This is perhaps the best-known song from Jethro Tull's War Child album. War Child was originally written to be the soundtrack for a film which never got made. The outline of the movie, posted on the official Jethro Tull website, goes into details of the film: A black comedy about a dead teenage girl visiting Heaven and her various misadventures in the afterlife. May we humbly recommend Terry Gilliam to direct?
"Bungle in the Jungle" actually came from an earlier project. Ian Anderson told us in a Songfacts interview: "It was actually late '72 or early '73 when I was in Paris recording an album that never got released, although one or two of the tracks made it out in 1974, but that was at a time when I was writing an album that was exploring people, the human condition, through analogies with the animal kingdom. And that particular song was perhaps the more obvious and the more catchy of the tunes. Eventually it was finished and saved in time for the War Child album, sometime later."
The War Child album peaked at #2 on the Billboard Albums chart.
In the same interview, Anderson also clears up the matter of which came first: this song, or the World Heavyweight Championship boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, known as "Rumble in the Jungle" because of its Zaire location. While he's not sure if the song was released before the boxing match, Anderson knows that the song was written well ahead of it. He says, "Since 'Bungle in the Jungle' had been released in the year 1974 on the War Child album, 'rumble in the jungle' may have been taken from that. Because that took place on the 30th of October in 1974. Maybe they were alluding to what was a well-played song, even on AM radio."
Along with "Living In The Past," which charted at #11, this is one of just two Top 40 hits for Jethro Tull in the United States. Like Led Zeppelin, they were never a singles band, and their most famous song, "Aqualung," was not released as a single.