Star Trekkin'

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"Star Trekkin'"
UK single release
Single by The Firm
from the album Serious Fun
Released 1 June 1987
Genre Novelty song
Length 3:32
Label Bark Records
Writer(s) John O'Connor, Grahame Lister and Rory Kehoe
The Firm singles chronology
"Radioactive"
(1985)
"Star Trekkin'"
(1987)
"Superheroes"
(1987)

"Star Trekkin'" written by John O'Connor, Grahame Lister and Rory Kehoe, is a parody song of the original TV series of Star Trek. It was released in 1987 by The Firm. The verse lyrics were written by Kehoe, while the chorus was written by Lister and O'Connor. The first attempt at the song was set to the melody of their 1982 single, "Arthur Daley (e's Alright)", but they decided to create an original tune instead. They could not find a recording label willing to release it, so they recorded it at Bark Studios, which O'Connor part-owned. The catchphrases of the Star Trek characters were recorded by members of the band, a studio technician and O'Connor's wife. One of the phrases used, "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it", has been subsequently misattributed to the series although it originated with "Star Trekkin'".

After promotion by local radio stations, and BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Simon Bates, the record entered the charts in 74th position. The follow week it jumped to 13th place and then spent the following two weeks at number one. It also reached 22nd place in the Belgian charts, 9th place in the Dutch Top 40 and third and second respectively within Australia and New Zealand. Worldwide, it sold more than a million copies. It spawned an album and a follow-up single, but neither came close to matching the success of "Star Trekkin'". Following the initial success in the UK, the band decided they needed a music video to appear on the follow week's edition of BBC1's Top of the Pops. The team behind the television series Spitting Image were among those approached to create a video, as they had previously worked on "Land of Confusion" by Genesis, but they proved to be too expensive and needed too much time. The video was subsequently created by a team of art students called The Film Garage using clay stop motion animation based on the premise that Captain James T. Kirk was hallucinating about food having been in deep space so long.

Origin and recording[edit]

"Star Trekkin'" originated from a English Civil War combat reenactment society called The Sealed Knot. Rory Kehoe had written a series of five lines about the 1960s American science fiction television series Star Trek, which were sung around campfires after battles to the tune of "The Music Man". This version was re-titled "I Am The Star Trek Man". Chris Steinhauer performed this version at a folk club one evening in 1986, which is where it was first heard by Grahame Lister, of novelty band The Firm. Lister convinced Steinhauer to record the song onto an audio cassette and took it to his writing partner John O'Connor.[1]

The duo dropped "The Music Man" melody, and wrote a new chorus.[1] They at first attempted to set Kehoe's lyrics to the tune of their 1982 hit single, "Arthur Daley (e's Alright)", creating an alternative version initially entitled "Captain Kirk (He's Alright)". Unsatisfied, they sought to create something original, locking themselves away for a week to write "Star Trekkin'",[2] based on an increasing tempo seen previously in Rolf Harris' "The Court of King Caractacus".[1] They sought to have it recorded professionally, but were received unfavourably by potential recording labels.[3] Instead, they recorded it at O'Conner's and Brian O'Shaughnessy's Bark Studios in Walthamstow, East London.[4] The arrangement was by Bill C. Martin, and the rest of The Firm was made up of Dev Douglas and Peter Sills.[3] O'Shaughnessy later said "One of the greatest highlights of my career was producing 'Star Trekkin''. The record was produced to mock the series and we had no idea it was going to be a big hit."[4]

The song features the catchphrases of several Star Trek characters, including Captain James T. Kirk, Spock and Doctor Leonard McCoy. These were intended to be recognisable to British listeners who had seen the episodes of the series on re-runs throughout the 1970s and 1980s, or those who were only relatively familiar with the source. While several of the lines such as Scotty's "Ye cannae change the laws of physics!", or Uhura's "There's Klingons on the starboard bow." had been said in the series, other phrases had not.[5] Spock's quote, "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it", never featured in The Original Series but "Star Trekkin'" subsequently so popularised the phrase that it is now commonly misattributed. The closest equivalent in the series is the phrase "No life as we know it" in "The Devil in the Dark".[6] Kirk's "We come in peace; shoot to kill" also never featured, and was suggested by author Brian Robb as having "summed up the popular impression of the trigger-happy captain's approach to alien encounters".[5] The voices of the characters were not provided by the actors who portrayed them in The Original Series; O'Connor voiced the Kirk and McCoy, while Douglas voiced Spock. Scotty was voiced by a studio engineer and O'Connor's wife, Shelly, voiced Uhura.[7]

Release[edit]

Having funded the pressing of 500 copies of the single,[1] O'Connor sent copies of it to British radio stations, with the studio's phone number on them.[8] One Liverpool station began giving the phone number out on air and O'Connor began to receive many phone calls from the area, asking for copies of the record. A Radio 1 disc jockey, Simon Bates, promoted the song and after an initial release where it reached 74th position in the on the UK Singles Chart, it climbed the following week to 13th place.[8] For the two weeks afterwards, it was placed at number one,[9] and becoming the ninth best-selling single of 1987 in the UK.[5] While it was at number one, it kept Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" in second place,[4] which was previously at number one.[10] At one point, it was selling 60,000 copies a day,[2] and went on to sell more than 470,000 copies in the UK alone.[11]

