Geek Rock of the 80s, Part 2

Digging back through my memory and hitting a few websites tells me that I could probably drag this series of posts out for a really long time. Between my brain and the internet, there’s a lot of great material available, but I’m going for a general survey here, not every possible geek song under a 1980s sun, so I’m going to try to hold to single digits.

The Way Back Machine is still warm, so let’s take another trip back to the 80s. A little more obviously geeky this time, but some of you may find the three songs I’ve picked this week a bit more obscure, depending on the sources of your media consumption back in the day.

“Star Trekkin” by The Firm

I grew up on the original Star Trek. Sitting in my father’s lap and watching the giant space amoeba (“The Immunity Syndrome”) is one of my earliest memories. When this song hit Dr. Demento (which didn’t always come in clearly on the radio station I listened to it on), I was instantly in love. I nearly performed it by myself for a lip synch contest in high school, chickening out at the last moment. Which is too bad, because I think it would have been awesome. Today, it’s on my iPhone and gets regular play. At least two of my three children have it on their players, too.

What makes it Geek Rock? Let me count the ways. No, there’s not need. It’s about Star Trek, and that’s pretty much enough right there. But hey, check the video with the alien hand puppets and Mr. Potato Head style claymation. What else could you want? Built around modified, but still obvious, catch phrases of the main characters and with a bouncy, catchy tune, this was destined to be a geek classic.

“Pac Man Fever” by Buckner & Garcia

Got a pocket full of quarters and I’m headed for the arcade. Ah, those were the days. The video arcade is pretty much gone from North American culture, which is too bad, and not least because it’s something I’d love to share with my kids. You can still get glimpses through classic movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and War Games, but that’s as close as we get now. In Japan, it’s a whole different set of pixels, but that’s pretty far away from where I’m typing.

What makes it Geek Rock? Really, it’s hard to think of something geekier than a classic video game. Pac Man defines a generation of video games, that early 80s arcade experience. I don’t know how many sequels and rip offs came from it, but if you went into arcade in the 80s, you’d find a couple of variants near the front door. In the 90s, they’d moved a little farther back, but hadn’t disappeared. If you go to a resort or hotel or bowling alley today that has half a dozen machines stuck in a back corner somewhere, there’s a good chance that one of them is Pac Man or Ms. Pac Man. There’s a free version in the App Store, dozens of versions available online, and Google even did a Pac Man front page doodle for the 30th anniversary of the game. You can still play Pac Man whenever you want, and it’s not just for geeks anymore.

“Believe It or Not” by Joey Scarbury

Who among us has not dreamed of suddenly acquiring super powers? It would be awesome, wouldn’t it? Make way for the new Might Guy/Girl! Evil doers beware! Just don’t lose the instruction manual for your suit.

What makes it Geek Rock? Well, things may have shifted in the last decade or so, but superheroes are something else that used to be the exclusive province of geeks and kids. I don’t know how many comic books I read when I was younger, but I still have a lot of them in white boxes in the garage, and I was a huge X-Men fan. Still kind of am, in spite of the movies, but let’s veer back from that tangent. High school teacher Ralph Hinkley (and you want to say geek right there, don’t you?) has an alien close encounter and walks away with a super suit, but loses the instructions. Regular guy gets super powers and has to figure things out. Spider-Man but funnier and with less teenage angst. This show was tailor made for the 1980s geek and I still sing along with the theme song.

How’s that for Round 2? Next week: zombies and mummies.

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