Doctor Who: Are You Ready to Trock?
Sadly, your dedicated fanboy has no more episodes of Doctor Who to watch until the 50th anniversary in November, though I am very much looking forward to seeing Frazer Hines this weekend at Comicpalooza. In an effort to stave off the madness of a Who-less existence, today I want to talk to you about trock, or Time Lord Rock, which is music inspired by Doctor Who.
It's like Harry Potter Wizard Rock, except it's not universally awful.
Before we begin, there is a person you need to know the name of. It's Delia Derbyshire, and she was literally doing every cool ambient-electronica bit you love way back before it was cool. It was her that turned Ron Grainer's score for Doctor Who into that iconic synthesized arrangement that has become so influential, an arrangement that was so brilliant Grainer himself said, 'Did I write that?"
The BBC screwed her out of co-composer credits, though we'll at least see an homage to her in the upcoming docudrama An Adventure In Space and Time where she's played by Sarah Winter.
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That theme has made it into hundreds of different cover versions, some famous, some just people tooling around on YouTube. In 1988 a band called The Timelords scored a No. 1 hit in the United Kingdom with their sample mash-up "Doctorin' The Tardis" that combines the theme song, "Rocks and Roll Part 2" as well as "Genesis of the Daleks" clips.
As you can see above, the music video that accompanied the song might in fact be the greatest thing ever done. Here's an even better one that throws Green Day's "Holiday" in the mix. Oh, and you know who else thinks the Doctor Who theme song is worth putting in a tune? Pink Freakin' Floyd. Check about three minutes into "One of These Days" to hear them just murder the tune.
More than just the iconic theme, bands have been inspired to craft music inspired for the show for many years. These started out as novelty songs intended to cash in on Dalekmania, like "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek" in 1964. Ultimately, songs like that were regulated to discount bins. The Art Attacks also tried to score with the punk tune "I Am a Dalek," and in 2002 Mitch Benn released "Doctor Who Girl" as an ode to days spent watching the show as a child. In general, though, Doctor Who music prior to the 2005 revival remained obscure.
That all changed with a fan named Alex Day and a band called Chameleon Circuit. Day had toyed with a song set over the opening thing that eventually became "An Awful Lot of Running," while his bandmate Charlie McDonnell had crafted a track based around the episode "Blink." With a theme going, Chameleon Circuit was born, and managed to produce two albums, with the second, Still Got Legs, making No. 23 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.
Day has gone on to be quite a star with his post-trock career, and you can still hear less overt references to his favorite time traveler in hits like "Forever Yours." Though he and the various members of Chameleon Circuit are currently busy with other projects, Day told us via email that the band still talk about the next phase of their career. It's possible Doctor Who fans will still get another entry from the genre's break out success story.
Another very keen person to watch is Ken Spivey, who released a stellar Doctor Who album, Memoirs of the Time War last year and will drop The Universe Yields in a matter of days. Spivey's first work was heavily folk and Celtic influenced, with maudlin love songs and good old drinking tunes dedicated to The Doctor.
His latest work embraces both the rising steampunk movement as well as Spivey's own traditional punk-rock roots. The latest member of his band, Allison Farrell is supposed to represent an assistant to Nicola Tesla, and the music they are producing has all the made energy of that mad man, complete with gears, science and sex.
I got to hear a cut from Universe Yields, "Sexy Professor (The River Song)" and it's just bloody fantastic. So much trock reaches for the stars. Spivey keeps it running on the ground with explosions in true punk form. It's the first really great Doctor Who punk tune since "I Am a Dalek," and it wins over even non-Whovians.
"Man, your music is really fun, but what is a Time Lord?" Spivey told us is the typical response from people who aren't fans. "Is this a new age religion or something?" That's an excellent question.
We even make trock right here in America. Check out Time Crash from Illinois. They offer a much more rock orientated, almost Heart-like approach to Doctor Who music. Singer Ronen Kohn, whose powerful,pipes call all across time and space considers her involvement with Doctor Who a kind of artistic salvation.
"It was almost a matter of staying creatively alive as a song writer," said Kohn. "There was a point at which I realized I was so immersed in the world of Doctor Who and so enamored with the themes and characters, that any songs I wrote at the time would have to secretly connect, somehow, back to the show. Then I though: Why does it have to be a secret?"
From steampunk to Britpop to American roots-rock The Doctor continues to inspire people to sing his songs as his show gets ever bigger and better. Come on, Houston, I know you're listening. Anywhere in space and time, where do you want to play?
Comicpalooza begins at noon Friday at the George R. Brown Convention Center. See comicpalooza.com for details.
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