Planetary shock: How about some scifi Pop Rock?

For the most part, some folks identify their brand of music for science fiction/fantasy as cozy yet sophisticated orchestrated music. The musical composition is usually formal in its instrumental construction. However, there are some distinctive tunes—whether they belong to sci-fi movie soundtracks or not—that abandon the traditional majestic and conservative notes associated with the science fiction genre and manage to equally capture a sense of serenity and surge.

So let’s play the DJ role and see if we can come up with a notable selection of soft or hard rock music that dared to define our appreciation for science fiction/fantasy fare in an unconventional entertaining way. There are various gripping toe-tapping tunes to choose from within the given sources of music, television and the movies.

Are you in the mood to share in some of the Planetary Shock: How About Some Pop Rock? Ditties that may want to make you prance and dance around the room? Among the nostalgic noise-making notable that give the sci-fi/fantasy landscape its lyrical due are:

FLASH forward…According to Queen he’s “just a man with a man’s courage…”

Frank’s TEN selections for sci-fi/fantasy rock and pop music for PLANETARY SHOCK: HOW ABOUT SOME POP ROCK?:

Queen’s music to the movie soundtrack of FLASH GORDON (1980): The late Dino De Laurentiis produced the glossy and schlocky sci-fi comic book action flick Flash Gordon in 1980 for audiences wanting to escape into the big screen galaxy with the dashing hero out to save the universe from the menacing Ming from Mongo. What made Flash Gordon so infectious was its pulsating and power-driven musical score provided by the rock group Queen particularly its signature theme song that repeated the catchy “Flash…ah ha…savior of the universe!” With lead singer Freddie Mercury’s dynamic vocals and the chest-pumping urgency of Queen’s bombastic beat the vintage hard rock hardware added an additional dimension to the exaggerated quirkiness of this off-kilter, campy space opera.

The Carpenters, “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”: The late and great sweet songbird Karen Carpenter sang the reflective tune “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary” as homage to her and Richard’s (her composer brother) interest in science fiction and its wonderment of curiosity. The song feels lyrically vibrant and imaginative given Karen’s trademark velvet vocals that invite the surrealistic imagery of satellites, planets, the solar system, aliens and spaceships. In fact, the video to this smooth and soothing song conveys the strong messaging of how The Carpenters favorably indulge in their fascination with their sci-fi sentiments in music and mystery.

David Bowie, “Space Oddity” (a.k.a. “Ground Control to Major Tom”): No one can deny rock icon David Bowie’s contemplative and classic tune as it tells the account of a liftoff into the unknown depths of deep outer space. Hypnotic, soulful and serene, one places themselves in the cosmic shoes of Major Tom as he oversees the vast spectacle of humanity above the piercing stars in his traveling space craft. Bowie’s penetrating lyrics says it all: “Check your ignition and may God’s love be with you…” After hearing such a symbolic tune one would be eager to take Bowie’s advice for Major Tom and take your protein pills and put your helmet on! Get ready to blast off when listening to this delightful ditty.

Elton John, “Rocket Man”: How can one not include Elton John’s 1972 spry and catchy “Rocket Man” as one of the most iconic tunes with a science fiction-themed edginess? Sir John and his longtime collaborator in lyricist Bernie Taupin concocted this mesmerizing masterpiece that had us sympathizing with a thoughtful space man’s journey into the stars as he recalls his love and affection for the woman and home planet he’s leaving behind (“I miss the earth so much/I miss my wife/It’s lonely out in space/On such a timeless flight”). Melodic and meaningful, “Rocket Man” is the ideal tune that is itching to ring in the mellow minds of sci-fi enthusiasts and other much lovers that would like to escape into the realm of space-aged consciousness.

William Shatner, “Rocket Man”: Okay, some may think that including Star Trek James T. Kirk portrayer William Shatner’s off-kilter version of “Rocket Man” is a bit redundant and gimmicky. But hey…I am going to do it anyway. In fact, Shatner’s take on Elton John/Bernie Taupin’s nostalgic tune about the introspection of a space man’s regard for his wife and planetary preferences on Earth is so distinctively offbeat and unintentionally insane that it was unassumingly cool and breezy to digest. Audiences first heard Shatner awkwardly croon this tune at the 1978 Science Fiction Awards that he was hosting at the time. From Family’s Guy’s Stewie Griffin to American Idol reject William Hung, Shatner and his “Rocket Man” has been lampooned endlessly and is almost as highly regarded as Elton John’s original blueprint.

