Disco Lab #34 (Halloween Edition): Menage – ‘Alien’ (1979)
Here’s a curious trend in disco music: dance remakes of science-fiction movie themes. In 1977 Meco had a hit single (and album) with the theme from Star Wars (or Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, for you purists). Having been robbed by Meco of the “Star Wars” hit single, John Williams made sure to include a disco version of his next epic sci-fi theme, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, on his own soundtrack album the following year. (It worked; the track was a hit.) Also in 1978, European disco genius Giorgio Moroder cut an album of themes from TV’s Battlestar Galactica.
So when 1979’s big sci-fi blockbuster turned out to be a film called Alien, it was inevitable that someone would do a disco version of the main-title theme. Not surprisingly, it was the movie’s own studio, 20th Century Fox, that created the remix. (Fox got snubbed by Meco’s “Star Wars,” too.) Though the score is considered one of composer Jerry Goldsmith’s finest, what Wikipedia calls its “bleak and dissonant soundscape” didn’t translate well to a catchy tune for the dance clubs. In fact, it’s one of the harshest and most atonal dance records you’re likely to hear.
Part 1, presumably the intended hit, focuses on Goldsmith’s main-title theme, but, unlike the rousing “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters,” it’s edgy and not at all anthemic. The record jams along merrily as if nothing’s wrong, hardly noticing that it’s almost twelve-tone and avant-garde (e.g., unlistenable to anyone who hasn’t been to art school). Still, it has some fun with the vocal passages: the world “alien” whispered a few times and a new melodic vocal: “I feel it, here come the alien.” The record finally tips its hand as a marketing tool as a baritone George Clinton-style vocal utters, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Which isn’t even dialogue from the script, but the advertising tagline from the movie poster. Are you sold yet? Stop dancing and go see our movie!
Part 2 is actually a lot more fun. This funkier version uses the vocal sections (“I feel it” and “In space…”) twice, sandwiching them around the dissonant Goldsmith theme, which only appears once. It’s hard to boogie when your ears are ringing. Even though in space, no one can hear you dance.
That wraps up our All Hallow’s Eve coverage in the Disco Lab. Have a happy, funky Halloween and see you in Disco-vember!
Previously on Disco Lab: (Halloween Edition): The Manhattan Transfer – ‘Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone’ (1979)