Monkey Motel has been the second most popular tune from the Laningham writing splurge of the late 1980s/early 1990s. A friend sent me this photo of Monkey coming up on her XM Satellite Radio receiver while on a drive somewhere. She said everyone in her car promptly broke into ho-oo-ho-oo-ha-aa-ha-aas as the song reached the chorus, resulting in a 14-car pileup where, fortunately, no one was injured.
I wrote the song in 1990 with a great deal of editing assistance from my wife, Elizabeth. I would bring draft after draft to her with an enthusiastic, “How about this?” She would listen with a straight face, unmoved by my latest, hurried effort, and point me back to the lyric writing desk. Introspective passages such as following would have never seen the light of day without Elizabeth’s uncompromising editorial stand.
I climbed up to 20, the room was pretty funny
there were monkey pictures on the wall.
Pile of hay for a bed, on the telephone it said
three bananas for a local call
Again, as with Moose in My House, the first idea that came to me was the little hook, who-a-ha-a-who-a-ha-a BUMP BUMP ERRRRRR — the who-a-ha-a being sung, the BUMPs coming from the bass drum and the ERRRRRR being a guitar power chord.
Man, this is getting too deep.
When I recorded it, I could tell it was still missing something in the vocal. My voice was not cartoonish enough. So I slowed the tape down (I was using analog tape them) to record my vocals and then sped the finished product back up to normal, full monkey speed. That gave it the edge I was looking for. It was also easier to say, When you’re dreamin’ and you’re drivin’ you should start realizin’ that you’ve driven just a little too far, at the slower speed. The fabulous Bud Guinn from Dallas, Texas provided the smokin’ guitar work on the final version.
Monkey Motel remains popular on satellite radio and I’ve heard it is often used as a first dance at weddings in Turkey, Texas. That may not be true, but I did hear it somewhere.