Perhaps there’s something about the unflattering connotation of dinosaur as an insult for anyone old, unfashionable or stuck in the past, but it seems odd how seldom these gauche prehistoric beasts turn up in the aesthetics and lyrics of rock music. We resolved to honour the former rulers of Earth by rooting out 11 of the very best…
BLUE ÖYSTER CULT – Godzilla (Spectres, 1977) The design of cinema’s first Godzilla in 1954 was based on the Tyrannosaurus rex and the Iguanodon with the spinal fins of a Stegosaurus, so this monster-riffed classic (later to become a set staple for stoner overlords Fu Manchu) is surely the motherlode of rocking dinosaur songs. Long Island quintet BÖC clearly had more respect for dinosaurs than most, hence the brilliant title and sleeve of their 1980 LP Cultosaurus Erectus.
KING CRIMSON – Dinosaur (THRAK, 1995) It may be that the dinosaur in Dinosaur is a metaphorical dinosaur rather than an actual dinosaur, but it’s called Dinosaur and contains the chorus “I’m a dinosaur” so it definitely deserves a slot in this definitive dinosaur-based playlist. With the Lennon-esque vocals, mellotron crashes and insistent police-siren riff, Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew were audibly inspired by The Beatles’ gibberish classic I Am The Walrus, which is definitely a shoe-in for any walrus-based playlist.
JOHNNY CASH – The Dinosaur Song (The Johnny Cash Children’s Album, 1975) In 1975 (during his seven-year abstention from drug use) the Man In Black released The Johnny Cash Children’s Album, amazingly his 49th studio effort. Although it seems incongruous that this troubled outlaw saw himself in the role of kiddies’ party entertainer, there’s something hugely charming about knowingly clumsy juvenile lyrics like, “Well, I wish they hadn’t become extinct, dinosaurs would be nice pets and friends to have around to run outside and play with every day, don’t you think?”
ALICE IN CHAINS – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, 2013) AIC’s latest title track parodies the fundamentalist creationist notion that dinosaur fossils were put on earth by evil forces to fool humanity about the true age and nature of God’s planet. “Are we supposed to believe that some little mythical dude with cloven hooves cruised around the planet hiding bones that were millions of years old to fool us for some fucking reason?” drummer Sean Kinney asked Noisecreep. It was a rhetorical question, but no, we’re not.
HEVISAURUS – Hirmuliskojen Yö (Hirmuliskojen Yö, 2010)
Taking Lordi’s Eurovision win to its logical extreme, Hevisauras formed in Finland in 2009 as a metal band for little kids, dressed in dinosaur costumes, with a riveting backstory about five metallic dinosaur eggs that survived extinction in the mountain of wizards, until a coven of witches gathered to summon a lightning bolt which hatched the Hevisauruses, who formed a band. Hirmuliskojen Yö means ‘Dinosaurs Night’, other than that the lyrics are anyone’s guess.
IRON MAIDEN – Quest For Fire (Piece Of Mind, 1983)
Although this song is actually about man’s quest for fire (duh), its opening line – “In a time when dinosaurs walked the earth” – is one of Maiden’s most notoriously risible lyrics; there are people who hate this song solely due to Steve Harris’s amusingly ahistorical error. Human/dinosaur coexistence was a standard feature of caveman movies like One Million Years BC, but (unfortunately) there’s no stop-motion brontosaurus in the 1981 film Quest For Fire.
DAGOBA – I, Reptile (Post Mortem Nihil Est, 2013)
It took a French industrial groove metal band of all things to pen metal’s most unambiguous, full-blooded homage to the dinosaurs. This mega-triggered cyber-death slam rampage from 2013 is an incongruous musical setting for the excellent prehistoric narrative, lamenting the extinction of Earth’s original overlords: “Gigantic lizards ruled the world, in a second disappeared forever, Jurassic kingdom turned to ashes.” Sniff.
BEAR VS SHARK – The Great Dinosaurs With Fifties Section (Terrorhawk, 2005)
Lyrically this is some surrealist suburban beatnik stream-of-consciousness, and unless the “beast in the garden” is a Diplodocus, it’s possible this song has nothing to do with dinosaurs at all. But it’s a nifty nervy tune by this short-lived Michigan post-hardcore quintet that deserves an airing every now and then.
THE MOVE – Brontosaurus (Looking On, 1970)
Before Roy Wood formed Wizzard and committed his dream of a perpetual Yuletide to disc, he was in The Move. Taken from the Birmingham rockers’ 1970 album, Looking On, this single boasted a ponderous downtuned boogie riff and mentions a dinosaur being trapped in a house. We imagine a long-necked beast would soon wear out their welcome in any family home. But to each their own.
THE FALL OF TROY – Shhh!!! If You’re Quiet I’ll Show You A Dinosaur (Manipulator, 2007)
Another jittery American post-hardcore outfit blithely referencing dinosaurs in what seems to be a last ditch attempt to quieten an unruly child. Due to the lumbering beasts’ extinction, it’s a promise which will be ultimately broken.
THE GOOMBAS FEATURING GEORGE CLINTON – Walk The Dinosaur (single, 1993)
Obviously we daren’t be plugging 80s dance-pop oddballs Was (Not Was) on the TeamRock website – even if they insist that the song is about nuclear armageddon – but if the High Priest of P-Funk George Clinton tells us to ‘walk the dinosaur’, we’ll have a ruddy good go. Even if his cover version was recorded for arguably the worst film of all time, the 1993 Super Mario Bros movie.