Crocodile Rock

Album: Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1972)
Charted: 5 1
  • 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."
  • 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 beserk."
  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Denny - Pittsburgh, PA
  • There is a Crocodile Rock in The Philippines, which from the right angle, looks like an enormous croc.
  • A 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?" >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Taal - Brisbane, Australia
  • 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 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada

Comments: 33

  • AnonymousWhat year and make chevy was he singing about in crocodile rock
  • Rob from New York CityI can vividly remember one afternoon in early 1973 when I used to relax in my bed, listening to my fathers' transistor radio when this song started playing on every single AM station in N.Y.C. I was 10 and instantly fell in love with it. It appeared that day that once the song ended, one only had to scan the radio dial, and there it would be! Again! To me, the lyrics are a microcosm of what happened as the "innocent" rock and roll of the 50's morphed into the British Invasion of the Beatles, Stones, etc. Hence "Susie went and left us for some foreign guy". I came to this realization immediately as I was a Beatles freak back then, and was still in mourning over their breakup.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaSusan in a strange way I understand where you are coming from and sorry Elton, Love this tune.
  • Susan from Atlanta, GeorgiaThe biggest giveaway to me that this is a song about the '50s is the Suzie in the lyrics. Susan and all its derivatives became among the most popular girls' names in the '50s, and there were so many songs from then until this one with Susan or some form thereof in the lyrics and/or title. (Go ahead and ask me how I know this -- I've had them all sung to me at one time or another.) This may be the last top 40 song to have it.
  • Kramo from Toronto, CanadaThis is the kind of crap Macca puts out at his worst. I like Elton...but this is radically awful.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 14th 1972, the Ringo Starr directed documentary concert movie 'Born to Boogie' had its world premiere in London, England...
    It was filmed on March 18th, 1972 at a Marc Bolan and T-Rex concert at the Wembley Empire Pool in London, plus some scenes in the movie were studio sessions...
    Elton John appeared in the movie, and at the time his "Crocodile Rock" was at #46 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; eight weeks later on January 28th, 1973 it would peak at #1 {for 3 weeks} and it stayed on the chart for 17 weeks...
    "Crocodile Rock" was the third of thirteen straight Top 10 records by Elton on Billboard's Top 100 chart.
  • Tom from Chicago, IlIn 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.
  • Eric from Antwerp, Belgium@David - St. Louis...

    I second everything you mentioned!
  • Megan from Stevenson, AlThis song addicting! Gahhh...It cracks me up so bad! It's so awesome tho:) I <3 Sir Elton John!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyBetween 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...
  • Sunshine from Oklahoma City, OkSteve Irwin's dog was named: Bindi Sue. He named his daughter after the dog.
  • Jeff from Boston, MaI 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.
  • Pete from Hull, --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".
  • Paul from Marysville, WaKen, 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.
  • Pete from Hull, United KingdomThere 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
  • Erik from Los Angeles, CaDavid, 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.
  • David from Saint Louis, MoI 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
  • Joe from Bellingham, Wannnnnnnnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! na na na na naaaaa!!
  • Ken from Louisville, KyElton 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!
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, NjAmazing, fun song
  • Teri from Chicago, IlRegarding 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...
  • Kelley from Citrus Springs , FlMy 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.
  • Jenni from Sydney, AustraliaThis 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....
  • Jacqui from Wooddale , Ilby 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 from Wooddale , IlI 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.
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrThanks for telling us Paul,Dallas,TX
  • Amy from Grimshaw, CanadaI 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!
  • Paul from Dallas, TxI 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.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Sci never noticed the similarities between 'crocadile Rock" and "American Pie'! It make sense why there similar though. Great songs though!
  • Nick from Arlington Heights, IlI just saw EJ in concert this weekend, and he didn't play this song, for whatever that's worth.
  • Chris from Port Hawkesbury, CanadaOf 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.
  • Charlie from Thomaston, Ctfamous song, the lyrics are a little silly and childish though.
  • Brett from Edmonton, CanadaAbout 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.
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