At the Zoo

Album: Bookends (1968)
Charted: 16

Songfacts®:

  • "At the Zoo" is from Simon & Garfunkel's fourth studio album, a sort of concept album. The first side of Bookends contained age-progression type songs while the back side had songs that didn't make the cut for the cult classic film The Graduate. "At the Zoo" closes this second side.
  • Who else but S&G could write and perform such a whimsical piece? All of the animals are described with a playful frame of mind, with lines like "Zebras are reactionaries; Antelopes are missionaries; Pigeons plot in secrecy; And hamsters turn on frequently," painting a poetic montage. Anybody who can't smile at this song has a heart made of charcoal.
  • This song was licensed for TV commercials for the Bronx Zoo and the San Francisco Zoo in the late 1970s. Not only that, but in 1991 a children's book was published by Paul Simon, titled "Simon and Garfunkel at the Zoo," with rich, chocolatey illustrations by Valerie Michaut. However, the lyrics and concepts had to be altered slightly; for instance, the hamsters were given little headlights on their head to explain why they'd "turn on."

Comments: 5

  • Oswald Mosley from Burlington, VermontI really love this song because it has literally no meaning other than the joy of going to the zoo. There's no hidden social justice meaning, no political statement. Just a fun song about an innocent pastime that many associate with the content years of their youth.
  • Ken from Philadelphia, PaI disagree with calling this a whimsical piece. It's actually rather deep. Remember this was written at the height of the civil rights era. By whimsically telling us that all animals in a species share a single trait, Paul Simon is reminding us just how ludicrous it is judge people by the color of their skin or their religion or anything really beyond the content of their character.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyHere's some obscure trivia:
    On June 10th 1793, the 'Jardin des Plantes Zoo'*, the world's first public zoo, opened in the center of Paris, France....
    And just under 174 years later on March 12th, 1967 "At the Zoo" by Simon and Garfunkel entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89...
    {See next post below}...
    * I know, I know; S&G were referring to the Central Park Zoo, which opened in 1864 as a menagerie and then in 1934 as a full fledge zoo.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny'Pigeons plot in secrecy, and hamsters turn on frequently'
    On March 12th 1967, "At the Zoo" by Simon and Garfunkel entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; and six week later on April 23rd, 1967 it peaked at #16 {for 2 weeks} and spent 9 weeks on the To 100...
    Between 1957 and 1982 the NYC duo had eighteen* Top 100 records; eight made the Top 10 with three reaching #1, "The Sounds of Silence" for 2 weeks in 1965, "Mrs. Robinson" for 3 weeks in 1968, and "Bridge Over Trouble Water" for 6 weeks in 1970...
    They just missed having nine Top 10 records when “Scarborough Fair/Canticle" peaked at #11 in 1968...
    * Their first charted record was under the name Tom and Jerry; "Hey! Schoolgirl" peaked at #49 on Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores chart on December 22nd, 1957.
  • Jay from Centereach, Long Island, NyI have vague memories of the Bronx Zoo ad campaign. I was born in 1972, so I was very young at the time they ran. I now realize that this is an odd choice for the Bronx Zoo because the song is clearly about the Central Park Zoo. Paul Simon sings "It's a light and tumble journey from the East Side to the Park." That means Manhattan. You do not say "East Side" when talking about the Bronx, and "the Park" is Central Park.
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