Thomas Dolby, “She Blinded Me with Science”: No one can think about the 1980’s and piece together the components of geeky chicness, computers, the video game revolution and pop music synthesizers without realizing the impact of zany Thomas Dolby’s unorthodox sing-along “She Blinded Me with Science”. You could not swing a dead cat without hearing Dolby’s techno-tasty tune blasting away on the radio airwaves. If heard today, Dolby’s Blinded would probably be dismissed as plastic and passé from a trendy era gone by Come on now…do not deny the fact that you were humming this ubiquitous mechanical-sounding music when it was all the rage back in the day.

Huey Lewis and the News, “Back in Time” from BACK TO THE FUTURE: We revisit the 1980’s back again as no other science fiction movie hit it big at the box office than the wildly popular Back to the Future. Of course the omnipresence of rocker Huey Lewis on the film’s soundtrack helped him and his group The News hit the zenith with the snappy theme song “Back in Time” as it aptly echoed the urgency of protagonist Marty McFly’s quest to travel back in time to his 1985 world surroundings after his freakish trip to the 1950’s as he revisits his parents’ youthful origins. Not since Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters theme (“Who ya gonna call?”) has there been a song so identifiable with its movie format.

Devo, “Whip It”: Devo defined the futuristic flakiness and outrageousness that came across in their cultish 80’s super hit “Whip It”. The impenetrable beat and high-spirited hedonistic style demonstrated an aura of over-the-top irreverence suitable for any science fiction surfer needing some bombastic blast in their musical mandate. While donning bright red flower pot-looking helmets and all-black sleeveless turtleneck shirts, shorts and boots, Devo’s kooky dress and off-balance defiance was a visceral feast for the eyes and a head-bopping experience to behold. One might find the challenge in producing a sci-fi thriller just for the sake of attaching Devo’s “Whip It” on the soundtrack just for the hell of it. As Devo proclaims, “Crack that whip…go forward, move ahead!”

Black Sabbath, “Iron Man”: The smartest thing that the handlers of the Marvel comic book action movie Iron Man did was link its cinematic product to the thundering psychedelic sensory of Black Sabbath’s rhythmic rant that coincidentally shares the same name. A singing sledgehammer of a different hue, Ozzie Osborne’s heavy-handed and hallucinatory screeching feels impishly trippy as “Iron Man” (the song) boasts some of the most intense and amped up riffs known in Black Sabbath’s trademark musical mastery. Pounding and piercing with raucous rage, Tony Stark/Iron Man should be grateful that Black Sabbath’s signature song dares to create the imagery of both salvation and destruction regarding mankind’s handprint of existence. What a sonic rush in the metal ministry of the Wizard of Oz(zie).

Parliament, “Dr. Funkenstein”: The late 70’s/early 80’s was the cultural cosmos with an ethnic funky twist into the realm of African-American sci-fi odyssey with the Mothership madness of the grooving George Clinton and his P-Funk playmates (an abbreviated reference to the affiliation of bands Parliament and Funkadelic). Through outlandish laser light stage shows in concerts, flashy and tacky wardrobes that conjure up exploding mushrooms and erratic science fiction themes of extraterrestrials bringing a colorful array of funk-inducing fever to stuffy earthlings, Parliament’s “Dr. Funkenstein” added the ebony-flavored imagination and ingenuity to an out-of-this-world mind-blowing experience. Raise your hand if you were a proud owner of the subversive album The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein. You got me people…guilty as charged!



Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

2 thoughts on “Planetary shock: How about some scifi Pop Rock?

  • SF would have to be Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’
    Fantasy would have to be Queen’s ‘Who wants to live forever?’ from Highlander.

  • Even though you already mentioned the film BACK TO THE FUTURE the songs I remember as fondly as “Back in Time” is the Chuck Berry song “Johnny B. Goode” played by a fictional Marvin Berry(supposed cousin of Chuck Berry) and the Starlighters at the high school dance at the end of the movie. Along with the previously mentioned song they also performed “Earth Angel” originated by the Penguins. Nice article, loved it!


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