Lyric Analysis: The Bangles and 'Walk Like An Egyptian'

"Walk Like An Egyptian"

All the old paintings on the tombs,
They do the sand dance,
Don't you know?

You might not know so I’m here to help.  The ‘sand dance’ is a reference to a British music hall act from 1930s performed by Wilson Keppel and Betty.  It was an act that mimicked postures in paintings found on Tutankhamun’s tomb.  In this case it’s a self-referential reference since the sand dance mimics tomb paintings which the Bangles say are in turn doing the sand dance.  It’s a sand dance-ception.

If they move too quick
They're falling down like a domino.

Though it is rare for a single domino to make much of an impression when it falls.  A whole complex line of dominos, plural, however... that’s a sight to behold.

All the bazaar men by the Nile,
He got the money on a bet.

Who got the money on a bet?  One of the bazaar men?  I need context!  Why reference all the men by the Nile if the gambling win of only one is all that matters?

For the crocodiles they snap their teeth
On your cigarette.

Really if your cigarette is all the crocodile got in its jaws you are damn lucky, son.  Stop sticking your head out over the water like an idiot and pay attention to your gambling.

Foreign types with their hookah pipes say
Walk like an Egyptian.

Hookahs are Persian and as the Persian Empire (now Iran) isn’t directly adjacent to Egypt, I’ll allow the ‘foreign’ reference on a technicality.  But it would be more accurate if the hookah-smoker in question was actually the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland because Wonderland is through the looking-glass which is really much more foreign.  

The blond waitresses take their trays
They spin around and they cross the floor;
They got the moves.
You drop your drink then they bring you more.

Clearly it’s one of those dinner theatre restaurants where the staff are part of the performance but one with a hiring policy that is discriminatory against brunettes and redheads.

All the school kids so sick of books,
They like the punk and the metal band.

This song is so rife with cliche and stereotype and cultural appropriation and various and sundry PR pitfalls it’s a wonder it remains so popular today.  I will say this: there is no reason why one cannot like punk, metal and books simultaneously.  Ask Nathan Waddell.

When the buzzer rings,
They're walking like an Egyptian.

Who are all these punks sand dancing back to class sans books?

All the kids in the marketplace say:
Walk like an Egyptian.

I hope it’s a marketplace in Egypt and this is a sort of “when in Rome” reference.

Slide your feet up the street
Bend your back
Shift your arm and then you pull it back.

As far as in-song choreography instructions go, this is much less clear-cut than the Time Warp for sure.  

Life is hard you know
So strike a pose on a Cadillac.

You lil’ rebel without a clue you.

If you want to find all the cops
They're hanging out in the donut shop.

“Do you smell bacon, Garth?”
“I definitely smell a pork product of some kind.”

They sing and dance
Spin the clubs cruise down the block.

This is still in reference to the cops, right?  They’re hanging out in the donut shop before singing and dancing and spinning clubs down the block?  Are they spinning billy clubs?  Is ‘spinning clubs’ some kind of obscure DJ reference I am unfamiliar with due to my advanced age?  Do they spin the clubs as they cruise or just prior to cruising?  See, kids, grammar and punctuation are your friends for good reason.  The value of clarity of expression cannot be discounted.

All the Japanese with their yen
The party boys call the Kremlin

That is some bad life advice right there.  Do not drunk dial the Kremlin under any circumstances.  

And the Chinese know
They walk the line like Egyptian.

All the cops in the donut shop say:
Walk like an Egyptian
Walk like an Egyptian.

I’m not completely up on my cop lingo but I am certain “walk like an Egyptian” is not one of their more popular phrases.  “You have the right to remain silent” sure.  “Freeze, police” yes.  “Do you know why I pulled you over?” definitely.


- Corinne Simpson