Knocking Round the Zoo – by James Taylor

This is an autobiographical song describing Taylor’s stay at McLean, a psychiatric hospital near Boston where he stayed while finishing high school. Taylor was attending a strict boarding school called Milton Academy when he suffered a bout of depression that led his family to pull him from the school and send him to McLean, where he took classes at their affiliated school.

In this song, he explains how it felt like a zoo, with bars on the windows and people coming to look at you – his sister Kate broke down in tears during one visit.

While Taylor was at McLean, he spotted Ray Charles, who was sent there for his heroin addiction. Taylor’s siblings Livingston and Kate also ended up spending time there. Over the next 15 years or so, James ended up in various other rehab centers and hospitals to treat his addictions.

Just knocking around the zoo
On a Thursday afternoon,
There’s bars on all the windows
And they’re counting up the spoons, yeah.
And if I’m feeling edgy,
There’s a chick who’s paid
To be my slave, yeah, watch out James.
But she’ll hit me with a needle
If she thinks I’m trying to misbehave.

Now the keeper’s trying to cool me
Says I’m bound to be all right,
But I know that he can’t fool me
‘Cause I’m putting him uptight, yeah.
And I can feel him getting edgy
Every time I make a sudden move,
Whoa, yes it’s true.
And I can hear them celebrating
Every time I up and leave the room.

Now my friends all come to see me,
They just point at me and stare.
Said, he’s just like the rest of us
So what’s he doing there?
They hide in their movie theaters
Drinking juice, keeping tight,
Watch that bright light.
‘Cause they’re certain about one thing, babe,
That zoo’s no place to spend the night, no.

Just knocking around the zoo
On a Thursday afternoon,
There’s bars on all the windows
And they’re counting up the spoons, yeah.
And if I’m feeling edgy,
There’s a chick who’s paid to be my slave,
Watch out Kootch.
But she’ll hit me with a needle
If she thinks I’m trying to misbehave.

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