Monkey Magic. Monkey Magic. Monkey Magic. Monkey Magic. You are dancing, in your heart if not physically, because you are listening to the sound of funk. Japanese tele-funk, for 'Monkey Magic' was the opening theme music of 'Monkey
', the classic Japanese television series. Broadcast in the UK on the BBC
at the tail-end of the 1970s kung-fu
craze, its mixture of brightly-coloured kung-fu action, terrible dubbing, odd plots and a glimpse into a bizarre alien society - that of Japanese television - ensured that the series was very popular. It was the spiritual sequel to the considerably more obscure 'The Water Margin
', by the same production team, although with a very different, campier style.
The lyrics attempted to illustrate the show's backstory, availing us of the gestation of the title character, Monkey himself (he was born, of course, from an egg, on a mountaintop). Furthermore, we were told that Monkey was funky, cocky, saucy, and irrepressible, and that he was a dab hand with magic. He was indeed the funkiest monkey that ever popped. Much of this information was redundant, the show opening with a more sensible voice-over, but it's always nice to have something to fall back on. The original Japanese version of the show also opened with 'Monkey Magic', sung in English. Along with the music for 'The Banana Splits' it is one of the most cheerful television theme songs of all time, and retains its power to warm the heart.
In the realm of fact, 'Monkey Magic' was written by Yukihide Takekawa (words) and Yoko Narahashi (music), performing under the group name Godiego. It was released as a 7" single in the UK in 1980 on BBC Records (RESL 81) backed with 'Gandhara', the show's ending theme, and 'Thank You Baby', part of the show's incidental music. Surprisingly the single did not chart, although it remains a popular download / ringtone nowadays. Many more people are aware of the song than they are aware of the show (indeed, the previous writeup in this node assumed that the show itself was called 'Monkey Magic').
It's worth noting that the song is not sung by either the Japanese actors or the English dubbers. Interestingly - well, it's not really, I just have to fill out this final paragraph - the character of Tripitaka was voiced by Miriam Margolyes, who got to beat up Arnold Schwazenegger in the otherwise unremarkable 'The Sixth Day'. Sadly, Masako Natsume - the actress who played Tripitaka - died in 1985, thus eliminating any possibility of a sequel, although a remake ran for a single series in Japan in the 1990s (with a new and unremarkable theme tune, alas).