Elton John – Crocodile Rock

Some songs make you think about social issues, some make you feel good, some make you sad, some make you think of certain people…and some take you back to a place in time when you first remember it. This one does the later for me. It’s not Elton’s best single whatsoever but I heard it a lot later on when I was 13 and I’m 13 again when I hear it and it’s 1980. I must have heard it before many times but it took hold for some reason then.

This came along in the fifties revival that happened in the 1970s. This is not a type of song I would normally like but it transports me back and I like it.

Crocodile Rock was a fifties sounding single that was a massive hit. It peaked in 1972 at #1 in the Billboard 100, #5 in the UK, #1 in Canada, #1 in New Zealand.

Elton and Bernie Taupin wrote the song.

Bernie Taupin “a strange dichotomy because I don’t mind having created it, but it’s not something I would listen to.”

From Songfacts

This tells the story of a guy in the ’50s and ’60s who frequented a restaurant where the patrons loved an obscure dance called the Crocodile Rock. Because of all the events that happened in the ’60s, however, this unknown little dance forever vanished into history and no one cared anymore. Even his girlfriend, who also enjoyed “burning up to the Crocodile Rock,” left him. It’s a catchy little song with really sad lyrics.

There is a distinct ’50s musical theme in this song. Elton said that it contains flavors of a lot of his favorite early rock songs, including “Little Darlin’,” “At The Hop” and “Oh Carol,” as well as songs by The Beach Boys and Eddie Cochran. The title is a play on the Bill Haley song “See You Later Alligator” – Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” even gets a mention, as that’s what the other kids were listening to while our hero was doing the Crocodile Rock.

This was the first of many #1 singles by Elton John in the US. His first in the UK came in 1976 with Kiki Dee (“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”). His first solo #1 in the UK was “Sacrifice” in 1990.

The falsetto hook from Pat Boone’s 1962 hit, “Speedy Gonzales” has some similar “La La”s, and that song’s writers spoke out, accusing Elton of plagiarism. There was no legal action taken, and Elton has copped to the influence, saying “Crocodile Rock” was “a really blatant homage to ‘Speedy Gonzales’ and all the great ’50s and ’60s records that we used to love.”

A precursor to this song is Elton’s 1970 single “Rock And Roll Madonna,” which pays tribute to the musical form. “This time I wanted to do something that was a send-up of the early ’60s rather than an out-and-out rocker,” he told Beat Instrumental. I wanted it to be a tribute to all those people I used to go and see as a kid. That’s why I used the Del Shannon-type vocals and that bit from Pat Boone’s ‘Speedy Gonzales.'”

Elton added: “We also tried to get the worst organ sound possible… something like Johnny and The Hurricanes used to manage to produce. This type of song is actually a very hard thing to write because the temptation is to try too hard and go berserk.”

Don McLean has mentioned that this is similar to his hit “American Pie,” which came out the previous year. Both songs are about young people in the ’50s obsessed with rock n’ roll, but disappointed when the music “dies.” Both songs also feature a Chevy. Elton admits the song is highly derivative because it’s about the things he grew up with. In Elton John: The Definitive Biography, Elton is quoted as saying: “I wanted it to be a record about all the things I grew up with. Of course, it’s a rip-off.”

Elton performed this on The Muppet Show when he appeared on a Season Two episode in 1977. A very popular song with kids, it made for a great opening number, with Elton performing in a swamp with a crocodile chorus.

This song helped send the Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player album to #1 on both sides of the Atlantic. It was Elton’s first #1 in the UK, but Honky Chateau went to #1 in the US earlier that year.

A few “firsts” are attributed to both the song and album. It was the first song released as a single on the MCA label (catalog #40000) after MCA dissolved its Uni (Elton John’s previous label), Decca, Kapp and Coral labels. It was also MCA’s first #1 song as well as Elton John’s first #1. >>

There is a Crocodile Rock in The Philippines, which from the right angle, looks like an enormous croc.

Partial inspiration for this song is the Australian band Daddy Cool and their hit single “Eagle Rock,” which Elton discovered on his 1972 tour to Australia. In the artwork for the Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player packaging, there is a shot of Bernie Taupin wearing a badge that says “Daddy Who?” 

The sheer popularity of this song caused a backlash against it in some circles – notably disc jockeys who had to play it over and over. Stations used to determine what songs they would play by using “auditorium testing,” where listeners were gathered into a big room and played hooks from different songs, which they would then rate. This song always got very high marks, which embedded it onto playlists and drove some DJs to hate it.

The odd thing is that Elton has a very deep catalog filled not just with meaningful hits, but with more obscure songs that many listeners enjoy. “It was just a one-off thing,” Elton said of “Crocodile Rock,” adding, “It became a huge hit record, and in the long run, it became a negative for me.”

Elton has described this song as “disposable pop.” Bernie Taupin gave his thoughts in a 1989 interview with Music Connection. Said Taupin: “I don’t want people to remember me for ‘Crocodile Rock.’ I’d much rather they remember me for songs like ‘Candle In The Wind’ and ‘Empty Garden,’ songs that convey a message. Well, they don’t really need to convey a message, as long as they can convey a feeling. But there are things like ‘Crocodile Rock,’ which was fun at the time, but it was pop fluff. It was like, ‘Okay, that was fun for now, throw it away, and here’s the next one. So there’s a certain element of our music that is disposable, but I think you’ll find that in anybody’s catalog.”

One of Elton’s more memorable performances of this song took place on September 7, 1973 at the Hollywood Bowl. As Elton played from his piano, a few feet behind him, sound engineer Clive Franks played the electric piano while wearing an enormous crocodile head.

The Baha Men recorded a new version of this for the film The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course with new lyrics that described the life of Steve Irwin. Ironically, “Suzie” (the girl described in this song) is the name of Steve Irwin’s dog, who appears frequently on the series.

Elton John – Crocodile Rock

I remember when rock was young
Me and Suzie had so much fun
Holding hands and skimming stones
Had an old gold Chevy and a place of my own
But the biggest kick I ever got
Was doing a thing called the Crocodile Rock
While the other kids were Rocking Round the Clock
We were hopping and bopping to the Crocodile Rock

Laaaaaaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaaa

Well Crocodile Rocking is something shocking
When your feet just can’t keep still
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will
Oh Lawdy mama those Friday nights
When Suzie wore her dresses tight
And the Crocodile Rocking was out of sight

Laaaaaaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaaa

But the years went by and the rock just died
Suzie went and left us for some foreign guy
Long nights crying by the record machine
Dreaming of my Chevy and my old blue jeans
But they’ll never kill the thrills we’ve got
Burning up to the Crocodile Rock
Learning fast as the weeks went past
We really thought the Crocodile Rock would last

Laaaaaaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaaa

Well Crocodile Rocking is something shocking
When your feet just can’t keep still
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will
Oh Lawdy mama those Friday nights
When Suzie wore her dresses tight
And the Crocodile Rocking was out of sight

Laaaaaaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaaa

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

12 thoughts on “Elton John – Crocodile Rock”

  1. As you said, not his best single but I like it. I know a lot of people who hate it though…don’t know why it inspires such hatred in some folks! It was on one of the first LPs I ever had.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It just reminds me of a certain time…the song…good or bad takes me back there. I think it’s a fun song nodding to the 50s…not to be taken seriously. Tiny Dancer it’s not but fun all the same.
      I know people hate it….I thought I would get some of that today but I didn’t.

      Like

  2. I agree. When I hear this, I am taken back to a specific place…a neighbor’s house and a little girl I was friends with. She was a year older than I was and went to the local Catholic school. I remember her uniform. She had, like, three older brothers, a guinea pig and I remember her lining dolls up in the hallway. She put this 45 on her record player and the dolls were the chorus. Remember it like it happened yesterday…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow… that does take you back! That is awesome. That is total recall lol.

      When I was 13 I was driving and a buddy and me would cruise about… come home and watch the terrible SNL season in 80 when the original cast left

      Like

      1. Oh I have all of them…well the original that is…I like some of the Eddie and Joe period but the first 5 seasons is what I like best.

        Liked by 1 person

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