Saturday, February 23, 2013

Elephant's Memory: Mongoose

Typically, I have a great memory when it comes to old songs; however, it was put to the test this past week and I was reminded of a song that I probably haven’t heard or thought of since 1971. It was on one of the forums dedicated to my home area – the Westinghouse/Turtle Creek Valley – that one of the members reminisced about the jukebox we had in high school and that this song was being played constantly.

I don’t even remember the jukebox and when she mentioned “that ‘Mongoose’ song,” I immediately thought of another song which was a local hit – Donovan’s “Riki Tiki Tavi” and it also dealt with the subject of a cobra and a mongoose. Both songs lamenting the adversarial relationship of these two creatures of India were released during the late summer 1970. While Elephant's Memory recorded for the independent Metromedia label and Donovan for Columbia's Epic Records subsidiary, both singles were pressed by Columbia (CBS).

But even stranger than that, both songs stalled side by side for two weeks in 1970 with “Riki Tiki Tavi” at #55 and “Mongoose” at #54. Like an alignment of the planets, the two songs held congruent positions on Billboard’s Hot 100 during the weeks of September 26 and October 3. By the third week, the alignment ended. “Mongoose” moved up to #52 while Donovan’s liberal usage of Rudyard Kipling’s influence dropped to the #72 slot.

By October 17, “Mongoose” inched up another two places to #50 and “Riki Tiki Tavi” dropped off the chart completely. This was the final week for the upward mobility of Elephant’s Memory’s biggest chart success; and during the week of October 24, it slowly began its descent backward down the charts.

Elephant’s Memory had an eclectic career. Carly Simon, believe it or not, was a member for a short time in 1968 - but I am not sure any recorded output with her exists. The band first came to the attention of the public when several of their songs appeared on the “Midnight Cowboy” soundtrack in 1969 earning them a gold record.

From 1972-1976, Elephant’s Memory served as the backup band for John Lennon and Yoko Ono and were rechristened in this role as the Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band. Lennon later produced and contributed to their sole release on The Beatles' Apple Records label.

Well my memory certainly wasn’t like an elephant on this one, as this was a song I truly had forgotten. It’s different; and the band’s influences were multiple – a little funk, a little Latin, a little jazz, and a lot of rock ‘n roll.

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