Knocking Round the Zoo

Album: James Taylor (1968)


  • This is an autobiographical song describing Taylor's stay at McLean, a psychiatric hospital near Boston where he stayed while finishing high school. Taylor was attending a strict boarding school called Milton Academy when he suffered a bout of depression that led his family to pull him from the school and send him to McLean, where he took classes a their affiliated school.

    In this song, he explains how it felt like a zoo, with bars on the windows and people coming to look at you - his sister Kate broke down in tears during one visit.

    While Taylor was at McLean, he spotted Ray Charles, who was sent there for his heroin addiction. Taylor's siblings Livingston and Kate also ended up spending time there. Over the next 15 years or so, James ended up in various other rehab centers and hospitals to treat his addictions.
  • This was included on Taylor's first album, and released as his second single, following "Carolina in My Mind." He was signed at the time to The Beatles' Apple Records and produced by Peter Asher, a Beatles associate who helped him get the record deal.
  • Near the end of the song, when Taylor sings, "Watch out, Kootch," he's calling out to Danny Kortchmar, his bandmate in the group The Flying Machine. Kortchmar, who joined Taylor's band for his next album, was never a fan of the nickname. "I didn't like the name Danny Kootch, which is what I was called on the first few albums," he said in his Songfacts interview. "I thought that was a stupid name."
  • Taylor recorded this song in 1966 with his group The Flying Machine. It was not released at the time, but in 1971 after Taylor became famous, it was issued on an album called James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine. Two versions appeared on the album, one with lead vocals by Taylor, and another with Danny Kortchmar singing lead.

Comments: 2

  • Charles from Charlotte, NcThis was first recorded by Taylor and his first "serious" band The Flying Machine in the mid-sixties.
  • J.r. from Columbia, ScThey are counting up the spoons
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