which Earth Day itself was established by Congress, peaked at only #45 on the U.S. Charts (interestingly, like Earth Song by Michael Jackson, Apeman did much better in the UK – peaking at Number 5), joining the ranks of other worthwhile music that, despite an appealing riff (and a much more light-hearted approach) seems to have suffered from too many messages about too many things by a public that had become exhausted with too much protest over them:

I look out my window, but I can’t see the sky

‘Cos the air pollution is f*******up my eyes

I want to get out of this city alive

And make like an ape man

Not so keen on dying in a nuclear war, the reprised Bonzo, pining for romance in an as-yet post-apocalyptic world, reunites with his queen who had helped him to usher in this world that had gone so astray, trying, perhaps against all odds, to get her to join him in reviling (if not taking responsibility for) a world they had created – but that had gone horribly awry and from which they now had to escape:

Come and love me, be my ape man girl

And we will be so happy in my ape man world

***

I’ll be your Tarzan, you’ll be my Jane

I’ll keep you warm and you’ll keep me sane

and we’ll sit in the trees and eat bananas all day

Just like an ape man

Be they the first, fabled Love Story of the first, fully-formed human couple, or simply that of merely the first copulating human-like creatures, the ancestors of the people in charge have evolved into the same creatures that were put in charge of their own nests (and everyone else’s): the type of people we prefer not to have as roommates.  

In case you missed it: #10 James Taylor’s “Traffic Jam” ; #9 Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”; #8 Elton John’s “Circle of Life”; #7: The Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone”; #6: Spirit’s “Nature’s Way”

B Shawn Clark is a conservationist and attorney turned freelance writer who is attempting to reprise the role of Thoreau in shaping human thought and reflection through life in nature. He is currently holed up in the seaside town of Englewood, Florida at a self-styled “Man Cave” in a wooded area populated by wildlife (not counting those kids next door) beside a creek reminiscent of Walden Pond, where he continues to ponder the law, and the law of human nature.


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