Sometimes there is no gulf wider than the one between the 12 and the 13 year old boy. I remember meeting up with a friend – 18 months or so younger – in the school holidays and him absolutely bouncing with delight over this record, which made me shudder. For him this was priceless observational comedy; for me, a cringing reminder of the kind of thing I would have been into a summer or two before.
So ripe for reappraisal, then? Well, not really: this is rank. It’s the cheapest sounding record I think we’ll ever meet; the impressions are disasterous; the jokes were old then and are now so stained into the upholstery of Star Trek they barely register as jokes. Every now and then someone will throw out the insult “music for people who don’t like music”, for some record which commits the great sin of being pleasant or boring: “Star Trekkin’” isn’t really either of those things but it fits the diss better than most songs – more so than with any other comedy record we’ve encountered the music is a crushed, weak, thing: a disdainful, perfunctory vector for the poor gags.
I hope I’ll never have to hear it again without a drink to hand, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing of interest in “Star Trekkin’”. Wikipedia offers a way in by hinting that it’s the only filk record to top the charts, and the song is knowing and affectionate enough to come over as validation if you wanted it to be. But even as a non Trek fan* it seemed dumb to me, taking the most obvious drinking-game Trek tropes and working them ragged. What it reminds me of more, though, are fandom-driven internet memes – it’s stupider and less sophisticated than most of what gets passed around these days but especially with its plasticine video it has something of the have-you-seen-this oh-go-on-then spreadability of modern online pop culture. Of course back in 1987 there were precious few people online to spread anything much (though I bet they all liked Star Trekkin) and we had to rely on Radio 1 DJs to be our filters. Step forward the villain of this piece, Simon Bates, dropping his usual m.o. of tear-jerking populism to show that, hey, he knew how to have fun too. Bastard.
*and alright, yes, this is relevant to my hating the record: I disliked Star Trek. As a young Doctor Who fan I had happily taken sides and have broadly speaking stuck to them, for all the exotica-drenched charm of the original Trek series. At the time this song came out the Star Trek franchise was undergoing a rebirth, thanks to the successful films – the Next Generation series had been announced and I knew people who were excited for it. As for Doctor Who, it was at its lowest ebb – cancelled, then reprieved, then subjected to a run of stories that suggested the cancellers knew their jobs pretty well. “Star Trekkin” might have been an embarassment, but to admit liking Doctor Who in 1987 would have been far worse. A Who-based number one record seemed a distant prospect indeed…