Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Garlic in Popular Music — Garlic Songs

There are a considerable number of people on this planet who are not yet aware of the existence of a restaurant – The Stinking Rose – dedicated to celebrating the garlic bulb in all its glory, with garlic infused into the majority of the menu offerings.  With only two locations (one in Beverly Hills [currently closed], the other in San Francisco), I’m afraid this dream destination will simply have to remain one for the indefinite future for many of us.

In the meantime, I will to have content myself with garlic-themed music for my soul food.  But do songs about garlic exist?  Here’s what Zero to 180’s investigation turned up — click on song titles for streaming audio (where available).

As it turns out, garlic songs – at least here in the States – are at least as old as the blues. Sylvester Weaver‘s “Garlic Blues” from 1927, it bears noting, will turn 100 in eleven years:

Garlic Blues

Helen Humes with Sylvester Weaver & Walter Beasley (1927)

Not much else would appear for a couple decades, it seems, until The Max Brüel Quartet from Denmark released their jazz instrumental composition in 1955, “Garlic Wafer” on a 3-song EP.

Garlic Wafer” by The Max Brüel Quartet

Side one, track 2

Garlic 45-b 1966 would bring another garlic sighting, when Capitol subsidiary label, Tower, released its single “(Get Off That) Booze & Garlic Bread” by garage rocker, Denny Rockwell.

This 45 deserves, if not partial credit, at least an asterisk

Garlic 45-aa

Two years later, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and his Quartet would channel the spirits, and beat John Lennon to the punch in the process, with the wryly-titled “Instant Garlic” from the group’s 1968 album, Insight.

Instant garlic’s gonna get you –

Gonna knock you right on the head

Garlic LP-bb1972 saw the release of NRBQ‘s (Eddie Kramer-produced) Scraps, a wide-ranging album that included the whimsical and dadesque “Who Put the Garlic in the Glue.”  [42 years later, Lin Brehmer from Chicago’s CBS affiliate XRT would single out NRBQ’s “Who Put the Garlic in the Glue” for her October 22, 2014 ‘Hump Day Unusual Moment‘ segment.]

Who Put the Garlic in the Glue” by NRBQ

Back when the Q stood for Quintet


Sometime in 1977 — within the confines of Italy, appropriately enough — garlic would get the funky instrumental it so richly deserves in the form of “Garlic Salt” by The Joy Unlimited Group & the Continentals.

Garlic Salt” by The Joy Unlimited Group & the Continentals

Italy’s own

1978 would see the final album – Spaceguerilla – from German progressive jazz-rock group, Missus Beastly, with “King Garlic,” fittingly, as its closing track.

King Garlic” by Missus Beastly

Side 2, track 4

Garlic LP-f

Before decade’s end, Leo Kottke would do his part to advance the cause with the release of 1979’s Balance, an LP that would include “1/2 Acre of Garlic.”

1/2 Acre of Garlic” by Leo Kottke

Yugoslavian PressingLeo Kottke LP-a

1979 would also see the release of a Folkways album – Folk Songs from Latin America by Suni Paz – that would include the heartfelt paean “Al Ajo (To Garlic)”:

Al Ajo (To Garlic)” by Suni Paz –

Side 1, track 4

Garlic LP-e1979 would prove to be a banner year, with the release of the soundtrack to George A. Romero’s vampire-themed film, Martin — an album that would include “Garlic Chase #6.”

Garlic Chase #6” –

Side 1, track 7Garlic LP-a

But the big breakthrough for garlic in song would come by way of Chapel Hill foursome, Superchunk, who no doubt “sweated out” vast amounts of garlic recording their unabashed 1990 declaration of bulb love, “Garlic” — the B-side of a split single on noted indie label, Merge, along with Seaweed and Geek (“released to go with a US tour of the three bands”):

Garlic” by Superchunk (1990)

By the turn of the new century, it was a whole new era for Garlic in Popular Music, and even LeeScratchPerry and Guided By Voices would eventually get in on the game, as you will note on the list below — a public service from the tireless research staff at Zero to 180.

Garlic in Modern Pop:

An Exhaustive & Exhausting Discography

Also Worth a(n) Historical Asterisk

Bobby Gregory‘s Country Comedy LP includes a comic routine “We Always Feed Our Baby Garlic” that is also illustrated at the very bottom of the album cover – dead center:

Garlic LP-d

The “contents” of Side A from Monty Python‘s Previous Record from 1970 – written from the perspective of a ‘Harley St. dentist’ – is an amusing bit that includes a ‘Where’s Waldo’ game:

Can you find the phrase “stinking garlic”?

Garlic LP-c

Bonus Bit!

Garlic in the News

Spokane, Washington’s The Spokesmen Review published this arresting bit of trivia in 1997:
“The original Popeye cartoon character ate garlic, not spinach. Many urged New York cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar to put his character on a different diet. Back then, garlic wasn’t all that popular, not even roasted.”
Garlic ended up causing a stink during one of The Supremes’ 1960s European tours, as recounted later by Diana Ross‘s personal manager, Shelley Berger, for Billboard‘s March 20, 1976 issue:
“Once, in Milan, the four of us — Diana, Mary, Cindy and I — discovered escargot. We must have eaten twenty apiece. It was our first time, and we loved it! We got into a cab (this was in February and it was a cold day) and the driver kept rolling the window down. We asked him, ‘Please, it’s cold – roll up the window’ but he kept it down. Finally we realized — it was the garlic! We didn’t notice – we were talking, laughing, and the garlic must have been overwhelming in the tiny taxicab. But every tour brings discoveries.”
Garlic, despite its many health benefits, can be a pariah in many social situations, causing some places to pass legislation to keep garlic eaters removed from the civilized world. As reported in the July 20, 1990 issue of Radio & Records —
“In Winnipeg, Manitoba, citizens are not allowed to attend a [musical] performance within four hours of consuming garlic.”
Garlic fans might want to seek out ‘Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers’ – documentary filmmaker Les Blank‘s “love letter to the stinking rose” from 1980 (now part of the Criterion Collection – link to the trailer).

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