Little black egg
Organic No. 12 - Black Egg, Deedee9:14
The Little Black Egg - The Nightcrawlers
Little Black Egg - The Pagans
Little Black Egg - Tarnation
The Little Black Egg - Minus 5
The first "Little Black Egg" I heard was a 1997 version by gothic Americana band Tarnation. You wouldn't know it wasn't the original. The cavernous, reverb-soaked production, chiming steel guitars and Paula Frazer's powerful Georgia preacher's daughter voice make it--for me at least--the definitive take.
The song was written and first performed by The Nightcrawlers, a Daytona Beach, Florida folk-garage rock outfit that had their biggest hit with it in 1966. But it wasn't much of a hit. While "Egg" got plenty of regional radio play upon its first release in 1965, it only made it as far as 85 on Billboard's national charts. Given the Nightcrawlers' phlegmatic execution, that's not surprising. Nice tune, you might say, effective use of four simple chords, rather catchy--particularly the sing-songy verse--but not a lot of energy. And the lyrics...
The history of pop music teems with claptrap, rot and babble, but "Egg" is nonsensical in a fairy tale manner. That is to say, it's somewhat discomfiting. Black bird eggs are uncommon (apparently Emus lay very dark green eggs that can appear black) so the "little black egg with little white specks" has a mythical--and sinister--quality to it. You could support a dozen different metaphorical readings, including the allegory of interracial sex concocted by some alarmist rubes in the mid-60s. But what has always intrigued me is the narrator's fiercely defensive stance:
I found it in a tree just the other day
Now it's mine all mine, they can't take it away.
Given childrens' propensity for imaginary world-making and adults' equal propensity for imaginary world un-making, I'd like to think "Egg" has something to say about letting children be children. Allow them to hold onto their little black eggs as long as possible. There's also these intriguing couple of lines in the final verse of the Nightcrawlers' version:
Oh bother, what can I do?
Little black egg's gonna tell on you.
(At least it sounds like "Oh, bother." I've also found lyrics online that go, "Oh goldurn, what can I do?" Whatever goldurn might refer to... )
The 2004 Minus 5 version--a faithful cover with the addition of an organ and some doo doos and ah ahs--deviates slightly with an "Oh, darling." Tarnation takes a simpler route with "Oh, my" and 80s Cleveland punk band The Pagans dispenses with the verse altogether. Whichever rendition though, the question looms: What is the little black egg gonna tell? What secret might a child reveal that is not either charming or appalling?
Other bands have covered "Egg," including The Cars and Lemonheads. If you have those tracks and would like to send them to me, that'd be swell.
More black eggs:
The Little Black Eggs, Gainesville, Florida band
"My Black Egg," from World Dream Bank
"Black Eggs from the Sky," from Fortean Bureau