Mar 10

THE FIRM – “Star Trekkin”

Popular110 comments • 9,040 views

#592, 20th June 1987, video

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…



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  1. 91
    AndyPandy on 18 Mar 2010 #

    Punctum @86:There was something almost as bizarre as a Rubettes guitarist making an early Acid Track though –

    Barry Blue was behind Cry Sisco’s “Afro Dizzi Act” which was one of biggest, most all-pervasive (and from over 20 years hence one of the most evocative of that time) tracks from the M25 acid house parties of 1989.

  2. 92
    mike on 18 Mar 2010 #

    And then there was Rob Davies from Mud, going all Balearic in the summer of 1988 with Electra’s cover of “Jibaro”… but more of him when the times comes, eh?

  3. 93
    punctum on 19 Mar 2010 #

    #91: Beyond the hits (and maybe including some of his hits – “Hot Shot” is, to put it mildly, bizarre) Barry Blue’s done some pretty out there stuff in his time. But then of course he also produced and mentored Heatwave and therefore Rod Temperton, who did a great lost single for BB in 1987: “Change It Up.”

  4. 94
    MichaelH on 19 Mar 2010 #

    @82/89 A phenomenon known to Trek fans (my wife is one) as the “expendable ensign”, since that is always the rank of the crew member who dies.

  5. 95
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Mar 2010 #

    # 84 – And how come no one analyzed the ‘London Bridge’ connection…

    I for one never analysed it because I associated the tune, such as it is, with “I am the Music Man” as was outlined by someone else further up-thread.

  6. 96
    Doctor Casino on 20 Mar 2010 #

    “I Am The Music Man” was another campfire favorite at the same summer camp. We had a pretty limited range.

  7. 97
    Conrad on 24 Mar 2010 #

    in response to a comment much earlier, the Firm’s 1982 single Arthur Daley’s e’s alright…the b side was indeed the posh version, credited to the firm’s solicitor, Devious Des

  8. 98
    Billy Hicks on 19 Jan 2011 #

    Back in 1998, nine year old me and a host of other kids were being entertained by a clown in the summer holidays in Devon. He was singing both this and Black Lace’s ‘Superman’. You could feel a slight sense of bewilderment across all our faces as clearly none of us had any idea what these songs were – even then they predated our births. I wonder to this day if that clown’s setlist remains in the 80s, or whether he’s moved onto, I dunno, Mr Blobby or something, bemusing a whole new generation of kids.

    It’s enjoyable, harmless fun to me, maybe because I’ve never been overexposed to it. This also coming from someone who avoids Star Trek like the plague and instead a massive Doctor Who fan!

  9. 99
    DanH on 2 Aug 2013 #

    Well, when I perused the U.K. #1’s for the first time, this was a jawdropper. “What the hell is this Dr. Demento song doing at #1?” Yeah, that’s where I knew it from. I really don’t even hate it, except knowing that this made #1 in the U.K. and none of the Joshua Tree songs could.

  10. 100
    DanH on 27 Feb 2015 #

    It was life, Jim, but not as we knew it.

    RIP Leonard Nimoy

  11. 101
    Jimmy the Swede on 28 Feb 2015 #

    Yep, he’s dead, Jim. Boldly gone.


  12. 102
    Lazarus on 6 Aug 2015 #

    Given that their only other hit was ‘Arthur Daley (‘e’s alright)’, perhaps this is also the place to bid adieu to George Cole, who made the role of the said Arfur his own for some 15 years. Has any other British TV series spawned as many as three hit singles? Eastenders is probably the champion here, I admit.

  13. 103
    Kinitawowi on 6 Aug 2015 #

    #102: featured in it or written about it? As If had a crapton of chart music in it and qualifies under bo-*headshot from bunny*

  14. 104
    Andrew Farrell on 7 Aug 2015 #

    Well there’s this show called the X Factor… limiting it to drama, Soldier Soldier has a good record (in, er, one sense) – three singles three #1s.

    What’s the third Minder single?

  15. 105
    Jimmy the swede on 7 Aug 2015 #

    Yep, a hearty round of applause for Arfur. From ‘er indoors, he’s gone to ‘im upstairs. The old rogue will probably try to flog St Pete a dodgy second hand Rover… RIP.

  16. 106
    Mark G on 7 Aug 2015 #

    #104 You’ve clearly forgotten “What are we gonna get for Her Indoors” by George Cole and Dennis Waterman.

  17. 107
    AnotherPete on 7 Aug 2015 #

    #104 Auf Wiedersehen, Pet does quite well too.

  18. 108
    23 Daves on 24 Apr 2021 #

    A bunch of old Channel 4 “Chart Show” videos have worked their way on to YouTube (again) and watching them reminded me of something I’d found strange at the time – the programme was obviously so disgusted by this single that even when it went up to number one, they failed to play the video. During its second week at the top they granted it about 50 seconds of air-time before cutting away. I can’t think of a single other record which was treated with such disdain by the show.

    I actually think there’s something ever so slightly subversive about it. It’s clearly making a feature out of its cheapness – it’s pretty difficult to achieve that warped, wobbling keyboard sound by accident unless the recording studio is having a meltdown – and the sheer repetitive squeakiness of the hooks is like something a pre-pubescent would create in their bedroom. It reminds me of Harry Enfield’s “Kevin The Teenager” character before he became a teenager, and was instead an annoying, vocal little brat who just spewed out random catchphrases loudly and inaccurately in public.

    That doesn’t make the record any good, of course, but it sounds as peculiar today as it did in 1987 and almost stands alone in its field. I wouldn’t swear to this, but I remember it being awarded “Worst Single Of The Year” in Smash Hits and Martin Degville of Sigue Sigue Sputnik was outraged and yelled “What?! I BOUGHT THAT!” (or words to that effect). At the time I thought “You’re not even joking, are you? That makes absolute sense”. They may have been poles apart stylistically – at least, I think so – but the Sputniks and The Firm were clearly both very keen on wind-up power.

  19. 109
    Kath Kay on 25 Apr 2021 #

    An amusing record, it certainly made me chuckle. 5/10.

  20. 110
    Gareth Parker on 1 Jun 2021 #

    Agree with 23 Daves (#108) on the wind up nature of this single. That’s why it gets a 4/10 from me!

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