Incredible Bongo Band  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Incredible Bongo Band, also known as Michael Viners Incredible Bongo Band, was a project started in 1972 by Michael Viner, a record artist manager and executive at MGM Records. Viner was called on to supplement the soundtrack to the B-film The Thing With Two Heads. The band's output consisted of upbeat, funky, instrumental music. Many tracks were covers of popular songs of the day characterized by the prominence of bongo drums, conga drums, rock drums and brass.

Bongo Rock was featured in Robert Dimery's book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.



The band released two albums, 1973's Bongo Rock, and 1974's Return of the Incredible Bongo Band. The instrumental "Bongo Rock", co-written by Art Laboe and Preston Epps and released by Epps as a Top 40 hit in 1959, was covered by the Incredible Bongo Band (shown as "Bongo Rock '73" on the album), and became a minor US hit for them in 1973, and a substantial hit in Canada (#20).

Michael Viner would make use of MGM recording facilities in down-time, recruiting whichever studio musicians were on-hand. This apparently included many well-known blow-ins, all uncredited. Important contributions were made by Jim Gordon on drums and King Errisson on bongos. Ringo Starr is rumored to have played on some tracks, specifically "Kiburi". The "down-time" sessions carried on for some time, until upper management finally quelled the vanity project.

Other musicians involved in the sessions, per the movie Sample This, include:

Musicians mentioned elsewhere


This was never an actual band. Once the product had been finally released, a fake band was assembled and photographed. Those photos were seen on some album artwork, and in publicity.

The first Incredible Bongo Band album included a cover of "Apache", an instrumental tune written by Jerry Lordan and originally made popular in the UK by The Shadows, and in the United States and Canada by Jørgen Ingmann. They recorded the song at Can-Base Studios in Vancouver to take advantage of Canadian content laws, which had helped promote their previous hit, "Bongo Rock." The group's version of "Apache" (produced by Perry Botkin Jr.) was not a hit upon release, and languished in relative obscurity until the late 1970s, when it was adopted by early hip-hop artists, including pioneering deejay Kool Herc, for the uncommonly long percussion break in the middle of the song. Subsequently, many of the Incredible Bongo Band's other releases were sampled by hip-hop producers, and the "Apache" break also remains a staple of many producers in drum and bass. The song received popular attention again in 2001 when it was featured in an ad for an Acura SUV. In 2008, music critic Will Hermes did an article on "Apache" and the Incredible Bongo Band for the New York Times and had an entire documentary devoted to it called "Sample this".

As well, the band's cover of "Let There Be Drums," which was made famous by Sandy Nelson and also performed by the Ventures, was used as the theme song for the long-running television show Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling during the 1980s. It made #66 in Canada in December 1973.

"Last Bongo in Belgium" has been sampled in the songs "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" performed by the Beastie Boys, "Angel" performed by Massive Attack and "Song of Life" performed by Leftfield.

"Let There Be Drums" was used in Ken Burns' Baseball: The 10th Inning, the follow-up to Burns' '94 PBS documentary.

"In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was used as the main loop in two different songs by Nas: "Hip Hop Is Dead" and "Thief's Theme".

The 2013 documentary Sample This, directed by Dan Forrer and narrated by Gene Simmons, recounts the story of the Incredible Bongo Band and its recording of "Apache".

"Bongolia" was used in Edgar Wright's 2017 film Baby Driver.


A cover group was formed by musician Shawn Lee, with the parallel name "Shawn Lee's Incredible Tabla Band". They released a cover album with Ubiquity Records in 2011. The album was entitled Tabla Rock, based on the album Bongo Rock. On Tabla Rock, Lee covered the entire Bongo Band debut album, as well as two tracks from their second album. Lee's album covers the music on tabla instead of bongo, presenting it in an Indian-funk style.


Bongo Rock

Released 1973.

  1. "Let There Be Drums"
  2. "Apache"
  3. "Bongolia"
  4. "Last Bongo in Belgium"
  5. "Dueling Bongos"
  6. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"
  7. "Raunchy '73"
  8. "Bongo Rock '73"

The Return of the Incredible Bongo Band

Released 1974.

  1. "Kiburi"
  2. "When the Bed Breaks Down, I'll Meet You in the Spring"
  3. "Sing, Sing, Sing"
  4. "Pipeline"
  5. "Wipe Out"
  6. "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, Your Tie's Caught In Your Zipper"
  7. "Slightly Reminiscent of Topsy, Parts One, Two And Three"
  8. "Sharp Nine"
  9. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
  10. "Got The Sun in the Morning and the Daughter At Night"
  11. "Ohkey Dokey"

Bongo Rock (2006 Compilation)

LP Release

A1. "Apache"
A2. "Let There Be Drums"
A3. "Bongolia"
A4. "Wipe Out"
B1. "Dueling Bongos"
B2. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"
B3. "Raunchy '73"
C1. "Last Bongo in Belgium"
C2. "Bongo Rock '73"
C3. "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, Your Tie's Caught in Your Zipper"
C4. "Sharp Nine"
D1. "Kiburi"
D2. "Sing, Sing, Sing"
D3. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
D4. "Ohkey Dokey"
D5. "When the Bed Breaks Down, I'll Meet You in the Spring"

2001 Compilation CD Release

  1. "Let There Be Drums"
  2. "Bongolia"
  3. “Kiburi”
  4. "Apache"
  5. "Sing, Sing, Sing"
  6. "Dueling Bongos"
  7. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"
  8. "Raunchy '73"
  9. "Bongo Rock '73"
  10. "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, Your Tie's Caught in Your Zipper"
  11. "Sharp Nine"
  12. "Okey Dokey"
  13. "Pipeline"
  14. "When the Bed Breaks Down, I'll Meet You in the Spring"
  15. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
  16. "Wipe Out"
  17. "Last Bongo in Belgium"
  18. "Got the Sun in the Morning and the Daughter at Night"
  19. "Slightly Reminiscent of Topsy"

2006 CD Release

  1. "Apache"
  2. "Let There Be Drums"
  3. "Bongolia"
  4. "Last Bongo in Belgium"
  5. "Dueling Bongos"
  6. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"
  7. "Raunchy '73"
  8. "Bongo Rock '73"
  9. "Kiburi"
  10. "Sing, Sing, Sing"
  11. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
  12. "Wipe Out"
  13. "When the Bed Breaks Down, I'll Meet You in the Spring"
  14. "Pipeline"
  15. "Ohkey Dokey"
  16. "Sharp Nine"
  17. "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, Your Tie's Caught in Your Zipper"
  18. "Apache (Grandmaster Flash Remix)"
  19. "Last Bongo in Belgium (Breakers Mix)"

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Incredible Bongo Band" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools