Z is for at the ZOO

Yes, what ARE they talking about? I’ve been paranoid about gathered birds…

Simon & Garfunkel had been performing on their “Old Friends” tour this year, and I had been considering going to one of the shows in Massachusetts. Then I heard the show had to be canceled because of Art Garfunkel’s vocal paresis.

Old Friends/Bookends was the last pair of songs, segued together, on the first side of the 1968 S&G album, Bookends. The collection also featured “Mrs. Robinson”, “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “America”.

At the Zoo was the last song on the second side of the album. (Remember when albums had “sides”?) Here’s a video of the song.

I recall really liking this recording when I was in high school, whereas my good friend Carol HATED it, and also the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever; odd the things one recalls. And I was particularly fascinated by the attributes that Paul Simon assigned to the animals.

Someone told me
It’s all happening at the zoo.

I do believe it,
I do believe it’s true.

It’s a light and tumble journey
From the East Side to the park;
Just a fine and fancy ramble
To the zoo.

But you can take the crosstown bus
If it’s raining or it’s cold,
And the animals will love it
If you do.

Somethin’ tells me
It’s all happening at the zoo.

The monkeys stand for honesty,

Could this be a reference to the see no evil/speak no evil/hear no evil depiction of monkeys? (And why IS that?)

Giraffes are insincere,

I suppose that could be because they wouldn’t/couldn’t look you in the eye.

And the elephants are kindly but
They’re dumb.

I suppose this is a function of the pachyderm’s lumbering gait. But I was watching an episode of CBS News 60 Minutes, rerun on July 4, that indicates that elephants are considerably more sophisticated than we might have thought. “Researchers listening to elephant sounds and observing their behavior are compiling an elephant dictionary.”

Orangutans are skeptical
Of changes in their cages,

I mean, aren’t we all wary of change? Perhaps they were picked because they are fellow primates, or because of the scansion of the word “orangutans”.

And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.

Ah, the inmate running the asylum.
Actually, it seems that the understanding of keeping animals in zoos has improved tremendously since I was a child, with more room for the creatures to roam, e.g.

“Paul Simon released a children’s book titled At the Zoo (ISBN 0-385-41771-3) which combines the lyrics of the song with the very detailed illustrations of Valerie Michaut. To make this book appropriate for children, Simon made changes and additions, including identifying Rum as a beaver.”

Zebras are reactionaries,

Because they see everything in black and white?

Antelopes are missionaries,

You know, the horns and the markings on their foreheads rather look like a cross, I believe.

Pigeons plot in secrecy,

Yes, what ARE they talking about? I’ve been paranoid about gathered birds since I saw that Hitchcock film.

And hamsters turn on frequently.

I suspect that hamster cages could generate lots of energy, if only we knew how to harness it. In that aforementioned children’s book, the hamsters are given headlights, which they “turn on frequently”.

What a gas! You gotta come and see
At the zoo.

ABC Wednesday

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

35 thoughts on “Z is for at the ZOO”

  1. Oh Simon & Garfunkel – the memories their songs bring back eh? One of my favourite groups of all time. I even went to see them in London many many years ago! Think I will play some more! Thanks Rog!

  2. Interesting take on the word “Zoo”! Absolutely love your commentary at various parts. Yes, what ARE those birds talking about? HA! Thanks for the smiles.

  3. This is so interesting! Yesterday I watched Simon and Garfunkle’s video from the Central Park concert in 1976 and the one from their Old Friends first tour. I love them! Was fun to read your post for the day! Have a great week, Roger!


  4. I am a funny generation for Simon and Garfunkle but nevertheless I did think their music was great and their lyrics even better. Thanks for a fun post.

  5. Oh man! You take me back to my youth! I remember this song and how it had such a fun lilting melody…S & G were so popular then.

  6. Thanks for taking us to the zoo Roger! It’s sad the concert was canceled but thank goodness for S&G’s albums, and yes, I can remember Side One and Side Two!

  7. I remember seeing them perform live at UCLA around 1968. Which is absurd because I couldn’t possibly have even been born at the time.
    Great memories.

  8. I loved that duo! Great post for the day! Thanks for the video as well!

  9. I remember a few years back, the zoo in the city where I lived used that song for their TV spots.

    Personally, I can’t think of Simon and Garfunkle without thinking of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.

    The reason for that line in the song Scarborough Fair is so macabre…

    It’s been fun being on the team with you, looking forward to another 26 week adventure!

  10. Simon and Garfunkle are also my favourites. Great music! Thanks for this post! It’s fun to read the lyrics of Zoo, accompanied by many photos.

  11. I love these guys! We recently saw Art Garfunkel and absolutely loved him, even on his own. Their sound brings back so many memories of days gone by…wow!

  12. What an interesting post! Love the sound of the children’s book – ingenious the way it was made suitable for children!

    I’ve always loved Art Garfunkel’s voice. I had no idea he had vocal problems – did he get it fixed, do you know? He had such a pure, sweet, soothing voice, which actually sounded quite effortless. It’s a shame to think of him struggling with that.

  13. Oh those plotting pigeons, possibly planning the great escape from the zoo. This song must have passed me by but great take on the theme.

  14. I’m probably one of the only people in my age group that knows who you are talking about- and I love them! Good choice for our last entry!

  15. Used to love Simon & Garfunkel, especially “Mrs. Robinson” (that probably is not the correct title – I have a major problem remembering titles of songs, books, movies, anything like that) from “The Graduate”. Haven’t listened to anything of theirs in years – I need to have a listen again, I think!

    Love your post!

  16. Now I understand your comment. Funny how I’ve listened to S&G’s music for years but haven’t always registered all the lyrics. Thanks for the help with that and for taking the time to leave a comment on my blog.

  17. Wonderful how you illustrated the lyrics with great pictures and interesting comments! Thanks for sharing. And thanks for stopping by my blog and taking time to comment on my Zen Garden post — I appreciate it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial