# 3 Guarded by Monkeys

Guarded By Monkeys by Cracker from 2002 Forever Album

Still using the random song selection process. The song Shameless came up as the next track. But i realized that i had to go back to Guarded By Monkeys to put the story for Shameless into the proper context.  ( Shameless will be tomorrow’s track).

Guarded By Monkeys was to be the title track of the album that was to be the 5th Cracker studio album.  At the last minute the title was changed to Forever.  In retrospect this was an unwise choice.  But at the time it didn’t matter to me that much.  It was an easy compromise to make with management and the record label.  Someone had decided that Forever would be the song worked to radio (it wasn’t).  It was argued that Guarded by Monkeys is really kind of a weird title for an album. Meh… maybe.   At the time Johnny liked the song Forever best of all the songs on the album. Since he liked Forever so much it didn’t seem like a big deal to change the title.

In 2000 we renegotiated our deal with Virgin Records.  They were paying us a lot of money for making albums that were not selling platinum or gold anymore*.  In exchange for a lump sum buyout we agreed to make our records on the cheap.   We Began producing them ourselves in our own studio under the watchful eye of engineer John Morand.

Personally i feel the lack of sales had more to do with a change in the  corporate culture at Virgin records than the lack of “hits” on our records. But every artist with dwindling sales says things like this.   At Virgin USA, the rock friendly President (and decent human being)  Phil Quartararo had been replaced by the decidedly pop oriented  (and hapless)  Englishmen,  Ray Cooper and Ashley Newton. Cooper and Newton were closely attached to the success of The Spice Girls, the highly overrated Massive Attack and sundry  English pop drivel.  They definitely did not understand Cracker.  (or America) But that was fair. We didn’t understand them either.

When Cooper showed up at the mixing sessions for Gentleman’s Blues we immediately thought of Austin Powers. Right down to the weird teeth. From that day forward we simply referred to him as Austin Powers.  Ashley Newton was for some reason dubbed “The Football Hooligan”. I’m not sure exactly why.  I think it was because he was very much not a football hooligan. We only met him once.

Other record labels were doing just fine marketing rock to the masses. Not Virgin. Under the tutelage of Austin Powers and  The Football Hooligan Virgin went off in a very pop direction. By 2000 it was pretty much suicidal to drop a song that rocked like this to the new pop oriented Virgin Records.  (So back to my original point) It’s entirely possible that we would have had hits from Gentleman’s Blues or Forever if we’d been on a different label. I’ve always felt like this track would have done well at rock radio if it had been given a promotional push with that format.

Then there is the matter that throughout the album Forever the phrase “guarded by monkeys” is repeatedly  used.  Four different  songs (once in spanish).  This started as an inside joke between Mark Linkous and I.  We often wondered how we would fake a The Madcap Laughs (Syd Barrett)  or a Hi, How Are You (Daniel Johnston).   It was decided that one would go about writing and recording the songs as usual but in every song a monkey would be mentioned.

I had this quirky bit of music and one day i discovered you could sing the phrase “You are so beautiful you should be guarded by monkeys” to it. Previously i had used a similar line in the song Brides of Neptune: “that mysterious cargo is still guarded by monkeys”. The words stuck.  Also it should be noted certain Hindu temples in Indonesia are guarded by hordes of monkeys.  I don’t know where i came up with this fact but it stuck in my head and the metaphor works in both songs.

A note on the guitar riff.  On most Cracker songs the parts you hear Johnny Hickman play are the parts he has written.  This song is an exception because that riff that starts the song is from my demo.  It’s my riff.  Not only is it my riff but i unconsciously and accidentally lifted it from an old song of mine.  It’s a slowed down version of my riff in I’m Gonna Eat You Up by Box O’ Laffs.   Regardless johnny plays the shit out of the riff.   And his solo goes beyond inspired to disturbed.  (even Mariah Carey is inspired. True artists go beyond that to disturbed)

The story in the song is less interesting.  A man is obsessed with a woman. Or alternately it is an object that he so desires it as if he is obsessed with a beautiful woman.  The man is apparently adept at cryptography and computer hacking. The object of his desire may also be adept at both of these as well. Songs sometimes don’t have linear and specific narratives,  that is why they are songs and not short stories.  Elements remain unformed and ambiguous, and that is what makes a song interesting. Songs can have multiple parallel meanings and they can all be true.  They are quantum in that way.

The video for this song was filmed while we were on tour in Alaska.  This the underground tunnel that connects the two wings of the Holiday Inn in Anchorage.  The man who comes down the steps and looks into the camera was the coffee vender from the lobby.  He was curious as to what we were doing.  This is completely unstaged.

* My view on record deals.  If the record company gives you more money than you recoup on record sales THAT is a bet that the artist has won.  Nothing of which to be ashamed.  I am happy to say cracker won it’s bet with virgin.  The fact they bought our deal out and then gave us another smaller deal was also a win.  Because right about the time we got the smaller deal widespread file sharing decimated CD sales.  For derivatives traders cracker sold two: out-of-the-money  calls to the record label.

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TAB A: Cello introduction
:    .   .  . .| ..  .   .   | .   .  . .| ...   .
g|| -----------|-2-0---------|-----------|----------- ||
a|| -2-3-------|-------------|-2-3-------|----------- ||

TAB B: String accompaniment of Tab A
E|  -----------|-------------|-----------|-5--------- |
b|  -----------|-1---0-1-0-1-|-----------|----------- |
g|  -2-----0---|-------------|-2-----0---|----------- |

TAB C: Power guitar intro: repeat 1st bar x3
:    .   .   .   .    |  .   .   .   .
E|| -5-4-5-4-8-8-8-A- ||-5-5-5-5-5^5^5^5^-|

[Am] You are so [Am maj7] beautiful
[Am7] You should be [Am] hid deep in the jungle
On [Am maj7] some forgotten island

I heard about you
I got your PGP key
I write you letters every day

[Am] You are so [F] beautiful
[D] You should be guarded by mon-[Am]-keys
You are [F] so beauti-[D]-ful


I have invented
51 daylights
This does not seem to impress you

You are so beautiful
Sublime and classified
I can’t stop thinking about you


[BREAK (Chords as CHORUS)]

[BREAK 2 x4 (USE TABS A & B)]
[Am] [F] [G] [E7]


CHORUS VARIATION: [(same chords)]
You are so beautiful
You should be hid deep in the jungle
You are so beautiful


[(continue chorus chords to fade)]
You are so beautiful
You are so beautiful

38 Responses to “# 3 Guarded by Monkeys”

  1. Dan Hogan Says:

    I am enjoying the blog.

  2. The coffe vender is genius editing. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the next 297 stories.

  3. Ed McMahon Says:

    This is my Favorite song from the Forever CD, I always wondered why songs from GB and Forever didn’t get more air play. Thanks for the blog, this is great!

  4. Nice to see Brandi (y)? Hope she’s doing well.


  5. Spike and Mona Says:

    You guys are so beautiful … Cool story. Thanks for the inside skinny.

  6. It was supposed to say “Moderator Challenge” between the brackets in the prior post. Got treated as bad HTML apparently. I’ll stop wasting bytes now. Bold?

  7. Excellent blog…I can’t wait to read the other 297 posts.

    Cracker fan since I was 7 years old

  8. Terri O Says:

    Ironic you all walking away from the bassist……..

  9. Love the atmospheric stuff on Forever – this and ‘Brides of Neptune’. Cellos, Kenny’s keyboards, Brandy’s excellent backing vocal, Johnny’s weird-ass solo. It feels like a Cracker movie – “On the Road to Borneo” or some such exotica. Brings me back to late Doors albums.
    The poetry derives as much from what’s left out as what is visible.

    • Brides of Neptune is such a beautiful song. I often waffle over which is my ‘favourite’ Cracker CD, and it’s usually a contest between Forever and Gentleman’s Blues. I kind of feel sorry for the people who think Cracker didn’t do anything past 1993, though I do my best to educate.

  10. Big Dipper Says:

    Always dug the monkey references throughout the album….great song…Johnny’s solo is “disturbed” and love the way he and the band wraps up that solo…pure Cracker magic!

  11. you should be hid deep in the Jungle!! …. awesome insight, thank you David.

  12. I love “Forever” and this is my favorite song on the album.

  13. Michael Says:

    Interesting stuff

  14. Blind Jogger Says:

    I use the Phrase ‘You should be guarded by monkees” on my wife when she is raging at me…. Man.. does it piss here off..

  15. Michael Says:

    Nice work

  16. I love Forever! Always loved all the monkey references. Thanks for sharing!!

  17. Your wall of sound is transcendant. The first time I heard this song I had to pull off of the freeway because I could barely see with all that massive color flying around. The geek in me loves the PGP thing so much.

  18. “Austin Powers and the Football Hooligans” sounds like a great band in the making, actually.

  19. Steve Voorhees Says:

    Thank you so much for doing this, Mr. Lowery. The repeated monkey references always intrigued me. Looking forward to the rest.

    Come back to Pennsylvania soon.

  20. Ade Brown Says:

    Monkeys … lizards … what next? The Owl service?

    Excellent insights again. Thanks for the music.

  21. interesting stuff, loving the insights. always wondered about all the monkey references on this album. A great, great album.
    Get yr arses back to the UK.

  22. the tunnel rugs make sense now.

  23. Great stuff, this will sell some CDs.

  24. Johnny could play the shit out of anything. He could play the shit out of Happy Trails. He could play the shit out of Village Green Preservation Society.

  25. That’s why they are songs not short stories, brilliant. Enjoying the hell out of this blog. Thanks David.

  26. Big Dipper Says:

    I always thought the album title Forever was a little safe. One one hand I think Guarded by Monkeys would have been a great title for the album. But then again, it might not have worked when I had to tell my friends to check out the new Cracker album, Guarded by Monkeys.

  27. zendixie Says:

    love it! what is that pawn shop prize that johnny is playing?
    that rug really ties the tunnel together.

  28. VelvetElvis Says:

    I’ve been meaning to ask one of you guys this somewhere.

    I’ve downloaded a lot of Camper and Cracker albums over the years from Napster forward to torrents, though I did eventually buy the Cigarettes and Carrot Juice Box and I’ve owned and lost physical copies of about half the Cracker discography at some point or another. I’ve always made a point of buying stuff at shows, etc.

    Can I just toss a $20 bill on stage and live guilt free from then on or does it need to be Scotch or something?

    Can I redeem myself that way?

  29. Always thought this album would’ve got more notice if it was called Guarded By Monkeys. Same with Countrysides > Ironic Mullet. Maybe that would’ve offended some mulleteers?

  30. Dr. F. Zen Hinkopf Says:

    Ach, where to begin. I had expected good scholarship from the man involved with the genesis of the Cracker opi, or at least accuracy, but in fact the explanation leaves much to be desired, and the interpretations veer between simply misinformed and sophomoric. You refer to the missing Linkous, but where are the citations, man? I hesitate to even suggest that you would lead us astray intentionally, but the suspicion is nagging und inescapable.

    “Guarded by Monkeys” an ersatz Barrett, an inside joke? Surely you jest. Yes, this reference to the human genome, this prescient realization that our species’ survival depends on our Affenkind is something more, should have been the album title.

    And to suggest that the lyric is “PGP Key” and infer that the protagonist is a programmer is ridiculous and sloppy in the extreme. Clearly this is proto-Polynesian Piji-Piki, literally the “Fijian Cordyline fruticosa plant arising from the dark understory,” and clearly a reference to the protagnonist’s intended cannibalization of his love, which of course would have to have been expressed obliquely in the missionized milieu from which the phrase famously originated.

  31. [...] send the dead out with a mysterious cargo that they can never get near because it’s “guarded by monkeys”  (see post  #3 guarded by monkeys).  But they aren’t really sad.  They are lost [...]

  32. I alway figured that the reference was to the flying Monkeys the guarded the castle in Oz, where beautiful Dorothy was being held.

  33. I always wondered what “51 daylights” referred to. don’t why this one thing in the whole oevre filled with opaque lines bugged me, but anyway… ?

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