Today (9.8.2016) marks the 50th Anniversary of the debut of the TV show, STAR TREK, which premiered on NBC in 1966. Though the original series only lasted three seasons, the franchise has lived long and continues to prosper, spawning 13 films since 1979, an animated series and five additional television series, including the upcoming STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, which premieres on CBS All Access in early 2017.
I admit here that I was not a fan of the original show. But, one day in 1982, when my mom and dad took us kids to the movies, all but my dad and I chose to see E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL. Actually, I may have been the one to coax my dad into seeing STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. (I didn’t end up seeing E.T. in the theater, and would watch it years later). I enjoyed E.T., but I think I made the right choice in seeing STAR TREK II.
From then on, I was a STAR TREK fan. I wouldn’t consider myself a Trekkie or Trekker, as most die-hard fans prefer to be called, but I own the first ten films, and have seen all but the most recent one, STAR TREK: DARKNESS. I hope to see it, if I can still find it in the theater. (I think it would have been more logical if the powers that be at Paramount had released that film today, but that’s just me.)
Over the years, STAR TREK has been parodied or mentioned in many songs, including several by Minneapolis Synthpop band Information Society, who used samples from the original STAR TREK in hits like “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)” and “Walking Away,” and other songs on their self-titled 1988 debut album. NYC’s Beastie Boys also referred to STAR TREK in a number of their songs, including their 1998 hit, “Intergalactic” (“…Like a pinch on the neck of Mr. Spock…”). 1994’s “Sabotage” was even featured in the 2009 J.J. Abrams film reboot of STAR TREK (I hear their music appears in the new film as well.).
Apart from the brilliant “Weird Al” Yankovic, The Lonely Island and Flight Of The Conchords, there’s not a whole lot of novelty songs out there these days to be had. Back in the 80s, though, there was such a harvest of novelty songs, you’d be tripping on them.
One novelty song from 1987, “Star Trekkin’,” was by a band out of London called The Firm (not to be confused with the short-lived “supergroup” featuring Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers), which was released on June 1st that year. The song’s video, created by a team of art students, used clay stop motion animated video and was from the point of view that Captain James T. Kirk was hallucinating about food, having been in deep space for so long (at one point, the saucer section of the Enterprise looks like a pizza, and the back of the ship in the form of sausages).
No record labels were interested in releasing “Star Trekkin’,” so they self-recorded it at a studio co-owned by one of the song’s writers, John O’Connor, who formed the novelty act. Once the song was released to radio and stores (self-funding the original 500 copies), “Star Trekkin’” was a near-instant hit in the band’s U.K. homeland, reaching No. 1 in for two weeks in the second half of June 1987. It would end up selling nearly 500,000 copies in the U.K. alone and was the ninth best-selling song in the U.K. for all of 1987. Believe it or not, there was even a 12” single commissioned for “Star Trekkin’” as well (but then again, almost everyone in the 80s felt compelled to release an extended mix, whether or not they really needed to).
“Star Trekkin’” found an audience away from the U.K. as well, spending a week at No. 1 in Ireland, and reaching No. 2 in New Zealand, No. 3 in Australia, No. 9 in Holland and No. 22 in Belgium. Though not popular here in North America (save for Dr. Demento’s wonderful show), the song was popular in parts of Europe and Japan too, and overall, sold over a million copies worldwide. Ultimately, the success of “Star Trekkin’” helped The Firm release their only full-length album, SERIOUS FUN, which was not as successful.
One year early on in the history of my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I dedicated an entire show to novelty songs of the 80s. And, while I am a fan of many novelty songs that span multiple decades (in my youth, my dad introduced me to the 1945 novelty hit by Spike Jones And His City Slickers, “Cocktails For Two”), “Star Trekkin’” is not high on my list of favorite novelty hits. However, since it is the 50th Anniversary of STAR TREK, “Star Trekkin’” seemed like the right song for today’s post.
Happy 50, STAR TREK! I know you’ll live long and prosper…