We've all grooved to William Shatner's "singing." But the history of science-fiction novelty records is much bigger, and weirder. From Weird Al's tribute to Yoda to Wonder Woman covering Toto, there have been many bizarre discs that celebrated science fiction.
For convenience, we've broken up this list of the greatest novelty records into several categories — we can't even begin to pretend this is an exhaustive list, so please suggest your own favorites in comments!
Actors doing records to cash in on their fame
A lot of well-known science fiction actors have put out records to try and capitalize on the success of their shows or movies.
In particular, there's Star Trek. Virtually every Star Trek actor has put out a record at some point, many of them with covers and/or titles intended to remind you of where you've heard this person's dulcet voice before. There's a complete list over at TrekMovie — although they left out Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Cirroc Lofton, who made a Trek-themed rap CD. (Did it ever actually come out? It's not on Amazon.)
Most notably, Leonard Nimoy did an album called Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space, featuring the Vulcan-themed song "Highly Illogical." (He also did the classic "Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins," which we're all expecting will be the theme song to Peter Jackson's new Hobbit movies.)
And Shatner did an album called The Transformed Man, with a very Kirk-like cover. Some of his recordings are very science fiction-based, especially his 1977 live album, and his 1978 performance of "Rocket Man." Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols had an album called Out Of This World. And Brent "Data" Spiner did an album called Old Yellow Eyes Is Back. Someone got me a Tim Russ CD as a
punishment gag gift, and it has some songs about outer space on it.
Doctor Who star Jon Pertwee also put out a song called "I Am The Doctor," in which he sort of raps about being an ageless time traveler, over the show's theme tune. Including the all-time great line, "Through cosmic waste the TARDIS flies/To taste the secret sauce of life." What??? It's pretty classic stuff:
But also, the Second Doctor's most faithful companion, Fraser Hines, put out a couple of Doctor Who-themed records in the 1960s: "Who's Doctor Who" and "Time Traveler." And Roberta Tovey, who played the companion in one of the 1960s Peter Cushing films, put out a record called "Who's Who."
And then Doctor Who stars Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant took part in a "We Are The World"-style group performance to help save the show when it was nearly cancelled in the mid-1980s, called "Doctor In Distress." We covered the sheer horror of that album here.
Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter put out an album called Portrait, featuring songs written by members of the band Toto. And she actually performed a couple of those songs on the show, including this segment where Wonder Woman's secret identity, Diana Prince, is in the recording studio:
We're not sure where the line between novelty songs and theme songs falls, but Will Smith's theme tunes for Men In Black and Wild Wild West are almost like the modern-day equivalent of Leonard Nimoy "singing" about being a Vulcan.
Stephen Moore, the voice of Marvin The Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy put out not one, but two singles. The first one, called "Marvin," was actually a huge hit in England, and is pretty darn catchy. The second single, "Reasons To Be Miserable," didn't do quite as well.
The Avengers stars Patrick MacNee and Honor Blackman put out a single called — really — "Kinky Boots." Worth listening to for MacNee's commentary on the great virtues of kinky boots and their immense stylishness. Apparently 20 million men and women are wearing them.
Not to mention genre MVP Sir Ian McKellen doing a spoken-word portion in the new Scissor Sisters song, "Invisible Light."
When David McCallum was starring in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., he put out a single called "Communication," where he, er, raps about his identity crisis. "Who am I? What am I doing? Oh yeah, I'm putting out a crappy novelty single to try and cash in on my fleeting notability."
Scott Bakula actually sang his anthem "Somewhere in the Night" on Quantum Leap, which guaranteed huge sales among people who wanted to imagine the angst of never knowing what you were going to look like, or what your gender would be today.
Danny John-Jules, who plays Cat in Red Dwarf, sang the song "Tongue Tied" in one episode, then released a different version of it as a record, and it became a pretty big hit in the U.K.
Some of the stars of Heroes formed a group called Band From TV, which performed on American Idol and other shows.
You could argue that Jefferson Starship co-stars in the Star Wars Christmas Special, and the song they perform in it, "Light The Sky On Fire," later came out as a record.
Comedy tributes to classic science fiction
There were 1,000 singles, from the 1950s onwards, with comedy takes on the themes of UFOs, space aliens and monsters. Here's a CD that compiles a lot of them, along with a few random other tribute songs. But for the purposes of this article, we'll stick to songs that pay tribute to particular books, TV shows or movies. Filking writ large, in other words.
The band The Firm (not to be confused with the Led Zeppelin spin-off band) had a pretty decent-sized hit (at least in the U.K., where they apparently love this stuff) with the song "Star Trekkin'." You will not be able to unsee this weird claymation video:
But don't forget the tribute song "I Am A Spock" by the band Jeffries Tube — whose members included former child actor Todd Lookinland, the brother of Mike Brady. German comedy-metal band JBO also paid tribute to Star Trek with two songs, "Sound Trek" and "Star Treck." There are also Trek tribute bands, including S.P.O.C.K. and Warp 11. (More details here.)
"Weird" Al Yankovic has done two different Star Wars humor songs: "Yoda" and "The Saga Begins." (He also did a "Jurassic Park" song.) But that's just scratching the surface of Star Wars novelty records — there's "Pretty Fly For A Jedi" by Chris Bodily TM, lounge singer Richard Cheese did some silly Star Wars cover versions, MC Frontalot did "Yellow Lasers," Rob Crow did "Jedi Outcast," there's the Christmas novelty song "What Do You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb?)" there's "Fett's Vette" by MC Chris, and "Chewbacca" by Supernova. Plus the indispensible "George Lucas Raped Our Childhood" by Hot Waffles. Oh, and Blink 182's "A New Hope." There are pretty great lists of songs here and here. Oh, and Bill Murray sort of freestyled some lyrics to the Star Wars theme on SNL, although I'm not sure if it ever came out as a record.
There was a whole album of songs inspired by The X-Files, but I'm not sure if that counts as a novelty record. More clear cut is the song "David Duchovny" by Bree Sharp, with a video featuring the X-Files cast and crew lip-synching it:
Special mention must go to Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip's "I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper," both for that uniquely British "enunciating every syllable" disco singing and for the awesomely sparkly video:
And then there are the legions of Doctor Who tribute/comedy songs, including the 1960s classic, "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek" by The Go-Gos. (Not the same band.) There are a whole bunch of them gathered on a CD here, including a ton of instrumentals. There was also The Tmelords (aka the KLF)'s "Doctorin' The TARDIS" which (wait for it) became a huge hit in the U.K. Jamaican band I Roy & The Upsetters put out a record called "Doctor Who," and the Human League had a B-side called "Tom Baker." The Art Attacks did a song called "I Am A Dalek."
And there's a Doctor Who tribute band called Chameleon Circuit.
Additional reporting by Katharine Trendacosta.