Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

“Rockin’ in Baghdad”: Another Missed Opportunity for “Irony”

Speaking of old songs that take on a whole new meaning when considered against a modern geopolitical context (see previous post about Cat Stevens), Capitol US released a 45 in 1957 that featured “Rockin’ in Bag[h]dad,” a song that I very well could have imagined playing in the background during the military invasion of Iraq’s capital in 2003:

Rockin’ in Bag[h]dad

Jerry Reed (1957)

It would appear that virtually no one during the initial occupation of Iraq – aside from a college student named Ken – seemed aware of this groundbreaking Middle-Eastern-meets-rockabilly-rave-up written by upstart singer and guitar picker, Jerry Reed.

Jerry Reed 45

Over in Baghdad in the burning sand
We’ve got a new kinda rhythm that’s real cool and
They put a beat to the rhythm of their ancient land
Then what do they get, a crazy style
And it’s driving old Baghdad wild
They’re rockin’ in Baghdad, having a ball
Jumping in Baghdad, climbing the wall

Baghdad’s rocking tonight
Doing that boogie up right

They’re going like mad, a-rocking in old Baghdad
A long time ago back in old Baghdad
The dance of the seven veils was the fad
The sultan got hip to these rhythm and blues
And now he’s got a pair of rocking shoes
His harem is a-bopping to a boogie beat
They even got the camels hopping down the street
A snake charmer threw his little flute away
Got a guitar now and he’s learning to play
Something’s really happened in old Baghdad
‘Cause they’re doing that boogie

And they’re going like that
Baghdad’s rocking tonight


Cash Box

June 1, 1957

Billboard‘s review from their June 10, 1957 issue

Combination of oriental licks, english horn and Reed’s rockin’ warble adds up to interesting, different listening.  Provocative entry figures to get a whirl.

“Rockin’ In Bag[h]dad” would also see release in Canada, Germany, and Japan.


LINK to 50s/60s Rockabilly Bop +/- Boogie

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