Eagle Rock: Your parents probably had sex with her. Nobody wants to think about it | The music
IIf you’re a certain age, like me, maybe you owe Daddy Cool’s Eagle Rock your whole life. Your parents probably had sex with it. Nobody wants to think about it, do they? It literally makes him rock daddy. Or mom and dad rock, if you prefer.
Eagle Rock turns 50 this year. It’s a cultural touchstone, voted the second greatest Australian song of all time, behind the Easybeats’ Friday on my mind, in a 2001 survey by the Australasian Performing Right Association.
Yet there is a younger generation ironically losing their minds over Daryl Braithwaite’s horses – a naff cover of a song by Rickie Lee Jones – but rejects Eagle Rock. Why?
It could be Mondo Rock, the new wave group that Daddy Cool frontman Ross Wilson led from 1976 to 1991. More specifically, it could be their scary hit from 1983. Come on said the boy. But you can’t totally blame Wilson for that one. It was written by guitarist Eric McCusker.
More likely, it’s ubiquity. Overexposure can do terrible things to a tune, and Eagle Rock is a must. In Australia it has been featured twice in my life: 17 weeks at # 1 in 1971 (the year I was born, if not conception), and it reached # 17 when it was re-released in 1982 It remains a classic of rock FM radio.
New Zealanders were equally obsessed with Eagle Rock. Across the Tasman, the song peaked in the charts 19 years after its release, eventually becoming No. 1 for a month in 1990, when it remained on the charts for 15 weeks.
It’s a football anthem. The West Coast Eagles play it to celebrate the victories after the home games, after their club song, and it was also played after their victory in the 2018 Grand Final. It’s also the unofficial theme song of the Manly- Warringah Sea Eagles of the NRL.
More doubtful, it was students at the University of Queensland who started the bizarre tradition of pulling down their pants and strutting, though more like chickens than eagles. (I can personally attest to this.)
Cultural cringe may also play a role – the belief that Eagle Rock is a legacy of an American tradition. The name derives from the ragtime standard Ballin the Jack, which features the lyrics, “Spread your arms of love in space / Then you do eagle rock with style and grace” – eagle rock, of course, being a sexual metaphor.
Which brings us back to what makes Eagle Rock work. It is true that Daddy Cool was more 50s than 60s when they appeared in the early 70s: musically, they were a throwback to the rock’n’roll and doo-wop spirit that could seem disagreement with time. And on the other hand, Daddy Cool’s music itself moved with timeless style and grace.
When you step into the groove, Eagle Rock remains contagious, from the seductive opening notes of the late Ross Hannaford’s guitar, to Wilson’s cry: “Now listen! Her childbirth is devious and sexually charged. Of course it does: what should a song called Eagle Rock be? The joy in the overall game is palpable.
And if a good cultural cringe requires validation from beyond our shores, then Daddy Cool has had it in spades. Most famous, Elton John’s Rock Crocodile was directly inspired by Eagle Rock. Which is also cool. But did you know Marc Bolan’s first request, after landing in Australia with T. Rex in 1973, it was to meet the author of the song? Where Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were fascinated by Daddy Cool’s debut album, Dad who? How cool is that?
Daddy Cool was also one of the first Australian bands to hit American shores, in 1971, when Eagle Rock was still at the top of the charts in their home country. By signing a deal with Reprise, they opened shows for Deep Purple, Captain Beefheart, and Fleetwood Mac (before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham arrived).
So what about this song? I asked Wilson if there was anything left to say about Eagle Rock after 50 years.
Wilson replied that the four members of Daddy Cool, between them, have that intangible chemistry that big bands have. “Give this song to other bands and it doesn’t sound good,” he said.
“When I listen to the original recording today, I am always amazed by the voodoo of this song. There are harmonics that I can hear that provide the magic, like there are additional players, even though I know there aren’t.
“One of my biggest post-Daddy Cool moments was at the Port Fairy Folk Festival maybe 10 years ago, when Nigerian musicians heard I was playing, insisted on seeing me, stumbled across the stage side – we finished with Eagle Rock and as I walked out on stage they gave me a big hug. That’s the reach of Eagle Rock. It’s awesome.
So this is it. Who is your daddy? Cool daddy. You should thank them. So stretch out your loving arms in space.