Interdimensional Hit Parade: Sci-Fi Influenced Pop Music

For a geek like me, spotting a science fiction reference buried in popular music is a rare and wondrous thing. In the middle school of life musicians are the cool kids, while online sci-fi columnists are… crap, this analogy is depressing. Regardless, it’s always nice and surprising to discover that creative people are being influenced by the same authors and stories I revere.

(Certainly, the rise of Nerdcore – not to mention the long tradition of Filk – has made referencing sci-fi in song a much more common phenomenon. But for this piece, I want to focus on nominally ‘mainstream’ music.)

With all that in mind, I thought it might be fun to start exploring sci-fi culture in music. We all know about the love ‘70s rockers had for halflings and quasars, but here are a few songs from other genres to show just how wide its spread has gotten.

The Mountain Goats – “Lovecraft in Brooklyn”

Where better to start than with a song that proudly wears its love for science fiction on its sleeve? The Mountain Goats set this Lovecraftian Apocalypse on a hot summer day in Brooklyn and the result is both fun and terrifying. Forget The Dunwich Horror, this is The Park Slope Horror. How can you argue with lyrics like “Rhode Island drops into the ocean”? You can’t. This song even inspired a great remix by rapper/producer Aesop Rock, himself no stranger to science fiction.

I will only add that the one time I saw John Darnielle live, he forever established his geek street cred by rocking a “Pluto Never Forget” shirt.

Jay Electronica – “Exhibit A”

Let’s just say that, given my personal preferences, anytime an MC boasts he or she will “spit that Kurt Vonnegut…shit” I am 100% in. Electronica offers the educated listener a range of sci-fi references, from the song “Anakin’s Prayer” to his apparent love for L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth.

Tubeway Army – “Down In The Park”

Tubeway Army was a new wave band that showcased a young singer named Gary Numan and showed tons of love for science fiction. Their big single was titled “Are ‘Friends’ Electric” and their song “Listen to the Sirens” contains direct quotes from Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. This track describes a hellish park where androids known as  “Mechmen” hunt humans for the enjoyment of a crowd.  Numan has revealed that he drew inspiration from both Dick and JG Ballard for the song.

Fatboy Slim – “Weapon of Choice”

Rightly famous for it Spike Jonze-directed, Christopher Walken zero-G softshoe video, this song also contains a clear allusion to Frank Herbert’s Dune. Bootsy Collins' vocals include the line “Walk without rhythm/it won’t attract the worm.” While some might have been confused by Parliament Funkadelic vet Collins’ words, those of us who are familiar with the fauna of planet Arrakis realized that Fatboy was talking about sandworms. Truly, this track is a thumper.

Deltron 3030 – “3030”

Less a lone reference and more an entire sci-fi novel set to music, this full-length album is the result of a collaboration among rapper Del The Funky Homosapien, producer Dan The Automator, and DJ Kid Koala. In telling the story of a one man’s struggle to survive a dystopian, intergalactic future, Del makes time to reference many classics of the genre. Maybe my favorite comes in the sprawling opening track, where Del brags that he is a ““Neuromancer, perfect blend of technology and magic.” William Gibson shout out FTW!

What are some of your favorite sci-fi influenced jams?  Let me know in the comments!

Image of Neuromancer
Author: William Gibson
Price:
Publisher: Ace (2004)
Binding: Hardcover, 384 pages
Image of Dune (Dune Chronicles, Book 1)
Author: Frank Herbert
Price: $10.93
Publisher: Ace (2005)
Binding: Paperback, 544 pages
Image of Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
Author: Philip K. Dick
Price: $10.00
Publisher: Vintage (1993)
Binding: Paperback, 240 pages
Image of The Dunwich Horror And Others
Author: H. P. Lovecraft
Price:
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2010)
Binding: Paperback, 308 pages

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Comments

Laramore Black's picture
Laramore Black from Joplin, Missouri is reading Mario Kart 8 April 12, 2012 - 12:42pm

 

cdregan's picture
cdregan from outside of Philadelphia is reading The Corrections April 12, 2012 - 12:54pm

KLAUS SCHULZE. Space music. DUNE. Great when you are in a retro-future mood.

http://www.klaus-schulze.com/disco/1791du.htm

Victory Grey's picture
Victory Grey from Southern California is reading Cloud Atlas/The Road/Haunted April 12, 2012 - 1:40pm

Darkest of the Hillside Thickets does mostly Lovecraft inspired music.  This one is on the story "In the Walls of Eryx", one of my favorites.  Good song, too.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like April 12, 2012 - 2:01pm

The Fall

 

Kirk's picture
Admin
Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun April 12, 2012 - 2:07pm

Very happy to see Deltron 3030 made the cut. That album is life-changing.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like April 12, 2012 - 2:08pm

Zammuto (of The Books)

really just the title, but it goes with the theme and even the picture up top

Bree Ogden's picture
Bree Ogden from Seattle is reading The Bunker Diary April 12, 2012 - 2:09pm

So many good ones:

Elvis Costello, “My Science Fiction Twin”
Bowie, "Space Oddity"
Radiohead, "Subterranean Homesick Alien”
Flaming Lips, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iK1w50YZEQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts April 14, 2012 - 12:09pm

I believe David Bowie's infamous Station to Station is based on a JG Ballard work.

Harry Nilsson's Pandemonium Shadowshow is pretty much entirely a reference to Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. I think Hum's You'd Prefer an Astronaut also lifts heavily from Bradbury.

Fay's picture
Fay September 20, 2013 - 10:27pm

All the video's are amazing and the music rreally rocks. In today's technological world as science has influenced the world in every field, then creating a music with the help of science technoloy is amazing. get australian youtube subscribers

Resko's picture
Resko May 25, 2016 - 1:28am

David Bowie is dead, this is so wrong. I liked his songs, lyrics http://lyricsmusic.name/david-bowie-lyrics/ and music