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Crocodile Rock

by

Elton John



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

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.
Elton's lyricist Bernie Taupin told Esquire in 2011 that this song is "a strange dichotomy because I don't mind having created it, but it's not something I would listen to."
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."
This song was inspired by 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 is wearing a badge that says "Daddy Who?" (thanks, Taal - Brisbane, Australia)
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 And 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 2 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 album went 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. (thanks, Denny - Pittsburgh, PA)
Check out the Crocodile Rock in Song Images.
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."
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."
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. (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
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 electric piano while wearing an enormous crocodile head.
Elton John
Elton John Artistfacts
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Comments (27):

In a English comedy made in 1955, "An Alligator Named Daisy", a song is featured called the "Crocodile Crawl." Perhaps a young Elton saw this movie at the cinema and it somehow influenced his writing Crocodile Rock.
- tom, chicago, IL
@David - St. Louis...

I second everything you mentioned!
- Eric, Antwerp, Belgium
This song addicting! Gahhh...It cracks me up so bad! It's so awesome tho:) I <3 Sir Elton John!
- Megan, Stevenson, AL
Between May 6, 1972 and November 13, 1976 Elton John charted with 15 songs; 13 of them made the Top 10 while eight of them peaked at either #1 or #2...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Steve Irwin's dog was named: Bindi Sue. He named his daughter after the dog.
- Sunshine, Oklahoma City, OK
I always enjoyed the in-joke about "Susie went and left us for some foreign guy", which is really funny considering that both the lyricist (Taupin) and the performer (John) were both "foreign guys" to their American audience. It's also a poke at the nativist sentiment that flourished along with anti-Communism in the 50s when anyone who was a foreigner was inherently suspect.
- Jeff, Boston, MA
Songwriters often write cyptical lyrics and may include vague and detached references to their own thoughts and experiences. The lyrics could mean lots of things, but I think the following are worth considering as possibilities:

"Gold Chevy" = American Pie by Don McLean - the song was certified gold in early 1972. Bernie loved the American music scene. His song has echoes of sadness over lost youth just like the Don McLean song. And he could never get back to his youthful memories at the "Crocodile Rock") see link (http://www.panoramio.com//photo/13420045)
Clues are "skimming stones" (at the beach), "Rockin round the Clock" burning = driving? hence year = 1968 & Susie probably the real name of a date at the time. "Foreign guy" - with fame and fortune he could never get back to the simplicity he had as a teenager - feelings also expressed in the song "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road".
- Pete, Hull, --
Ken, from Louisville, KY, the person playing the organ onstage was Elton's sound engineer, Clive Franks. I believe I read this in Philip Norman's biography of Elton.
- Paul, Marysville, WA
There is a hidden meaning to the Crocodile Rock : Bernie used to go on holiday with his parents to a place called Staithes on the North Yorkshire coast in England. There is a coastal promontary out there that sticks out into the North Sea and from a vantage point to the north it looks just like the front end of a crocodile. Hence the "Crocodile rock".

So the song partly reflects aspects of his childhood. "Never knew me a better time ......".

I think the girl may have been a childhood sweet heart from back then - Pete, Birstall, UK
- Pete, Hull, United Kingdom
David, you took the words RIGHT OUT OF MY MOUTH! Everything you said is just so dead-on accurate. Furthermore, I also have the same feeling about how the simple lyrics are what make this song great, in fact they enhance the longing feelings.
- Erik, Los Angeles, CA
I don't think the lyrics are silly. The lyrics remind me a lot of Brian Adams' "Summer of '69" hit from 1985. It's a retrospective, a person reminiscing with longing and some sadness of days gone by. Don't we all have memories that are both happy and a little sad at the same time? Sort of like, "Wow, those were fun times. But, all that's gone and where are all those guys now?"

