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Published on December 26th, 2011 | by Alan Cross

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Where Did the Special Lyrics in Billy Idol’s Version of “Mony Mony” Come From?

It was probably in the spring of 1987 when I first heard the special audience lyrics in the Billy Idol version of the Tommy James classic, “Mony Mony.”  I was hosting one of the old CFNY Video Roadshows at a high school somewhere in Southern Ontario. When Martin Streek, the guy in charge of playing the videos, flipped to this clip, the dancers erupted.

At first, I couldn’t make how what they were yelling.  ”What are they shouting?” I asked Martin.  He helpfully translated with the appropriate arm gestures.

Billy:  Here she come now singing Mony Mony
Dancers:  HEY MOTHERF*CKER GET LAID GET F*CKED!
Billy:  Well, shoot ‘em down, turn around, come on Mony
Dancers:  HEY MOTHERF*CKER GET LAID GET F*CKED!
Billy:  Hey she give me love and I feel alright now
Dancers:  HEY MOTHERF*CKER GET LAID GET F*CKED!

I looked at him weird.  ”How do they know what to say?”

A puzzled look came across Martin’s face for a moment; it was apparent that he’d never considered the question before. Then he just shrugged and turned to deal with a very angry principal who was appalled that such obscenities would be chanted by his students in his gym at his school.

The question of the origins of the special audience participation lyrics has been in the back of my mind ever since.  Perhaps it’s time to address it once and for all–if that’s even possible.

* * *

Wikipedia defines a meme in the following way:  

An idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.

Over the last decade, we’ve all become familiar with dozens of Internet memes:  Star Wars Kid, LOL cats, the Rickroll and so on.  But this concept of ideas and behaviours spreading within a culture goes far, far back into the depths of time.  At their core, language, religion and all manner of social conventions are memes. Someone comes up with an idea.  Another person likes it and spreads to another person–and so on and so on and so on until it’s a generally accepted practice and everyone is doing it.

How memes take root and travel is a serious area of study for cultural anthropologists and sociologists. Such study can tell us a lot about a culture, its language, its mores and folkways and various forms of communication.

Yes, what you’re about to read is obscene and vulgar, but try to set that aside for a moment.  Instead try to focus on the mystery of where the “Mony Mony” audience chant began, how it spread and how it mutated.

First, a little history.  ”Mony Mony” was written in 1968 by Tommy James, an American singer who had a string of hit singles through the 60s.  The title comes from a sign on a building that James could see from his apartment in Manhattan:  the MONY Building, short for Mutual of New York.  The song reached #3 in both Canada and the US and was a #1 hit in the UK.

Over the next decade, the song was covered several times with varying degrees of success.  But then came Billy Idol.  

In 1981, fresh from leaving Generation X, Billy released a four-track EP entitled Don’t Stop.  The first song on the disc was his take on “Mony Mony.”  Although it was released as a single, it was a stiff, managing no better than #107 on the Billboard Hot 100.

But by the time Idol re-released the song in a live version on October 2, 1987 (and coinciding with the North American release of his Vital Idol collection), an interesting and inexplicable phenomenon had taken root whenever the song was performed live or played in a club, at a dance or even a wedding reception: the obscene call-and-response audience chant between the lines of the verses.  

How did this occur?  It certainly wasn’t via the Internet because in 1987, no one except a few hardcore geeks knew what that was.  It couldn’t have been through radio airplay because no radio version with the chanting bit was ever released.  And it certainly wouldn’t have been through video play because neither MTV or MuchMusic would have dared play something with such vulgarities.

Furthermore, this seems to have largely been a North American phenomenon–or at least I haven’t been able to uncover any evidence of the chant originating (or even being used) in Britain, Europe or anywhere else in the world.  The chants were essentially the same but with slight regional differences. The earliest discussion board post I can find on the subject is from May 20, 1989.

(There’s little documentation I can cite for the following, but this is what I’ve managed to glean from various message boards dating back to the late 80s.  This is far from a comprehensive list, so corrections/additions/elaborations are welcome in the comments section.)

 

  • Southern Ontario/New York state/Ohio/Pennsylvania: “Hey, motherfucker!  Get laid, get fucked!”
  • Wisconsin/Colorado/British Columbia:  ”Hey, what’s that?  Get laid, get fucked!”
  • Texas:  ”Come on, everybody!  Get laid, get fucked!”
  • Some university campuses:  ”Hey, hey, slut! Get laid, get fucked!”
  • Elsewhere:  ”Hey, hey what? Get laid, get fucked!”and “Hey, get drunk, get laid, get fucked!” 

 

There were probably others, but you get the drift.

These chants seemed to emerge spontaneously and at more-or-less the same time.  Why?  It’s unclear, but here are some theories:

1.  Some maintain that the tradition extends back to 1969 when the original Tommy James version was played in New York City clubs like The Guest House and the 44th Street Armory. (Link to discussion board post.)

