Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Videogame Killed the Radio Star


An interesting short film about David Bowie's co-creation of the 1999 game Omikron: The Nomad Soul

Which the album Hours was the soundtrack to, an attempt to give the game "a heart"

I confess this was new to me... my interest in his activities really flags from the late '80s onwards. 

A couple of things that struck me watching the film

A/ Omikron's co-creator David Cage is described as a games auteur, someone respected more than enjoyed, written about more than played... "Edgy". Now, granted,  I know next to nothing about games but it struck me that from what I could see there, in terms of look it is looks much like every other game... the way the camera moves... the fight scenes ... and as the mini-film concedes, it is an adventure game. 

B/ the film makes great play about how ahead-of-his-time, advanced in his thinking, Bowie was when it came to all things digital... First pop star to have his own online music retail system, long before iTunes and Apple... many other internet-innovative things I've already forgotten since watching this short video...  And you've probably already seen elsewhere the clip they use of the Dame (with terrible hair and awful shades) proselytizing about how the Internet is going to change all our preconceptions about  media - "for better or worse" - and with it human consciousness...  He sounds like a wide-eyed Silicon Valley tech-guru... jacked up on issues of Mondo 2000 and one too many smart drinks. 

Thing is, all this modish, modem-ish stuff he did... none of it had any lasting impact, nobody remembers it...  It's all just trendy piss down the latrine gutter of history. 

If Bowie endures, if he'll be remembered in a hundred years, it'll be for those creaky, analogue things known as words-and-music...  Oh, and a few images: the costumes, the albums covers, iconic photographer's shots, some of the videos or TV appearances... 

It'll be for the human yearnings disguised artfully behind his various masks and costumes. 


  1. Quite a few acts have dabbled in licensing themselves for games. Often, such licensed games fall into the trap afflicting most licensed games: they're made cheaply and apathetically, and intended for a cash grab. However, here are a few I'd say are worth noting.

    The first band to license themselves for a video game were probably Journey, with 1982's Journey Escape, where you guide Journey to their tourbus whilst dodging groupies and paparazzi. The next year, the game Journey came out. In that, aliens had done the planet a favour by stealing Journey's instruments, but against all sense you've got to go and get those instruments back.

    Frankie Goes to Hollywood had a game for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum in 1985, a rather weird adventure puzzle game where you play as 0% of a person, and by filling up your sex, war, love and faith meters, you can become fully a person and thus enter the Pleasuredome. I've only played it once, decades ago, but apparently it's highly regarded as a Commodore game.

    Aerosmith had a arcade rail shooter in the early 90s called Revolution X, where an evil totalitarian government has arrested and imprisoned Aerosmith, and it's up to you to shoot your way to rescuing Aerosmith. Is it me, or does that have shades of the concept behind Styx's Kilroy Was Here?

    And also, shades of the concept to We Will Rock You, the Queen jukebox musical. Which, oddly enough, started as the concept to 1997's Queen-involved video game The eYe. It's punctuated like that so you know it's crap in advance.

    Michael Jackson's Moonraker spawned a Sega Megadrive game in 1990, where you're Jacko from the Smooth Criminal video, and you go around rescuing kids from gangsters with your magic dance moves. The game has some acclaim, and pretty authentic yelps.

    Kiss have licensed a few games with their image, because of course they have.

    Iron Maiden have released three (I think) games, but they have an obvious advantage, in that their mascot Eddie is easily translatable into a gameworld.

    In 1992, Motley Crue absurdly licensed a pinball game called Crue Ball. Apparently, the developer wanted a metal-themed pinball game, and sought association with the MTV show Headbangers Ball, but when the show denied them the license, they brought in Motley Crue late in the day to salvage the concept.

    The Wu-Tang Clan made an ultraviolent martial arts fighting game in 1999, which is on brand, at least. Def Jam has also released fighting and sports games themed around various acts on the label.

    Devo had a bash at creating their own game in 1996, called Devo Presents Adventures of the Smart Patrol. From a Youtube video of the game, it looks pretty weird, and quite probably shite.

    50 Cent had two third-person shooters in the late 2000s, called 50 Cent: Bulletproof and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. You play as 50 Cent, and you go around and shoot thousands of people. Is does appear you're playing Fiddy's masturbation fantasy.

    Perhaps the most notable band games are the Guitar Hero/Rock Band games, where players play facsimiles of instruments in order to imitate playing classic songs. The Beatles, Aerosmith, Metallica, Van Halen and Green Day are among the rock bands to have specific rhythm games made about them (more karaoke-themed games for Abba, Take That etc. also exist). However, the rhythm game fad is now basically dead.

  2. Amazing breakdown. So Bowie was far from the first to do this sort of hookup.

    Makes sense that bands were doing this from the early '80s onwards.

    Games as an influence or reference in music is another question. The video for George Clinton "Atomic Dog" is full of Pacman etc type imagery, set partly in an arcade I think.

    But he was probably picking up on / copying stuff going on in electro.

  3. There's been a few songs, often novelty singles, based on video games. Here are a few that I can recall.

    Numerous songs drew inspiration from Space Invaders, often cashing in on the craze. Two worthy of note: the Pretenders' Space Invader and the Clash's Ivan Meets G.I. Joe both sample sound effects from the game.

    Pac-Man Fever by Jerry Buckney and Gary Garcia (as Buckner and Garcia) got to no. 9 on the Billboard chart in 1981. This came from a whole album devoted to songs based on arcade games (Frogger, Centipede, Donkey Kong, that sort of thing). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY_ESTnBlS0

    Supermarioland by the Ambassadors of Funk was a 1992 novelty rap single about Super Mario that got to no. 9 in the UK charts. Quite sweet in its way, especially since the hardness of hip-hop get diluted by them filming the video at Chessington World of Adventures: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2nF92mu8X0

    Worth recalling that on Biggie Smalls' Juicy, he brags about owning a Snes and a Sega Genesis (the North American name for the Megadrive).

    There's been a longstanding rumour that Michael Jackson composed the music to 1994's Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (with many variants, like Michael quitting because he was dissatisfied with the sound quality of the Megadrive, or Sega dropping his music because of the paedophilia allegations), but in 2022, Sonic's creator confirmed in a tweet that Jacko did compose the music for the game.

    Perhaps the most curious example of a video game novelty single is Tetris by Doctor Spin, a Eurodance rave number that got to no. 6 in the UK charts in 1992. What's especially unusual about this is that Doctor Spin was a pseudonym...

    ... for Andrew Lloyd Webber.

  4. Thinking about it, one game series in particular has sought to interact with popular music as much as possible: the GTA series. The radio stations in the games has been pretty impeccably curated, and the in-game DJs have included Iggy Pop, Axl Rose, Bootsy Collins, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Chuck D and Kenny Loggins. This also extends to the voice actors behind the non-player characters, who have included Ice-T, Yo-Yo, The Game, Debbie Harry, Shaun Ryder, Dr. Dre and, playing himself, Phil Collins.

  5. Forgot to mention: Room 5's 2003 no. 1 single Make Luv, featuring Oliver Cheatham, does seem to have been inspired by the inclusion of Cheatham's earlier hit Saturday Night on the soundtrack to GTA: Vice City. The video, I feel, reinforces my claim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcHs2f2TSxI

  6. This has nothing at all to do with the post (although I did have 'Teenage Wildlife' running through my head while reading it), but Tavi Gevinson self-published a (quoting my own description from Bluesky) '75-page, multipart, semi-fictionalized exegesis of her half-real relationship with Taylor Swift, and how it intersects with fame, worship, and her violent ambivalence about her own life and career', and beyond its own merits (it's very good), it's is pure uncut glam theorizing: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/66198f0957c089516c472a5e/t/661af946ddd51e635eda8ebc/1713043790383/Fan+Fiction-Read.pdf


Glam from Elsewhere in the Anglophonosphere

Well, if Canadian hauntology wasn't surprising enough, here's a whole book on Canadian glam Yes it is an "untold story"....