Music to Watch Space Girls By

It's music, Jim, but not as we know it

It's music, Jim, but not as we know it

The new Star Trek movie has been in the cinema for a week now and it’s actually getting good reviews. I’ve spoken to a few people I know who’ve seen it and they’ve been quite enthusiastic about it. It may take me a few weeks to go see it, though, as I’m going to be travelling a bit over the next week or so. I used to watch the original TV series from the 60s and the Next Generation from the 80s in my younger and more formative years. In recent years, I’ve discovered that the show has bequeathed quite an interesting musical legacy. This includes some songs about the show and characters, and many more by some of the more prominent actors associated with the series. Those particular tunes really are out of this world

The original Star Trek series had been on air for two years in 1968 and had built up a sizeable cult following. Musically, it was a time when rock musicians began to release more consistent and critically acclaimed albums, rather than a collection of singles padded out with filler. Two of the early innovators in this sense were Bob Dylan and The Beatles. So, when William Shatner put out an album called The Transformed Man he included Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds and Mr Tambourine Man alongside spoken word and verse, including the work of a certain William Shakespeare. His renditions of these songs were “inspired” by his acting style: he over-emphasises the words and introduces dramatic pauses at key moments. I wonder what Bob Dylan thinks of what Shatner’s version of one of his more famous songs

Mr Tambourine Man – William Shatner

In 2004, Shatner released an album in collaboration with Ben Folds entitled Has Been. Shatner and Folds co-wrote all the songs bar one and Folds also produced and played on the record. The only cover on the album is a version of Common People by Pulp that Shatner “sings” with Joe Jackson. It’s certainly quite funny to hear him singing Jarvis Cocker’s words. I wonder what Cocker makes of it

Common People – William Shatner

Shatner was not the first member of the Starship Enterprise to release an album; Leonard Nimoy beat him to it a year earlier with Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr Spock’s Music From Outer Space. He was also more prolific and released another four records over the next three years, at which point his musical output ceased. The first few albums included science fiction sound affects as well as a number of songs based on his character such as Highly Illogical and Spock Thoughts. Highly Illogical is sung in the character of Spock as he looks down on the human race. His later albums moved away from the space stuff and included covers of popular and country hits including tracks by Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell. His version of Pete Seeger’s If I Had a Hammer starts off quite well until it goes completely over the top at the end

Highly Illogical – Leonard Nimoy

If I Had a Hammer – Leonard Nimoy

In 1991, the actor who played Data in Star Trek: the Next Generation, Brent Spiner, followed the example of Shatner and Nimoy by releasing an album of standards from the 30s and 40s called Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back. On It’s a Sin (To Tell a Lie) he is joined on backing vocals by The Sunspots, comprised of four of his fellow crew members

It’s a Sin (To Tell A Lie) – Brent Spiner

Spizzenergi were an English punk/new wave band that formed in the late 70s. They were the first band to sign to Rough Trade records and were also the first band to hit Number One on the newly-formed Indie Music Chart in 1980. Where’s Captain Kirk? is their most well-known song and has been covered by REM

Where’s Captain Kirk? – Spizzenergi

Shatner is a track on George Best (1997), the debut album from the Wedding Present. The song doesn’t seem to be about the actor as such, as it only uses his name for rhyming purposes. Still, it’s better than Shatner’s songs

Shatner – The Wedding Present

The Firm’s Star Trekkin’ was a Number One for two weeks in 1987 and was one of the ten best selling singles of that year. It’s a novelty song that uses catchphrases from the original series as its lyric with the singers copying the actors’ voices

Star Trekkin’ – The Firm

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  1. Pingback: My Favourite Films & DVDs of 2009 « Town Full of Losers

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