This guest article was written by Paul Leach a Music Technology student at York St John’s University. If you want to write your own article and get it featured in here, please contact us!
During the early nineties a glut of game based music hit the bargain bins of record stores across the UK & beyond, their purpose? To make you part with your (or your parents, or if you were a bully, your neighbours) hard earned cash in exchange for what? For the chance to be able to listen to the sound FX that was annoying in the game, out in the real world (the real world being your bedroom, next to your console).
But, strangely enough these commercial oddities seemed to have fallen off the face of the planet. This reporter has dispensed of the rose tinted glasses he keeps next to his Bros CD collection, and taken the necessary but disturbing step of sampling these products ‘sober’, and let me tell you it was not pretty!
So I invite you all to follow me as I transverse all taste barriers to bring you the “Top 5 Videogame Based Chart Singles” of all time!
5. The World Warrior – Street Fighter II (1994)
The trend with these novelty singles was not only to just loop the most memorable part of the video game (in this case the main theme from Street Fighter II) but also for the performer to change their artist name to tie-in with the product, Simon Harris changed his name (not by deed poll unfortunately) to the mighty sounding “World Warrior” to coincide with the popularity Street Fighter II, and apparently its “gunna be bad.”
With a rap performed by (ahem) Einstein, who has a fondness of repeating tough sounding phrases such as “I won’t break” & “hit the switch” The track actually executes a nice beat down section using the familiar dulcet from Ken’s theme, which really breaks up the extremely liberal use of the main melody. This turkey lasted a grand total of 1 week in the charts peaking at number 70, sparing us the embarrassment of a music video and spin off album, phew!
Unsurprisingly this release is now fairly hard to track down due to its differing titles (it’s known as the Street Fighter rap album in Japan) and general lack of knowledge/interest. So, being the nice chap that I am, I have provided a link to an unofficial fan made music video. All together now “I won’t break coz I’m a Street Fighter!”
Special mention has to go to Hyadain for his own brilliant spin(ning piledriver) on the Street Fighter lineage, check it out here.
4. SFX – Lemmings SFX (1993)
Lemmings was cute wasn’t it? Listening to your little confused comrades final words in a hilariously high pitched voice as he tried in vain to grasp the reality of violence & the impact of peer pressure in mainstream society, really captured the essence of the times. Listening to those cries for mercy outside the realm of video games however, makes you want to sharpen your earlobes, scrape them on a blackboard, and pray that your eardrums can no longer register high frequencies.
If you want to remember just what tools we were in the early nineties then just fire this onto your vinyl player. Wince! At what can only be described as a Cockney rain man who’s ingested too much tartrazine attempting to summarize the Lemmings experience, Cringe! At the sound of an extremely bad ventriloquist act singing the chorus whilst gargling razor blades, & Vomit! At the synth package stolen from D:ream’s garden shed.
Clocking in at a respectable Number 51 in the UK Top 40 and clinging on to its chart status for 3 weeks, this release had all the charm of a digger lemming, burrowing through your kneecaps.
3. H.W.A. featuring Sonic the Hedgehog – Supersonic (1992)
Remember when mainstream music of this era had a vocal effect that just basically sounded like a mix between “high yeah” & “hiya” sung by a whining dog being sucked through a wind turbine? Well if you liked that you’ll be in seventh heaven when you hear this! This song just basically goes through the motions of repeating as much it can, as many times as it could be allowed.
Based on the first levels from Sonic the Hedgehog, the Theremin/whistle style synthesisers make it sound more X-files Zone than Green Hill Zone. The lack of any real lyrics is a welcome change to the descriptions of the game play being touted by the other novelty records until, that is the “hiya” vocals come back into contention for the 40th time.
Apparently, being the charitable fellows that they are, Sega donated all royalties coming their way to the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre. This provided them with a new whistle, and gave this track a special bye into third place in our countdown (I’m such a humanitarian).
Very little evidence exists of this track actually making it into the UK charts at all, but according to comprehensive UK chart data collation website, chartstats.com this production from H.W.A actually registered at number 38 in the nation’s favourite countdown of artistic celebration and phenomenal marketing, before hitting its purple patch at number 33 the following week. Sadly though not tussling toe to toe with the number one at the time, Whitney Houston’s gift to inebriated karaoke contestants and X-factor rejects everywhere, “I Will Always Love You.”
2. Ambassadors of Funk featuring M.C. Mario – Super Mario Land (1992)
I completely refute the artist’s claim as being the ambassador of such a diverse and widely heralded genre of music, but nevertheless this effort from Simon Harris (sigh) takes a stab at being heard in an eco system congested with ballads (I Will Always Love You), hypocritical statements on the redistribution of wealth (Heal the World), & Phillip Schofield. This is, admittedly one of the more bearable efforts from this spinoff of commercial hideousness.
Lifting the melody from Super Mario Land, this release actually makes good use of the sound effects in a percussive sense rather than just randomly throwing a couple of samples over the top of already sampled game music, & there’s no denying that the use of the melody in conjunction with the “whoop” sound FX make you want to get on the dance floor and utterly embarrass yourself in a “your barred for life” kind of way. Another neat touch is the use of the game over theme at the end of the track. It seems that a little bit of care went into giving the fan boys, something to salivate over. Collaborating with M.C Mario (a.k.a Einstein, me thinks) the lyrics are the usual generic affair, just act as if you are playing the game and speak what you see (a bit like The Streets and their descriptions of bus stops).
Peaking at number 8 and hanging in for a further 8 weeks, Ambassadors hit their high point when they were one of the select few artists to be included on the seminal collection of chart hits of the year, Now That’s What I Call Music 23.
Interesting Fact Number 1: The sequel to this song Go Mario Go! Didn’t even register on the UK charts, and signalled Ambassadors exit from the video game tie-in scene, and the planet.
Interesting fact Number 2: Simon Harris is still in the music business.
1. Doctor Spin – Tetris (1992)
Take the most famous Russian folk song (Korobeiniki for the fact obsessed), splice in a generic drum beat, and a strange pseudo-Russian gentleman proclaiming what only is audible as “uddah!” Then what you have is the greatest (in the most generous manner possible) track based on a video game, of all time! What is great about this other than the complete lack of creative substance from Doctor Spin is the astonishing fact is that the name Doctor Spin is the pseudonym used by none other than the child catcher-alike of musical theatre, Andrew Lloyd Webber and, the respected musical director/producer of high brow theatre, Nigel Wright.
Whatever the reason for Webber to drop technicolor dreamcoats for technicolor building blocks remains a mystery, but it proved to be a lucrative one. This is the most successful entry in our countdown charting at a mind-boggling Number 6 in the UK charts, and spent 8 weeks lurking about said chart until the record playing public realized that owning this CD is more embarrassing than getting caught doing things with Henry Hoover other than the housework.
Pssst. Here’s a bit of a gem for you, this song performed “live” on Top Of the Pops. Go, NOW!!
Another title that never made it into the countdown Pac Man Fever by Buckner & Garcia is so bad that it’s….absolutely terrible and I really couldn’t listen to it for more than a minute, and is one of many ode’s to classic games available on the Pac Man Fever album along with Do the Donkey Kong, which if played backwards contains a delicious recipe for cyanide soup.