Friday, July 15, 2011


You've probably heard "Apache," at least one of the many versions. If you're into instrumental bands, particularly surf-type, you've probably suffered "Apache" saturation at some point, as it's been covered by just about every surf band that has ever existed. It was a hit in 1960 for the Shadows in the UK, and in 1961 for Jorgen Ingmann in the states. Written by Jerry Lordan in 1959, it was intended as "something noble and dramatic, reflecting the courage and savagery of the Indian." Most versions were straight up covers (I know, ho-hum, right?); that is until 1970, when the Edgar Broughton Band mixed it with Captain Beefheart's "Dropout Boogie." (Take note youngsters, Broughton's "Apache Dropout" is from back in the pre-mash-up day, before bedroom laptop studios, when they used to call these things "medleys.") Far and away, the most influential interpretation was the Incredible Bongo Band's version, released in 1973, a long-ass funk-ified version with long percussion breaks that have been sampled, at last count, four million times. Still, as an instrumental, the song could be seen as "something noble and dramatic." Enter the Sugarhill Gang, whose rap version in 1981 has enough stereotyping posturing to embarrass Bugs Bunny. Where to begin? How about with the introduction of "Tonto, jump on it! Jump on it!" Throw on some of the hand-to-mouth "Woo-woo-woo!" cartoon Indian yelps. Yeah. And it gets more embarrassing from there. Let's just chalk in up to the Ubangi Stomp Syndrome.

Tommy Seebach Band "Apache". Where's Link Wray when you need him?

So here's a few versions, including a snippet of a great reggae version by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. If you want to read about the whole long story there's a link to "All Roads Lead to Apache," an excellent history of the song, but be forewarned. The author, Michaelangelo Matos refers to the Shadows version as a sonic "missing link between Speedy West, Link Wray, and Ennio Morricone," which seems only slightly accurate. This is what happens when someone who seems to know their shit about one type of music (in Matos' case funk and hip hop), and thinks it transfers to areas outside of their expertise. (And yes, I do see this as a teachable moment, because I'm the worst offender in that category.) I do know my guitar music, and the Shadows are on a different planet than Speedy West and Link Wray. (Just imagine though, Link Wray vs the Sugarhill Gang in a bar fight. Sorry, that just popped into my head.)

The Shadows - Apache mp3 at
Jorgen Ingmann - Apache mp3 at Funky 16 Corners
The Ventures - Apache mp3 at Mark.D.Hall
The Surfaris - Apache mp3 at
The Edgar Broughton Band - Apache Dropout mp3 at The Brobots
The Incredible Bongo Band - Apache mp3 at
The Sugarhill Gang - Apache mp3 at
Byron Lee & the Dragonaires - Apache (short :40 second clip) mp3 at Piccadilly Records
The Shadows - Apache (1964) at YouTube
The Sugarhill Gang - Apache at YouTube
All Roads Lead to Apache by Michaelangelo Matos at Soul Sides
Who's Sampled the Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" at Who's Sampled
Apache (song entry) at Wikipedia

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