"Monkey Gone to Heaven" was released as the first single from Doolittle in the United States and United Kingdom. As the band had signed to Elektra Records shortly before, the single also marked their first American and major label release. It was critically well-received; Rolling Stone's David Fricke said "Monkey Gone to Heaven" was "a corrosive, compelling meditation on God and garbage". In the years since its release, the song has received several accolades from music publications.
"Monkey Gone to Heaven" includes references to numerology in the lyrics "If man is five/then the Devil is six/and God is seven". Francis later expanded on the significance of the lyrics in an interview to Alternative Press, saying "It's a reference from what I understand to be Hebrew numerology, and I don't know a lot about it or any of it really. I just remember someone telling me of the supposed fact that in the Hebrew language, especially in the Bible, you can find lots of references to man in the 5th and Satan in the 6th and God in the 7th. [...] I didn't go to the library and figure it out". The song's numerology is alluded to on the single's cover, which features figures of five, six and seven, and also a monkey with a halo.
Ben Sisario, author of Doolittle 33⅓, offers a slightly different interpretation of the song: "Neptune, the god of this realm [in reference to Francis' ocean comment], the 'underwater guy who controlled the sea,' hung out down there, the personification of man's relationship with the earth. And what happens to Neptune? He gets 'killed by ten million pounds of sludge from New York to New Jersey.' Same thing with the "creature in the sky," who gets stuck up there in a hole in the ozone layer. Man the divine manifestation effectively dies, and what remains is his degraded animal nature; the chintzy halo stuck on the primate's head is the symbol of that unhappy fall".
"Monkey Gone to Heaven" is written in the key of D major, and opens with Francis' rhythm guitar playing a short chord progression backed by the bass guitar of Kim Deal and drums of David Lovering. The guitar intensity fades as Francis begins to sing, leaving Deal's constant eighth note bassline and Lovering's steady drum-beat. Between each line of the verse, Francis pauses, leaving the drums and bass playing. Joey Santiago's lead guitar does not feature at all during the verses. By the end of the second line of each verse, the cello part joins in, following the bassline closely.
As the first verse finishes, the opening chord progression is repeated. This leads into the chorus (where Francis and Deal repeat "This monkey's gone to heaven") with the lead guitar of Santiago playing two notes repeatedly. The two violins play a melody throughout, accompanied by a piano in the background. There is then a short solo by Santiago, who repeats the melody three times, to bridge the chorus and second verse. The second verse and chorus follow the same format. At the end of the second chorus, Francis shouts "Rock me Joe!"; Santiago then begins a guitar solo lasting seventeen seconds, with backing violins for the second half of the solo. In a Peel session on Pixies at the BBC, Francis speaks "Rock me Joseph Alberto Santiago" instead.
After the solo, Francis sings "If man is five" several times. There is no backing, apart from the lead guitar, for several seconds, but then the song's chord progression is heard again. This is repeated for "If the devil is six". At the end of the second chord progression, the song's main backing restarts again, with Francis wailing "Then God is seven" as the chorus approaches. The final repeated chorus of "This monkey's gone to heaven" ends the song as the string section becomes more prominent.
Arthur Fiacco, a cellist, arrived at Carriage House first. He was dressed in formal black and white attire, having traveled from an afternoon concert. Fiacco was surprised to find there were no scores written for the musicians to play; he then wrote a part based on riffs Francis had shown him. The violinists, Corinne Metter and Karen Karlsrud, also followed the directions of Francis and Norton. Another cellist, Ann Rorich, credited on the album and single, was sent home; according to Fiacco he doubled her parts.
"Monkey Gone to Heaven", the first single from Doolittle, was released to radio stations for rotation in April 1989 in the United States. College radio-play of "Monkey Gone to Heaven" helped Doolittle in the US, with the album eventually spending two weeks in the Billboard Top 100. The single itself reached #5 on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart, with the help of Elektra Records' marketing. In the UK, "Monkey Gone to Heaven" was released on April 11989 and spent three weeks in the UK chart, debuting at #60.
The music video, the Pixies' first, features the band playing their instruments on a stage, with the camera alternating to focus on each band member. Filmed in black-and-white, "searchlights" cross the stage and several camera effects are used, such as slow-motion. The camera switches to color for a few seconds several times during the video, before reverting to black-and-white. Halfway through the video, fog appears on-stage, covering the band. The members of the string section are not seen in the video.
Q, in their review of Doolittle, described "Monkey Gone to Heaven": "It's not pretty, but its carefully structured noise and straight forward rhythmic insistence makes perfect sense: a gut feeling that is doubled when it gets within sniffing distance of a tune, as on 'Monkey Gone to Heaven' or 'Debaser'. Rolling Stone's David Fricke, reviewing Doolittle, said "Monkey Gone to Heaven" was a "a corrosive, compelling meditation on God and garbage." The critical success of "Monkey Gone to Heaven" was also reflected commercially; the song reached #5 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, marking the Pixies' debut in the American charts. However, the song did not perform as well in the British charts, reaching a peak position of #60 and falling off the charts after three weeks.
All songs were written and sung by Black Francis.
|Melody Maker||UK||Single of the Year||1989||#1|
|NME||UK||Single of the Year||1989||#22|
|Rolling Stone||U.S.||Single of the Year||1989||#5|
|The Village Voice||U.S.||Single of the Year||1989||#24|
|Rolling Stone||U.S.||500 Greatest Songs of All Time||2004||#410|
|NME||UK||50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever||2007||#35|
Mailmusic: TASTE HAS CHANGED SINCE DISH; STEVEN LINDSAY Has Dabbled in Short Films but Admits He Refused to Be in His Own Video. He Talks about Going Back to His Youth for Album Kite, out Tomorrow. Single Monkey Gone to Heaven Is out on Download on June 26
Jun 10, 2007; Byline: Edited by MICKEY McMONAGLE Tell us about your new album, Kite. It's a bit different - more colourful. It's still quite...