Why The Top 13?
Sure, there’s Saturn 3, Babylon 5, Blake’s 7 and District 9. But what number could be geekier than 13? Not only is there its inherent creepiness, but there’s also The 13th Immortal, The 13th Warrior and The 13th Floor. There’s spooky gore-fest Friday the 13th and those plucky, kick-ass comic book kids, Gen13. There’s Warehouse 13, The X-Files’ oft-referenced 1013, and the 13 tribes of Kobol. Plus, the Munsters lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
So, we at Geek Speak Magazine bring you the Top 13 of... well, whatever strikes our fancy.
Just be glad we didn’t elect to go with The Top 1701...
1. To hopefully prevent “How could you leave out Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Godzilla’”-style heckling, we inform you in advance that the following exclusion criteria was employed:
2. By “song,” we mean “something with words.” Darth Vader’s Theme is certainly iconic, but “Top 13 Genre Soundtracks” will have to be a list for a different day.
3. We regretfully decided not to include any obvious novelty songs. You won’t find “Monster Mash,” “Flying Purple People Eater,” or -- most heartbreaking of all -- Leonard Nimoy’s unforgettable “Bilbo Baggins” here, despite their obvious relevance.
4. TV show theme songs were, quite clearly, ignored (most particularly Smallville's -- the Man of Steel does not employ a falsetto), as were the title songs from any genre film. (Otherwise, you know Queen’s “Flash’s Theme” would be here.)
5. Finally, we systematically eliminated any song that made us want to rip out our eardrums with a tuning fork. Narrowing the list became considerably easier after that...
Kate Bush, 1978
Kate Bush was still a teenager when she composed and recorded “Wuthering Heights,” her voice powerful but raw. That unearthly voice turned out to be the perfect complement to the eerie vocals, which depict Cathy’s desperate spirit wandering the desolate moors in search of her beloved Heathcliff. “Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy, I’ve come home. I’m so cold. Let me in at your window,” she pleads. But just when you’re saying “Aww, c’mon, Heathcliff, just let the woman in already,” the song takes a sinister turn: “Oooh, let me have it, let me grab your soul away…”
Kate would re-record the song in 1986 for her best-of compilation The Whole Story. That version is pretty but lacks the original version’s sheer spooky freaky-shrieky power. Accept no substitutes; download the original.
How could you leave me when I needed to possess you?
“Ghost of a Texas Ladies’
Concrete Blonde, 1992
A much friendlier ghost takes center stage in this kicky little tune. The Texas ladies’ man of the title doesn’t much care about anyone’s soul; he’s just looking for a good time, a sentiment enthusiastically reciprocated by lead singer Johnette Napolitano. “He seemed so glad to see a woman in the flesh, and I rrreally liked his spirit,” she growls suggestively. Later, when she belts out “You don’t scare me, you don’t scare me, I cried/To my ec-to-plas-mic lover from the Other Side,” it seems a shame that Napolitano couldn’t work out a way to bridge time and space and visit the Yorkshire moors in order to share ghost-wrangling tips with poor Heathcliff.
He knew I’d understand...
In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, Queen’s classic album A Night at the Opera is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you’re gonna git. The album is a regular variety show, containing love songs, heavy metal, vaudeville, whatever you’d classify “Bohemian Rhapsody” as, and – with “’39” – acoustic folk music. This is the sad story of a group of astronauts (the “volunteers”) who, in the year ’39, set sail among the stars to find a new world for the inhabitants of an overcrowded and dying Earth to colonize. They succeed, but at a cost: when they return, the astronauts find that, consistent with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (hideously oversimplified: When you move really, really fast, time slows), a hundred years have passed on Earth, but they’ve only aged a year. “All my life is still ahead. Pity me,” our narrator concludes mournfully. In addition to being sweet, sad, and catchy, “’39” holds the distinction of being in all likelihood the only folk song ever written about time paradox.
Fun fact: This song was written by Queen’s lead guitarist, Brian May, who went on to earn a doctorate in astrophysics!
The land that our grandchildren knew... (live performance!)
“Mr. Roboto” makes a whole lot more sense if you understand its context. In the early 80s, Styx filmed a rock opera called Kilroy Was Here, which depicted a dystopian future in which rock music has been outlawed by the Majority for Musical Morality, led by the sinister Dr. Righteous. Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (think about it for a minute), portrayed by singer Dennis DeYoung, has been imprisoned basically for rocking too hard. His jailers are robots (“with parts made in Japan”). Because his untamed spirit can’t be contained, he overpowers one of the Roboto guards (domo arigato!) and escapes while wearing the Roboto shell. Meanwhile, young Jonathan Chance (Tommy Shaw) wanders through the city, seeking Kilroy. Chance and Kilroy finally meet at the abandoned Paradise Theater, whereupon they ROCK OUT!!!
It is said that DeYoung was deeply passionate about this project, while Shaw perhaps lacked DeYoung’s level of commitment, and that this discrepancy is evident in their respective performances. (As Dr. Righteous, James Young looks to be having a ball.) You can judge for yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0yTeUrCjms
I’m KILROY!..Kilroy…Kilroy…kilroy... see it here!
Or there's always Jeffster's version!
“The Major Tom Chronicles: “Space Oddity”
David Bowie, 1969 and “Major Tom (Coming Home)” -- Peter Schilling, 1983
David Bowie is just an otherworldly guy, and in fact performed regularly as an otherworldly creature named Ziggy Stardust back during his, ah, days of wine and roses. “Space Oddity” is not by any stretch his only song about outer space, or even his only song about Major Tom. It’s his first song about the unfortunate Major, however. Major Tom takes off in his spaceship, but something goes wrong, and he floats around in outer space, sounding oddly disconnected from his plight: “For here I am, floating round my tin can. Far above the moon, Planet Earth is Blue, and there’s nothing I can do.” Fourteen years later, Peter Schilling retold Major Tom’s story in sort of a new wave context, and although he sings about “Coming Home,” it’s pretty obvious that he’s not really going anywhere as he drifts, falls, and floats weightless.
Both of these songs can be heard, in part, in commercials for a car called the Lincoln MKZ. The automaker seems to be concentrating on the otherworldly floating-above-it-all aspects of both songs and ignoring the fact that the story they tell is actually a pretty tragic one.
Ground Control to Major Tom...