I was fixing my pipes this morning until the strains of otherworldly keyboards started wafting across the room. Well, I decided that fixing a clogged faucet was the last thing I wanted to do on such a beautiful Saturday morning – nothing beats the looks and functionality of a Kraus KPF, but boy, it sure is a bummer to have to fix (but thanks for the great advice, faucetassistant.com).
Going back, the strains reminded me of the sci-fi inspired albums I was really back into my youth – the keyboards were none other than Ash Ra Tempel’s. So I decided to dig up my old vinyl! lp records and withdraw myself in the comfort of my basement and come up with a carefully curated list of science fiction inspired rock music for you all.
Thing is, we aren’t going to list down concept albums that most of us already know – we’re talking about digging deep down and dirty for the choicest cuts known to man.
We’re digging slightly deeper than usual this time. Get those speakers ready and cranked up to 11 – we’re about to take you on a trip of massive proportions.
1. Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship, “Blows Against the Empire” (1970)
The quintessential sci-fi concept album is probably the one that is most overlooked – but then again, in 1970, maybe it was too far out. However, that does not denigrate from Jefferson Airplane mastermind Paul Kantner’s impressive 1970 opus, “Blows Against the Empire”. Its lofty, freeform and idealistic lyrical content set to the San Francisco sound may all just be a hippie dream, but its message resounds in these trying times.
Kantner truly was one of music’s forgotten greats – it’s such a loss that he is no longer with us.
2. Gary Numan and Tubeway, “Replicas” (1979)
Before Gary Numan hit it big with the ubiquitous and infectious groove of his 1979 hit “Cars”, he was first the enigmatic frontman of proto-New Wave group Tubeway Army. And their final album, “Replicas”, was a fitting bookend to one of the most futuristic bands of the late 70s British scene – one that was based on a futuristic, Philip K. Dick-inspired plot that served as a central musical theme.
3. A Flock of Seagulls, “A Flock of Seagulls” (1982)
A Flock of Seagulls first eponymous LP was indeed a gem full of sci-fi inspired, hooky, and catchy rock songs – although the massive hits “I Ran (So Far Away)” and “Space Age Love Song” were the ones best remembered, the album itself is wrapped up in its own sci-fi inspired narrative.
4. Nektar, “Journey to the Center of the Eye” (1971)
Now we’re getting REAL deep with these cuts. Nektar is a German-American space rock group, which, off the bat, should tell you that their works will be littered with references to science fiction, space, and the future. Their abovementioned debut album consists of a continuous, gapless piece of music following an astronaut encountering aliens in Jupiter, who then grant him knowledge that will save the world. Intense, huh? For an album made in 1971, it sure is heavy – its narrative also serves as an indictment on nuclear war – a very real possibility when the album was released.
5. Jon Anderson, “Olias of Sunhillow” (1976)
Jon Anderson may already be known for his prolific, award-winning, and memorable work with British prog supergroup Yes, but his solo work also demands just as recognition – one only need to look at the abovementioned 1976 work as proof. Anderson painstakingly worked on the album for over eight months, with two years just for conceptualizing the narrative itself – one you have to listen to appreciate in full.
Well, that’s five of the best hidden treasures of the sci-fi world – track them down on YouTube, Spotify, or better yet, on vinyl, and enjoy. Now back to my faucet!