Monkeys Versus Donkeys is a song by Larry 'Wild Man' Fischer. It comes from the 1968 album An Evening With Wild Man Fischer, which was produced by none other than Frank Zappa. As far as I've been able to ascertain, the two met when Frank was approached by Larry on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Larry's gig in those days was to approach passers-by and offer to 'sell' them a performance of one of his songs for a dime. Given the nature of those songs, I seriously doubt that he had to sing more than a couple of lines to most of his astonished customers before they were satisfied.

Ba ba-ba ba ba, ba ba-ba ba ba
Ba ba-ba ba ba bow
Ba ba-ba ba ba, ba ba-ba ba ba
Ba ba-ba ba ba baaa
Ba BAW ba-ba-ba ba-ba ba-ba-ba!
Er eh-eh er eh-eh er er!

Frank and Larry met around the same time that Zappa would have been working on his album We're Only In It For The Money, which is basically a sustained and vicious attack on pretty much everything that both straight and hip society in America had to offer at that time. I mention this because I do wonder if Zappa's choice to record the 'work' of the genuinely insane, frequently-institutionalized Fischer was in some way akin to the disgruntled artist who gave a monkey some paints and canvas, then displayed the resulting daubs to some very appreciative art critics. In other words, I wonder if Zappa was trying to make some kind of point. Perhaps so, or perhaps Fischer was so far 'out there' that he represented a genuinely refreshing change from the blissed-out love of the flower children and the uptight self-righteousness of straight society.

I'll take my monkeys, you'll take your donkeys
We'll have a race right now
I'll bet my monkeys, I getcher donkeys
The better will win right now! Ow!

I first heard of Wild Man Fischer many long years ago, when a friend asked me if I had ever heard the song Merry-Go-Round. I was assured that it was one of the craziest things I would ever hear; but unfortunately I couldn't find anyone at that time who had a copy, and I eventually forgot all about it. And then, a few weeks ago, like a bubble of foul gas belched up from the depths of a fetid swamp, the memory suddenly came back to me, and I did a little searching online.

Ba ba-ba ba ba, ba ba-ba ba ba
Ba ba-ba ba ba bow
Ba ba-ba ba ba, ba ba-ba ba ba
Ba ba-ba ba ba baaa
Ba BAW ba-ba-ba ba-ba ba-ba-ba!
Er eh-eh er eh-eh er er!

It turns out that there are many websites about Larry Wild Man Fischer, containing interviews, discographies, and lyrics. But in all my travels I was only able to find one site which offered a sample of his work. This is a page titled " 's page". It's a 'Hometown AOL' homepage which contains two MP3s and a link to a missing text file. They are without any doubt the worst MP3s I have ever heard. They seem to be poorly encoded versions of a poorly recorded live performance which was poorly produced to start with. Long periods of white noise are followed by the sudden disturbing rantings of Wild Man, now loud, now distant, as he (presumably) leaps around the stage and forgets all about the microphone. One of the few full songs on either of the files where he actually seems to remember to keep singing and to use the mic is the terrifying Monkeys Versus Donkeys.

Monkeys versus donkeys, monkeys versus donkeys
Monkeys versus donkeys now
Can't you see that my monkeys are beatin' yer donkeys
It's-a quite a race right now! Ow!

Mr. Fischer sings with that characteristic mixture of vigour, enthusiasm, and self-sufficient unabashed confidence that only the truly and irreversibly deranged seem able to bring to their performances. It is very close to inspiration, that madness; in fact, perhaps it is no different at all in essence. But in the same way that electricity can be used to power any number of different appliances, so the vital unbounded energy which in one person will produce a master performance will in another person produce something like... well, something like Monkeys Versus Donkeys. I can only conjecture why that is, but my instinctive feeling is that someone like David Byrne (for instance) is fully aware of the often unconventional nature of his work, whereas someone like Wild Man Fischer is probably not. This would seem to be confirmed by the few interviews with him that I have been able to find online. Despite the fact that he speaks with perfect candour about his various mental problems and periods in asylums, he does not seem to be aware of -- how shall I put this -- the degree to which his music and his performance is informed by that mental condition. His position seems to be, "Sure, I'm crazy sometimes, but I'm also a musician." Whereas my own estimation of his work would tend to place the stress rather differently: sure, he could be said to make 'music', but he's predominantly a profoundly demented man, shouting.

Ba ba-ba ba ba, ba ba-ba ba ba
Ba ba-ba ba ba bow
Ba ba-ba ba ba, ba ba-ba ba ba
Ba ba-ba ba ba baaa
Doont doont doo-doo doon-doont doont! Boop boop!
Doont doont doo-doo doon-doont doont! Boo boo!
Can'tcha see they're going around the turn now?
Doont doont doo-doo doon-doont doont! Doont doont!
Doont doont doo-doo doon-doont doont! Doont doont!

My analysis here is perhaps rather unfair, based as it is upon the very slightest of exposure to Wild Man's music and performance, and in the interests of fairness I invite you to judge for yourselves. " 's page" can be found at :

http://hometown.aol.com/cadabra123

Monkeys Versus Donkeys can be found on Wildman.MP3, about 3:37 into the file. If it turns out that the site or the file is gone, /msg me and I'll be happy to send you a copy.

Oh, monkeys versus donkeys, monkeys versus donkeys
Monkeys versus donkeys now
Can't you see that my monkeys have beaten yer donkeys
The race is over now! Ow!

 


Update

footprints informs me that the Wildman.mp3 has indeed been removed from the site listed above. My offer holds: if you're desperate to hear Monkeys Versus Donkeys in all its insane glory, just /msg me and I'll gladly send it to you.