Over the last few years, geeks have been extending their tendrils into all areas of pop culture. They already had comic books and video games, and in recent years, they are poised to take over movies and television as well. Disney just announced that they will be rebranding part of their popular amusement parks into a Star Wars theme. Even Broadway is getting into the act, with musical versions of Batman and Spider-Man, with limited success.
Music is the last holdout, but it wasn’t always that way. Classical music was all about the geekery of its time, myths and legends. In modern day, we are seeing the ride of Internet sensations like Jonathan Coulton or MC Frontalot flying the geek flag high. However, all is not lost. Throughout the history of rock & roll, buried amidst the songs about love, regret, and social change, there have been a few songs specifically written about the subjects that we hold dear to our hearts.
Blue Oyster Cult – Godzilla – This is one of my top 11 songs of all time. Nowadays, Blue Oyster Cult is only remembered as “The band that needed more cowbell in that one SNL sketch,” but they were a major force of geekdom throughout the 70’s. A good portion of their songs are science fiction influenced, including a couple of contributions to the soundtrack of cult animated film Heavy Metal.
Anthrax – I Am the Law – Anthrax were one of the pillars of the 80’s speed metal movement, with this being one of their more popular songs. The lyrics were all about Judge Dredd, the popular British comic book, and were written a few years before Sylvester Stallone would discredit the character in the movie. As a side note, I have been looking for a Judge Dredd “I Am the Law!” shirt, but was told by a representative of Judge Dredd’s publisher that they are no longer available because Anthrax bought the rights when they used it as the design of their tour shirt. Thanks, Anthrax.
Kinks – Wish I Could Fly Like Superman – The Kinks were a part of the original British Invasion, known for their snide lyrics and off-stage antics. This song is one of the most depressing comic book songs ever written, using the ideal of Superman to explore issues of inadequacy and low self image. At least the chorus is fun to sing along to.
XTC – Sgt Rock Is Going to Save Me – Sergeant Rock was a popular DC comic about a company of soldiers in WW2. He is often overshadowed by Marvel’s Sergeant Fury, but will always be more popular to fans of British psychedelia because of this song.
The Toy Dolls – James Bond LivesDown My Street – Most punk bands don’t really embrace their nerdy side, but the Toy Dolls aren’t like most bands. The long-time British punks wrote this catchy ditty about the downside of having the world’s most famous spy as a neighbor
Queen – Flash Gordon – If you watched the above video and did not sing along with the chorus, you are dead inside. Flash Gordon the film is very polarizing, with fanboys that either love it or hate it, but the theme song is an undeniable classic.
The Henry Rollins Band – Ghost Rider – Given his preference for philosophy and Russian dramas, Henry Rollins is probably the least likely person on this list to do a song about a song about a comic book hero. This song is one of the better tracks on the soundtrack to the film The Crow, which is kind of meta; it is a superhero song used to promote a different superhero. Still, that’s better than being involved in the actual Ghost Rider film.
Wings – Magneto and Titanium Man – Having an ex-Beatle write a song about Marvel super villains is the definition of a nerdgasm. In addition to the two characters in the title, the Crimson Dynamo also comes along for the ride. Not a lot of symbolism or subtext here, just some silly fun with some Iron Man villains doing crimes.
The Dickies – Gigantor – Perhaps my favorite band of all time, the Dickies have been rocking the LA scene since 1976. While most of their contemporaries in the LA hardcore scene were writing angry songs about politics and disenfranchisement, the Dickies wrote about local news anchors and crappy auto repair franchises. This song, a cover to the theme of a popular Japanese cartoon, was often used to end their live sets.
The Timelords – Doctorin’ the Tardis – The KLF were a popular electronic band at the time, but recorded under the pseudonym The Timelords for this tribute to Britain’s most popular science fiction icon. Combining elements of the Doctor Who theme and Gary Glitter’s song “Rock & Roll part 1,” this song was a modest hit in America at the time of its release. The video looks like something I would have done with my college buddies after some day drinking.
The Misfits – We Are 138 – The Misfits wrote a lot of songs inspired by old science fiction and horror films, but this one always stood out for me, because I really enjoy the film it references. Probably the most obscure reference on this list, the title of this song refers to the George Lucas film “THX-1138.” There’s not much to the lyrics, but the words that are there are about conformity within modern society.
Iron Maiden – The Prisoner – Iron Maiden was one of the most literate bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, with songs about to mythology, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Edgar Allen Poe. This song is a tribute to the cult television show of the same name, with samples from the show kicking off the music.
Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It – This song is the epitome of nerd music. The title is a quote from the cult film The Warriors, which is sampled and used throughout the song. The rest of the lyrics are pretty much just a list of all the stuff they like, name checking Transformers, comic book writers, and other musicians.