Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 25th 2020
SInging instead of stinging
Where I live, the heat is starting to hit as summer comes a little earlier than we were really hoping for. With the heat instantly comes the flies, and soon will come the mosquitos, and then there'll be all other manner of insects infesting our world… which, to be fair, is their world as well.
So, I was out the front talking with a neighbour and complaining about the flies already bugging us (pun not intended). Out of the blue, he started singing the AC/DC song on this list. I laughed as I slapped at an ant crawling up my leg… and he started singing the Adam Ant song on this list. And that did it – I got to thinking.
So, thanks to Ty and his strange sense of humour and incredible timing, I was inspired to write this list. I spent the afternoon going through my CD and LP collection and, in quick time I had this list of songs about insects.
So, some rules! The creatures have to be insects. Spiders are not insects, by the way, so I'll just get that out the way right now. Then the usual rules – one song per artist, I have to like the song. And, like many lists lately, this is quite the eclectic selection of music.
Now, in time for summer: Insect Songs!
'Flight of the Bumblebee' composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1900)
Let's start classical! This is an incredible piece of music. Most people are familiar with the Rachmaninov arrangement for piano, but I went hunting for a violin version and found this one. There are finger movements on the neck that would leave rock guitarists quivering in fear. This is such an amazing piece of music, and Katica Illényi's version here is stunning.
'Bumble Boogie' by B. Bumble And The Stingers (1961)
This is a cheat. A big cheat. I know. This song is technically a rock version of the song we just listened to. But it is different enough for me to want to include it. I love it. This is more a version of the Rachmaninov arrangement, first done in the 1940s by one of those big jazz bands so popular at the time. But the piano playing and backing instrumentation here – so good.
'Elusive Butterfly' by Bobby Lind (1965)
My dad liked this song a lot, so I heard it quite a bit growing up. It is a nice bit of 1960s pop, with decent guitar playing, a strong melody and actually really depressing lyrics. But the song is so very good. And Lind's voice is good. Whatever happened to him?
'Spanish Flea' by Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass (1966)
This is one of those tunes that, when you hear it, you go, "Hey! I know that one!" It has been used so often and in so many places. There are versions everywhere. But I have included Herb Alpert's because that's the album I have it on, courtesy of my father. It is such a jaunty little tune and it always brings a smile to my face.
'Antmusic' by Adam And The Ants (1980)
Even if Ty hadn't sung it, this song would have been here in a heart-beat. The percussion-heavy tune, Ant's voice and weird lyrics have made this a New Wave classic. Oh, and I recently finished Ant's autobiography – it is a truly wonderful read and I recommend it as much as this song.
'Dead Cicada' by The Hee Bee Gee Bees (as The Beagles) (1981)
Okay, a comedy track, but, as I have mentioned so many times in the past, I really enjoyed The Hee Bee Gee Bees. And this song, a great parody of The Eagles, is just wonderful. I just wish they had released more than the two albums.
'Insects' by Oingo Boingo (1982)
Oingo Boingo had a string of bizarre songs in the 80s, and this is one of the weirdest. It's more a soundscape than a song at times. But I really like it. And for this column's weird trivia – Danny Elfman, soundtrack composer extraordinaire (Batman, Wanted, etc. etc.), was a member of Oingo Boingo. Member? Okay, – singer-songwriter.
'Madam Butterfly' by Malcolm McLaren (1984)
McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols and owner of a fetishwear shop, released a heap of albums in the 80s and 90s that I bought. One was a collection of classical pieces given hip-hop/dance make-overs. This is one of the tracks. The old Puccini opera thrown into a strange music-scape. Bizarre, but it is so listenable. And when that aria hits! Wow!
The title track from the 1985 album, I even own this one on 45. Standard AC/DC goodness, really. That driving guitar, Johnson's voice and the tightest band in rock behind them. The video, by the way, is one of a suite of songs put together into a continuous visual narrative. It was something rather odd and a great way to promote the album in the MTV era.
'The Fly' by U2 (1991)
Achtung Baby was the first album where U2 decided to really start experimenting, which last for all of the 90s. This song is one of those that shows the direction the band would head down until the year 2000. It's strange but you can't help but listen to it.
'Butterfly' by Crazy Town (1999)
With a guitar bit stolen… sorry, sampled from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and soothing backing music, this is a pleasant enough song from these rockers. It was everywhere in 2000, and at the time I grew a little sick of it, but now, looking back, it's fine. But the album it comes from… what a terrible experience. Nothing is like this track. Stick with this single.
'Yellow Butterfly' by The Scorpions (1999)
And we finish with the rockers from Germany, showing their heavy metal roots a little more than the songs that are better known away from mainland Europe. This shows their musicianship and their great music-writing abilities. The lyrics, though… odd. Still, I do enjoy this song. And, no scorpions are not insects either…
And there we are, 12 songs about or featuring insects of all types. Lots of great tracks from lots of varied musical genres. And just in time for the Australian summer and all the six-legged critters that brings out of the woodwork.