2.  One rumour involves lip-reading.  There’s allegedly a video where we can clearly see Idol mouthing those words.  Delving further, it appears that Idol himself endorses the “Hey, motherfucker! Get laid, get fucked!” version of the chant.  Witnesses say that endorsement goes back to an Idol show at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas sometime in the late 80s.  Here’s an example of Idols performing the song in the now-accepted fashion.

3.  When the Don’t Stop EP was released, Idol appeared on MTV with Martha Quinn.  During the interview, it’s alleged that he admitted to losing his virginity to the Tommy James version.  Skip ahead to 7:50 of the interview to hear what he says.

So where does this leave us?  Sadly, no closer to the truth than when we started.  The origins of the “Mony Mony” meme remains a mystery.  Perhaps this might work as a PhD thesis for some budding cultural anthropologist.  Or maybe someone will read this and offer more evidence.

I’ll tell you one thing:  the next time I run into Billy Idol, I’m going to pin him down until he gives me an answer.


About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.



40 Responses to Where Did the Special Lyrics in Billy Idol’s Version of “Mony Mony” Come From?

  1. dawn9902 says:

    Funny, about six weeks ago after a conversation with my daughter and her friend about my most hated songs played at dances/wedding receptions/etc, I did this very same research and came up with pretty much what you did. This phenomenon started just after my high school days, and I've always been curious too.

  2. @weebsurfer says:

    Your "very angry principal" story is quite familiar. It was either '87 or '88 when our principal @ Millwood High School in Nova Scotia put an immediate stop to the evil lyrics and proceeded to ban the playing of Mony Mony at further dances.

  3. rusty says:

    Took a trip to Purdue University, Indiana, in early 2000's…Students at pub chanted "Face down, ass up, that's the way we like to fuck". Pretty original…

  4. Alan Cross says:

    Hmm. That's a new one to add to the list. I wonder how the chant mutations develop?

  5. etyer says:

    Alan wrote: " Witnesses say that endorsement goes back to an Idol show at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas sometime in the late 80s."

    Mandalay Bay opened in early 1999. Did you mean the late 90s?

  6. Mike says:

    Rusty: "Face down, ass up, that's the way we like to fuck" are lyrics from the 2 Live Crew song, "Face Down A— Up."

  7. Emily says:

    We did that in high school in a small suburb of Minneapolis, circa 1988. We shouted "hey hey what, get laid, get fucked" on each verse.

    We had several other memes though for dances. For example: we shouted "Leonard Bernstein" in REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It", and had a very choreographed dance to Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun."

    No idea where these came from, but everyone knew them and did them.

  8. geiser says:

    In small town Wooster Ohio, circa 1986 it was 'laid, get laid, get fucked', which is more of an anthem.
    The 'hey motherfucker' part sounds like your yelling at someone.

  9. fred zeppelin says:

    Nebraska/Iowa variation: Let's get drunk, get laid, get fucked!

  10. fred zeppelin says:

    PS, that's from about 1990-present. Never heard "hey motherfucker" before.

  11. Don J says:

    During on-stage banter @ an L.A. show a few years back Billy Idol sheepishly admitted the story about losing his virginity to the Tommy James version was made up(doubtless riffing on John Belushi insisting "Louie Louie" be included in "Animal House" because Belushi lost his virginity to THAT song) the fact was that his manager had him cover it because he owned the publishing to "Mony Mony" & Idol mused that the truth wasn't a cool story, hence… His story about writing "Sweet Little Sixteen" in a motel room on tour after watching a segment on Leonard Nimoy's "In Search Of" about the Coral Castle in Florida was funny

  12. kira_generika says:

    i was in grade 6 when Vital Idol came out. we used to chant 'hey rubber ducky get wet get soaked' to avoid getting in trouble with the teachers and principal when this song would come on at school dances.

  13. maddog714 says:

    It seems the only way to narrow this origin down is to speak with Billy.
    Anybody got his number? I will give the guy a call.

    I especially enjoyed all of your comments on this page. You peeps must all be about my age or a bit younger. I am 47 and I can relate to all of these comments that you people have made. It is like reminiscing about all those fun times that we had, but we don't even know each other… funny.

  14. Rich says:

    In California late 80's it was 'Hey you, Hey what, Get laid, Get fucked' Also at every base I was stationed at in the Corps.

    good times…..

  15. Carol says:

    He's on Twitter. Just ask him.

  16. /dev/null says:

    Very interesting, however one correction. Mandalay Bay in Vegas didn't open until 1999. So it could have been Vegas show in the 80s but not at that venue.

  17. maddog714 says:

    @ Carol
    I don't know how to use Twitter.
    (currently very embarrassed)

  18. dogemperor says:

    Apparently the chant wasn't all THAT common in parts of KY, but I can state that at least in this state the phenomenon seems to have started in dance clubs, especially those catering to the LGBT set–and apparently VERY soon after the song was released. (Of note, this was the "Hey/Hey What?/Get laid/Get fucked!" variant that seems to have been the most common.)