I don't think the lyrics are childish. The narrator in the song is remembering his youth, and having a place of your own and your own car is a big deal then. He also remembers Suzy, who was fun to be around but then left one day. In his youth, life was more carefree, less stressful. They indulged in simple pleasures like holding hands and throwing stones. When we get older, sometimes the cares of life choke the happiness out of us if we let it. In the second verse, he states that years have gone by, the old scene just died, and he is left longing for a simpler, happier time in his life. Whatever has happened since then, the thrills he got back then can never be taken away from him. When you're young, it seems like the good times will last and last ("we really thought the Crocodile Rock would last" - end of verse two).

Sometimes the simpler lyrics are more profound in meaning. Who is there among us that cannot relate to this song in at least some small way?

David - St. Louis
- David, Saint Louis, MO
nnnnnnnnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! na na na na naaaaa!!
- Joe, Bellingham, WA
Elton did all of the keyboard parts on the record, but on stage he has someone else do the organ parts while he played piano. In the 1970's, the guy who played the organ would be dressed in a crocodile costume for this song!
- Ken, Louisville, KY
Amazing, fun song
- Caitlin, Upper Township, NJ
Regarding the second songfact... It's Bill Haley and 'HIS' Comets. I've seen some compilation CD's that even get this wrong. Oh well, just in the interest of clarity...
- teri, chicago, IL
My 4 year old son loves this song because the song, and Elton John are featured on a Christmas Bob the Builder DVD. Elton Comes to town to perform a benefit Christmas concert and Bob and friends end up helping him write the lyrics to the song.
- Kelley, Citrus Springs , FL
This has nothing to do with Steve Irwin at all....but oh well i guess you can dedicate it to him a bit.

But the song itself has nothing to do with him....
- Jenni, Sydney, Australia
by the way
RIP Steve Irwin (#1 Crocodile Hunter ever to live) Crikey Mate we will miss you so much
My heart and prayers are with his family and friends (Wes, Terri, Bindi, Robert, and his dad Bob ETC...)
RIP MATE
<3 Jacqui
- Jacqui, Wooddale , IL
I love the song Crocodile Rock because I am a HUGE fan of Steve Irwin and I have been since I was like 4 and that song reminds me of him, and when I listen to it, it makes me feel better, reminding me that Steve is still alive in our hearts, and that he is in a better place and is watching over all of us wrestling Crocks in the sky.
- Jacqui, Wooddale , IL
Thanks for telling us Paul,Dallas,TX
- Jon, Oakridge, OR
I didn't know there was a such thing as the crocodile rcok, (what Paul from Dallas) says???
But this is my favourite song of Elton John, his 70's stuff was great but now he's really not the man he was back then!
- Amy, Grimshaw, Canada
I remember the song during the Summer of 1957 that Elton's 1972-3 Crocodile Rock refers to. It had a really great rock beat. I heard it only on the radio in the California Bay Area, and later other friends around the country thought I was hallucinating. The song was about dancing where there were crocodiles, and the dance looked like jump-stepping over and avoiding the crocs, and every now and then having to climb a tree to get away from the crocodiles. Which they didn't always successfully do in the song. A lyric line I remember was, "Whoops, there goes my other friend." Meaning that the friend was eaten by a crocodile. A couple of years later I tried to figure out how order the record or somehow get a copy of the song. But never could even find it cataloged anywhere. I hope someone else remembers more than I do about it.
- Paul, Dallas, TX
i never noticed the similarities between 'crocadile Rock" and "American Pie'! It make sense why there similar though. Great songs though!
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
I just saw EJ in concert this weekend, and he didn't play this song, for whatever that's worth.
- Nick, Arlington Heights, IL
Of course this song and American Pie sound similar - they're both pastiches of 50s songs, each of them 'rips off' or 'pays homage' (whichever you like) many 50s stars and styles.
- Chris, Port Hawkesbury, Canada
famous song, the lyrics are a little silly and childish though.
- Charlie, Thomaston, CT
About a guy in the 50s/60s who frequented a resteraunt where the patrons, especially him, 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. Catchy little song, but really sad lyrics.
- Brett, Edmonton, Canada
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