The single was also released outside of the UK, reaching 22nd place in the Ultratop chart within Belgium,[12] 9th place in the neighbouring Dutch Top 40,[13] and on the other side of the world, it reached third place in the ARIA Charts within Australia and peaked at the number 2 spot on Official New Zealand Music Chart.[14][15] Worldwide, it sold more than a million copies.[7] "Star Trekkin'" has become well known in the United States due to frequent play on the Dr. Demento Show radio program.[7]

The Firm subsequently released an album, Serious Fun, in 1987, through K-Tel in the UK and Dino Music in Australia. "Star Trekkin'" was track one on the A-side of the record, and the album featured previous single "Arthur Daley (e's Alright)". The album also featured the follow-up single to "Star Trekkin'", "Superheroes",[16][17] which was released in the UK on 26 September that year. It reached the 99th spot in the top 100, while the album did not chart.[18]

Music video[edit]

Following the success of the single, the band realised that they would be expected to appear on the British television series Top of the Pops on BBC1 the following week. The decision was made not to make personal television appearances, as O'Connor and Lister felt that they were a "bunch of balding thirty-something’s" and an appearance as themselves on the show "would kill the whole fun element of the thing stone dead!" So despite the time limit, they sought for a animated music video to be created. They approached several potential providers,[1] including the production company behind the television series Spitting Image, who had previously produced the video for the single "Land of Confusion" by Genesis. However, the cost was too high, and they needed longer than the week to create the video.[1] One of the other companies approached were a team of graduate art students called The Film Garage. On a low budget, the new company created a claymation stop motion animated video.[7]

The characters in the video are based on food items, such as being made out of potatoes, with the Enterprise being created to look like it was made from pizza and sausages. The idea for the video as described by co-director Pete Bishop was that "Kirk has been out in space too long, and is hallucinating – about food". It was shot over seven days under the direction of Pete Bishop and Marc Kitchen-Smith, while the company No Strings were responsible for the model construction.[19] The video was completed with hours to spare before it was due to air for the first time on Top of the Pops.[1]

Reception[edit]

In Brian Robb's 2012 book, A Brief Guide to Star Trek, he said it was a testament to the quality of the series and of the characters that some 20 years after it was originally broadcast,[20] a series of catchphrases could still summarise the appeal of the television series.[5] The song has appeared in several lists, such as in MSN's list of the most annoying songs of all time, "Star Trekkin'", placed in 15th place.[14] British Sunday newspaper The People included it in a list of the most irritating songs in 2005, calling it "Funny, but dreadful."[21] In 2011, it was included in Wired's list of seven great geek comedy songs.[22]

Track listing and formats[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1987) Peak
position
Australian Singles (ARIA)[14] 3
Belgian Singles (Ultratop)[12] 22
Netherlands Singles (SN)[13] 9
New Zealand Singles (RMNZ)[15] 2
UK Singles (OCC)[9] 1

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kutner, Jon (10 February 2013). "Star Trekkin' (The Firm)". JonKutner.com. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b ""It's a Hit Jim, But Not As We Know It..."". Lookin (30). 18 July 1987. p. 4. 
  3. ^ a b "Graham Lister". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "A Walthamstow studio's role in one of the most iconic singles of the 90s". Epping Forest Guardian. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d Robb 2012, p. 37.
  6. ^ Knowles 2002, p. 224.
  7. ^ a b c d Wuench, Kevin (July 22, 2016). "Begin your Star Trek weekend with this '80s classic". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Roberts 2006, p. 476.
  9. ^ a b "Star Trekkin'". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  10. ^ Myers, Justin (25 October 2014). "Official Charts Pop Gem #80: Whitney – I Wanna Dance With Somebody". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 
  11. ^ "Gallup Year End Charts 1987: Singles". Record Mirror. London, England: Spotlight Publications. 23 January 1988. p. 36. 
  12. ^ a b "The Firm - Star Trekkin'". Ultratop. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  13. ^ a b "The Firm - Star Trekkin'". Media Markt Top 40. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c "The most annoying songs of all time". MSN. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  15. ^ a b "The Official NZ Music Charts - 20 September 1987". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  16. ^ "Firm, The - Serious Fun". Discogs. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 
  17. ^ "Firm, The - Serious Fun". Discogs. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 
  18. ^ "Firm". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 
  19. ^ Clarke, Jeremy (October 1987). "Trekkin' across the universe". Animator (21). Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  20. ^ Robb 2012, p. 38.
  21. ^ "Aaaargh Tunes! Tunes You Just Can't Get off Your Brain". The People. 29 May 2005. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via HighBeam Research. (subscription required (help)). 
  22. ^ Brown, Sophie (26 September 2011). "Seven Great Geek Comedy Songs". Wired. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  23. ^ "The Firm – Star Trekkin'". Discogs. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 
  24. ^ "The Firm – Star Trekkin'". Discogs. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by Whitney Houston
UK number one single
14–27 June 1987
Succeeded by
"It's A Sin" by Pet Shop Boys