  19. scarlettred says:

    Um, does anyone not remember that people would scream out something very similar between the verses of Hank Williams Jr.'s "Family Tradtion"?

    "Why do you drink?"

    "TO GET DRUNK!"

    "And why do you roll smoke?"

    "TO GET HIGH!"

    "Why must you live out/the songs that you wrote?"

    "TO GET LAID!"

    Sounds like a bunch of Billy Idol fans in the 80's had parents who liked a little ol' Hank Jr every once in awhile.

  20. rgb says:

    I used to DJ for parties and stuff, and I'd never heard of the chant before I played it at a wedding…
    The version the guests – groom (who had requested the song, incidentally), bride, almost everyone, started to chant "Hey, she's fat, I'm drunk!"
    after the song was played, the bride's mother came up and very angrily berated me for playing the "Dirty Version" of the song.

  21. Caddock says:

    In New Brunswick we went with the Southern Ontario version back in the late 80's

  22. Bruffin says:

    In the summer of 1986, the Hey! / Hey what? / Get laid! / Get fucked! version was being sung in Southern MN and Northern Iowa. There was an under 21 dance club named Uncle Sam's in Spirit Lake Iowa.

    Wow, that little trip down memory lane was nice.

  23. bob says:

    We went with the Southern Ontario version in Newfoundland too. It was a very popular song at teen dances at the Lions Club. It got banned pretty quick at the school dances.

  24. I heard the hey motherfukker, get laid, get fukt at school dances as early as 1983 so it goes back at least that far.

  25. Sobekisis says:

    "Nuts and bolts, HEY! We got Screwed!" Maybe I just grew up with a slightly less swear-y crowd?

  26. MassKid says:

    Did anyone else shout, "Fuckin' horny!" over the chorus' "Mony Mony?" In Massachusetts in the late 80s, we did that in addition to the "Hey, hey what, get laid get fucked" variant.

  27. palais says:

    Southern Alberta (High River, specifically) did "hey motherfucker, get laid, get fucked" in the early nineties, when I was still in school. We also sang "Fucking horny" over the chorus.

    Curiouser and curiouser. I am fascinated by memes, but this one has always been my favourite. Simply because I liked seeing my junior high school principal huffing and puffing through the gym, red fanced and forehead vein ready to burst, shocked that we all were swearing. Funniest thing ever.

  28. Doug says:

    Billy has said many times it was from the DJ's in Mexico in Rosarito playing for the Spring Break American kids. Mostly from the bar Papas and Beer. duh. -get out more and see Billy Idol people!!!

  29. Jim says:

    Kids in my small Rhode Island town also did the "Fuckin' horny" bit over "Mony Mony," and their chant was "Hey everybody, get laid get fucked!" The first time I heard it was at a church dance.

  30. je40 says:

    1991 I was in Honduras with the US Army. It was at the base club that I first heard the fill in – shouted there as "Hey, hey you, get drunk, get fucked." I never heard that done anywhere else later.

  31. TC says:

    Central Alberta, in Highschool 1987 we sang "Hey MF'er get laid get Fkd". In University two years later we also sang "Fk your balls off" over "Mony Mony".

  32. Greg says:

    We were doing 'Hey motherfucker get laid get fucked' in New Zealand by the middle of 1988. I still remember the first time I heard it at a school dance when another school was visiting for a sports week and students from that school all started doing it. From then on it was standard fare at every school disco.

    Interesting article. I've wondered where it came from myself. Must have spread quite quickly.

  33. Michael Griffin says:

    The version I heard growing up in Ypsilanti, MI was the same as in Texas: "Come on, everybody! Get laid, get fucked!"

  34. Ed says:

    In Ohio, I heard females chant, "Be a bitch, say NO!" Can't wait to pass on to the children;)

  35. MJ says:

    I was either a freshman or sophomore in high school when I learned of the sub-lyrics. I grew up in central Illinois, and I was taught – "Hey, hey, whaddaya say! Let's get fucked up!"
    My current boyfriend grew up just a few towns away from me, where he knew – "Hey! Get drunk, get fucked!"
    I had no idea that regional variations existed, and that they all essentially say the same thing, and fit similar rhythms within the song. Ha!

    I'm SO fascinated by the fact that this subject still has people talking!

  36. Jim says:

    The earliest I remember is late 1983/early 1984 while stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey, CA. You would hear the people at the club on post yelling, "Hey! Get laid! Get fucked!" during "Mony, Mony"

  37. Al says:

    Calgary Alberta in 1986 at the school dance I heard it for the first time, "Hey MF, get laid get fucked!" The song stopped immediately and the vice principal gave us a lecture. This is a great topic, can't wait to share it with my friends.

  38. K says:

    I had never heard of any of those chants until one night at a bar. A few of my friends had yelled the chant and I just looked at them funny. I guess I had always heard the “radio friendly” version.
    But now everytime I hear this song I cant help but do the chant (in my head). Nice to read the other versions. :)

  39. Anne says:

    As far as I know the special lyrics started in the dance clubs of Mississauga…..

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