Listen up cadets – I’ve got another round of acoustic combat weaponry familiarization lined up for you today.
I’m sure a good number of you are already familiar with Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds. If you aren’t, run out now and make yourself good friends with it. If possible, listen to it late at night; either at home in a dark room, or in a lonesome vehicle traversing the [prairies / outback / asteroid belt / etc]. It is quite possibly the greatest album of the late 70s, and most certainly the greatest pre-golden age science fiction novel turned rock opera of all time. The narrative is woven in to the stories elegantly (unlike some concept albums, that seem to just smash vaguely-related songs up end to end) and the songs are blessed with brilliant melodies and present an atmosphere that compliments the story perfectly. If you don’t believe me, maybe the numbers will convince you: in its day, the album went top ten in 22 countries, and #1 in eleven of those.
I had the opportunity to catch the live show recently (touring almost 30 years after the original recording) and was well-rewarded for dropping my hard-earned credits on tickets. The orchestra included (but was not limited to) three synths, a harp, a poor drummer who got no downtime for the whole show, three guitarists and one bassist, a full string section, an ensemble cast of singers and – of course – a 30-meter high Martian war tripod. The narration was performed by a giant, floating holographic head of Raymond Richard Burton and a video wall behind the orchestra complimented the singers’ on-stage antics. Kick ass.
Next on our listening list is British Columbia’s Darkest of the Hillside Thickets – the finest H.P. Lovecraft-themed indie-rock outfit flying in this sector. Their best-of album Great Old Ones is a collection of not only their trademark Lovecraftian rock (with titles like Jimmy the Squid, Yog-Sothoth and Please God No) but also includes music from outside their usual stable of songs about the unspeakable horrors from beyond man’s imagination. You’ll find endearing geek-rock of the non-gillmen-eating-your-face variety in Big Robot Dinosaur, Sixgun Gorgon Dynamo and My Tank.
The thickets put on a killer stage show – go see them if you can! The stage is spangled with all manner of b-grade retro science fiction gizmos and gadgets, and the band members kit themselves up in astronaut / fungi / satyr costumes.
Ian, if you’re receiving this transmission, this one’s for you: Arjen A. Lucassen’s Star One project was assembled to record an album of heavy metal space opera themes, aptly titled Space Metal. In my own words, I’d describe it as a ‘hyper-retro 70s prog-metal concept album’. I tend to like my metal in small doses, but the tunes here are catchy enough to get me through the whole album in one sitting. I describe the album as being 70s-ish because the songs place a bit of emphasis on creating memorable tunes and comprehensible lyrics, like metal once was, in the dusty past.
I was desperately hoping to find a music video for a Star One track, but such a beast appears to not exist. Luckily, a random has put together a video on the Youtubes for the Star One song Intergalactic Space Crusaders using footage from the BBC science fiction series Blake’s 7. The video’s not half-bad, and since Intergalactic Space Crusaders was written about Blake’s 7 anyhow, a lot of the imagery matches up quite well.
Star One – Intergalactic Space Crusaders (video: Blake’s 7)
Last but most certainly not least is Meco’s 1977 classic disco treatment of the music of Star Wars. Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk is a strange (yet super-awesome) product of the disco era. Imagine Imperial blockades being run by space smugglers… set to bouncy, syncopated bass and a bank of synthified disco strings. The album spawned one single, a retardedly good rendition of the Cantina Band Song, which itself is just an edit of part of the album’s nonstop 15 minute disco medley marathon of Star Wars themes. Really, you haven’t lived if you haven’t heard the Star Wars title theme done in a vaguely p-funk/italo-disco manner.
I’ve once laid my hands on this album (and was immediately filled with a warm glowing warming glow, and I so very nearly took the Red Pill before the feeling wore off), but it unfortunately wasn’t on sale. If any of you are interested in boosting your flight performance review scores, feel free to stuff Viper Pilot’s stocking with a copy of this.
Episode 135 & episode 144 of the Radio Clash podcast are devoted to more in-depth exposition of the space disco genre, of which Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk is just the tip of a reasonably sized iceberg thereof.
There you have it, nuggets – plenty of listening to keep you occupied until the sky marshall’s surprise inspection tomorrow.