By ANN MARIE CHANDY
The tiger, regarded as the world’s favourite animal, has also been a constant fixture in the music scene.
FROM William Blake’s famous poem The Tyger to A.A. Milne’s adorable Tigger in Winnie the Pooh, art and culture are packed with references to the world’s favourite animal.
Yes, in case you haven’t heard, the tiger ranked higher than dog, dolphin and horse in a poll conducted by Animal Planet last year.
So it’s only natural that at this time of year – with the Chinese New Year right around the bend – you’ll start to be bombarded by all things tiger-related, such as documentaries on TV, advertisements, merchandise and even songs on the radio.
With it being so popular and all, it’s strange that not many people can think of “tiger song titles” at the top of their heads. They are most likely to give you just the one answer – Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger (which, no doubt, will get relentless rotation on radio the next few days, God help us all).
But now as the Year of the Tiger stealthily creeps in (and my editor growls for a “tiger story” ASAP), a clutter of catty titles have come pouncing into my memory banks. Like that old Duran Duran album, Seven And The Ragged Tiger. (Yes, I know I’m heading into Tiger Beat territory here and while I’m at it, I do remember John Taylor having the nickname of Tigger, too).
The synth-pop/rock band’s third studio album, Seven And The Ragged Tiger was released way back in 1983 when most of teenaged girls salivated over Simon Le Bon, God’s greatest gift to mankind. If you still haven’t figured out what that title meant; here’s Le Bon’s take on it. Apparently he went on record saying that the album was “an adventure story about a little commando team”. The “Seven” was a reference for the five band members and two managers, and the “Ragged Tiger” equated to success. Le Bon said: “Seven people running after success. It’s ambition. That’s what it’s about.” Bet you didn’t know that!
Before Duran Duran came along, however, tigers played a significant role in Western music – strange, since they are found only in Asia. You’d think lions were more popular. But that’s another story.
Both Tom Jones and Elvis had brushes with the big cat. Once billed “Tiger Tom the twisting vocalist from Treforest”, Tom Jones released a compilation album called The Tiger in 2003 (and yes, it does contain the song What’s New Pussycat?). Elvis’ Tiger Man, meanwhile, appears on several of his albums (believe it or not, the lyrics in this song include a reference to hound dogs ... that’s just some Elvis trivia for you).
The Elvis song is probably where Shakin Steven’s got his cue for his album, Tiger, released in 1984.
If we broaden our scope a little, things get a little out of hand – Tiger Lily, My Tiger, Do The Tiger, Tigerbird, Tigerbomb, Tigergutt, Tiger Bone, Tiger Bag – there are numerous titles like these, a quick search on the Internet will tell you (lest you get waylaid by Tiger Wood’s lurid alleged affairs, that is).
Leaving the less famous folk out of the picture, here are some interesting tiger rock references. Depeche Mode had an instrumental track called Easy Tiger which you can find on its Exciter album (released in 2001), Beck released a track called Paper Tiger on his 2002 Sea Change album while the Fleet Foxes released the gorgeous Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. Belle and Sebastian fans would remember the Scottish band’s debut album, Tiger Milk. The album was named after a song that didn’t end up making the cut – apparently an instrumental that was later performed numerous times on Belle and Sebastian’s early tours.
Tiger Milk’s cover which featured the strangely sexy picture of a tiger cub being nursed by a girl, got me thinking about other album covers with the striped predator on them. T-Rex fans will remember Marc Bolan sitting comfortably on a tiger in Born To Boogie (The Motion Picture) – a documentary about 1960s glam rock band T-Rex directed by Ringo Starr. Bolan also sang a rather risque tune called Tame My Tiger. Ahem.
Of course, there was the six-week-old tiger cub cuddled by Michael Jackson for the Thriller album sleeve photoshoot. It didn’t make the album cover in 1982 but the cute picture re-emerged as the slipcover for the Thriller: Special Edition release back in 2001. The most recent tiger on an album sleeve was done by alt-rock outfit 30 Seconds to Mars on the This Is War release.
It hasn’t been just the rock stars and pop stars who have a fascination for these beautiful creatures.
In 1993, the French band Volapük released the album Tiger Fire ... not the sort of title you’d expect from a trio of drums, bass clarinet and cello whose music blends jazz, chamber music and rock!
Some bands even went so far as to name themselves after the carnivore. For example, White Tiger, the 1980s American glam rock band formed by former Kiss guitarist Mark St John (former Black Sabbath vocalist David Donato was also part of the band).
And who remembers the Canadian group Glass Tiger and its hit song Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone? There are many others too like the glam metal band Tigertailz, alternative punk band Tiger Army and Tiger Trap, an all-female twee-pop foursome. The name “Tiger Trap” incidentally came from the a comic strip, which leads me to my favourite tiger of them all, Calvin’s kindred spirit, the incomparable Hobbes.
And that’s about all the tiger I can muster for now. Happy Year of the Tiger folks ... Now where did I put that Survivor album again?