Friday, October 20, 2006

Soundtrack Of The Day

In December of 1980 I was 7.

It had been six months since The Empire Strikes Back had come out. And while maybe we weren't frothing at the mouth quite like we were at the end of 1977 (screaming at our parents for Star War toys, who screamed at underprepared licensee, Kenner, who in turn shipped out empty cardboard boxes for Christmas, promising they'd have action figures in stores by spring), we were still jonesing for anything on celluloid resembling space ships or laser battles.

Enter Flash Gordon, a fantastically campy homage to old timey comic books done in full 70's technicolor disco excess, and the only thing resembling an action packed science fiction romp for the holiday movie season. The problem was, no one (except for hipsters in the Castro) really got it. So instead of adults flocking to the theaters to witness this fantastically kitschy space opera, they rolled their eyes and dropped the kids off instead.

So there I was, in 2nd grade, seeing Flash Gordon for the 2nd time at a 2nd birthday party in as many weeks. And even though we didn't get it, the ambiguous sexuality and miles of skin tight latex going in one pupil and out the other, we did know one thing: the soundtrack fucking ROCKED.

Composed entirely by Brian May and performed by Queen, the Flash Gordon soundtrack is hands down the weirdest entry in their catalog. Packing every groove with tacky albeit atmospheric synth arrangements, with the silliest dialogue in history left IN ("Flash I LOVE you, but we only have 24 hours to save the Earth!"), it was actually released as a full length Queen album. And while I'll be the first to say that most of it resembled the music from my favorite (and still woefully underrated) video game, Vanguard, Queen also managed to rip out some of the most blistering rock they'd ever recorded.

The scene where the Hawkmen (i.e. fat, hairy Brian Blessed stuffed into black latex lederhosen and hanging by a wire) dive bomb War Rocket Ajax (a plastic toy on a string with a sparkler sticking out the rear) is hands down the cheesiest battle in movie history. But set to Brian May's absolutely smoking guitar work on "Battle Theme", it had us going completely fucking apeshit in the theater, literally leaping out of our seats to cheer Flash on as "Biro's been hit, I'm going in after him!"

And even now, 26 years later, I still get goosebumps when I hear "Football Fight", remembering Flash ("Quarterback, New York Jets!") kicking the shit out of Ming the Merciless' henchman with his own brand of intergalactic Kill the Pill.

If you're a Queen fan, you need to own at least the aforementioned tracks, not to mention the title track and the absolutely killer, "Hero" (essentially "Battle Theme" with lyrics). If you're around my age, saw Flash Gordon in the theater and have even the slightest recall of telling your friends at school how "this robot guy falls on these spikes and his EYEBALL POPS OUT!" during Monday recess, then you need to get the whole album.

Flash, you've saved your Earth. Have a nice day.


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