Nerd Classic: He Save Every One of Us

Today, whilst studying, I pulled out the Flash Gordon soundtrack by Queen.

I bought this CD shortly after my 15th birthday in the spring of 1992, with money given to me by my Grandma. My parents gave me a Sony 5-disc carousel CD player, but it had been sitting for a few days, hooked up to my stereo but unused, as I hadn't received any CDs for my birthday. Fortunately for me, the Greeley Mall ("Where good things happen!") was right across the street from John Evans Junior High and there was birthday money burning a hole in my pocket. So on the Monday after my birthday, I skipped the school bus home after 7th period and headed over to the Disc Jockey to find something cool.

And when I say "something cool," you must keep in mind the title of this blog, and consider that I'm nowhere near as big a nerd now as I was in 9th grade.

Anyway, I was a huge fan of the 1980 Flash Gordon film. At the time, it was in heavy rotation on TBS, WGN and all the other "Here, watch an old movie with cheap broadcast rights so we can make a few bucks" basic cable channels, alongside such other cinematic gems as The Beastmaster, The Ice Pirates and Conan the Destroyer. I watched it pretty much every time it was on. My brother and his friends had kind of a thing for Flash at that time as well, but it was an Ironic thing, combined with the music of Queen being hip at the time thanks to the death of Freddie Mercury and the Wayne's World movie.

As for me, I hadn't an ironic bone in my body, and I just totally dug the movie. I understood that it was cheesy and absurd, and I didn't care. Its heart was in the right place. It managed to perfectly walk the fine line between being completely earnest, wide-eyed sci-fi adventure and ridiculous campy self-parody. It had a bland hero who wore a T-shirt with his name on it (I would have killed to own a copy of that T-shirt, and probably still would), but that was nicely balanced by the villain, a gloriously hammy Max von Sydow, and equally hammy supporting players Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton. And the music was awesome, too.

Which brings us back to the Disc Jockey at the Greeley Mall, May 1992. It was the era of the CD longbox, well before someone realized that you could put the jewel cases in those same plastic jaws-of-death thingies that they kept the tapes in to prevent theft. I flipped through the CDs, not sure what to get. I didn't know all that much about music - I was starting to get into Nirvana, but I already had Nevermind on tape, and I wanted something I didn't already have.* My first impulse had been the Star Wars soundtrack, nerd that I was, but that didn't exist on CD at the time. I thought about other stuff that was popular at the time, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers' BloodSugarSexMagik and Metallica's Black Album, but I didn't really like Metallica (for whom I later developed at least an appreciation) or the Chili Peppers (still don't). Probably inspired my own self by the Wayne-and-Garth-inspired resurgence in popularity, I flipped idly through the Queen CDs, and there it was... all its bright yellow glory.

It was, of course, the only CD I owned for a couple of weeks, so I listened to it quite a lot. Brian May and Roger Taylor go nuts, especially rocking out to back the scene where Flash, Prince Vultan and the Hawkmen attack War Rocket Ajax (track 13, "Battle Theme"). And of course, the album is wall-to-wall with not just music, but dialogue and sound effects from the movie. Listening to the album is almost as good as watching the movie. The only thing missing is the movie's best line, which was included in the single version of "Flash's Theme" that's on the Greatest Hits collection: "Flash! Flash, I love you! But we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!" Alas, one can't have everything.

My love for all things "Flash Gordon" knows no bounds. It's a tremendous piece of sci-fi pulp adventure, with tons of potential. Apparently, the SciFi Channel is currently producing a new "Flash" TV show to begin airing later this year. It makes me nervous - could be "Stargate" bad, could be "Battlestar Galactica" good. If it's really happening and it's good, along with HBO's upcoming series based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels, there might just be enough reason for me to break down, join the 20th Century, and get cable TV.


* I never did acquire Nevermind on CD, and somewhere along the way, my tape copy disappeared, probably lent to a friend and never returned, so I don't actually own a copy of one of the most iconic albums of my generation. It's kind of a moot point, as it's now been two or three years since I even owned a functional tape deck...