Archive | October 27, 2019

The Sun in Leo

When I was eight years old (so, in 1972), and my mother and I were living in San Diego, my grandmother invited us over to her apartment to watch a miniseries on Leonardo da Vinci – part documentary, part docudrama – that was playing on CBS (since we didn’t have a tv at home). My grandmother spun it as a useful educational opportunity for me; more likely the invitation was part of some sort of power game against my mother, but in any case we went, and despite the tiny black and white screen I was hooked – that was when I fell in love with Renaissance Italy. (So thank you, Gram’ma, whatever your motives.)

I’m happy to see that this series is now available online. I gather that the series exists in both abridged and unabridged versions, and I’m not sure which this is, but you can’t beat the price:

SciFi SongFest, Songs 305-309

And now we begin the …


Okay, most of these next songs are fantasy rather than science fiction, and I have no real excuse for including them, except that it’s almost Hallowe’en and two of the songs involve ghosts; plus these songs take me back to my western days of yore; plus this is a goddamn anarchist blog and I’ll do whatever seemeth right in my own eyes, dagnabit:

305. Stan Jones, “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” (1948):

Here’s the original version:

But today this song is usually best known either through Johnny Cash’s version (1979):

– or through Cash’s duet with Willie Nelson (1997):

Here’s a somewhat more unusual cover:

I’m not sure what version I originally heard (it’s been covered many times), but I’m pretty sure I knew it when I was still living out west, in which case it’d be a pre-Cash version (since we relocated to New England in 1977).

306. C. W. McCall, “Convoy” (1975):

When I was living in southeast Idaho in the mid-70s, trucker songs were big on the radio; and the king of them all, of course, was the immortal C. W. McCall. This trucker anthem, with its shocking disrespect for the gangsters in blue our heroic first responders, counts as science fiction by my generous definition, since it’s about a fictional nationwide trucker rebellion (for more specific details as to what it’s about, and some translations of the CB slang, see the song’s Wikipedia page). (McCall has featured previously in this SongFest, though not with a trucker song.)

307. C. W. McCall, “’Round the World With the Rubber Duck” (1976):

This is the (deservedly) lesser-known sequel to “Convoy,” a weak (and somewhat racist) follow-up that I don’t recall even hearing at the time; it’s surely one of McCall’s less-inspired songs. The previous song’s Friends of Jesus turn out to come in handy for crossing the Atlantic, though:

308. C. W. McCall, “Silver Iodide Blues” (1976):

To redeem McCall’s reputation, here’s another of his good songs. Is it science fiction? Not really. It’s about science, though:

309. Red Sovine, “Phantom 309” (1967):

Yes, I managed to work it out so that “Phantom 309” would also be song #309. The stars have aligned!

While McCall was the king of the trucker songs in my Idaho days, the following song by Red Sovine was in frequent rotation on the radio as well:

Sovine and McCall, perhaps along with someone’s version of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” as well, jointly inspired me to write my own supernatural trucker song (I was around 12), of which I remember only the chorus (though I probably still have the rest of it in a box somewhere). There’s a melody too, but I’ll spare you, for I am compassionate and merciful, like this driver:

God drives an eighteen-wheeler
across this land of ours
his wheels shake the whole land round about
and the noise shakes the stars
the sound of his engine fills the hills
and the smoke from his smokestack curls
he’s the guy who said “Let there be light!”
and his headlights light the world

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