?There are awesome TV shows. And then there was Mystery Science Theater 3000, a show so awesome that it can’t even be mentioned in the same breath as other shows. And while it re-emerges in the form of Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic, the original series will always have a legion of loyal fans, ready to defend this little Minnesota puppet show with their lives.
One of the many, many reasons the show is still so immensely popular is because of the many, many hilarious songs Joel, Mike, Crow and Tom Servo ended up singing in the service of mocking whatever terrible movies they happened to be watching that week. Many of these songs were eventually collected on two CDs — Clowns in the Sky I & II, now out of print, but available on iTunes, and totally worth buying. As a gentle reminder, here’s the top 13 tunes that every MSTie should know by heart.
13) The Sandy Frank Song
Sandy Frank is the man responsible for dubbing and releasing all those awful Japanese monster movies that comprised most of the early MST3K seasons. And so, he got his own theme song during Time of the Apes (episode 306), an awful Japanese Planet of the Apes rip-off. According to the song, Sandy Frank “gads about the house all day,” “thinks that people come from trees,” and, in one of many versions of the song sung in the theater, “likes to crap in his hand.” In a result that no one could have possibly foreseen, this reportedly pissed off Frank , who refused to part with his film rights for MST DVDs (until just now, apparently).
12) When I Held Your Brain in My Arms
Have the cold, brilliant aliens Observers heard of music? You bet your sweet brain stems they do as they ably prove in Terror from the Year 5,000 (ep. 807). Sure, it’s kind of jarring to have Kevin Murphy’s/Servo’s voice coming out of Mike Nelson’s face, but it’s worth it to hear him croon his way around various parts of the brain. Also, this song is noteworthy because it’s the only instance that Suddenly, Susan has been funny in any context whatsoever.
11) The Waffle Song
Why did MST feature an all-waffle-themed episode for Viking Women and the Sea Serpent (ep. 317)? God only knows. But the highlight is this, the official theme song of waffles forevermore (the song starts at 7:17 in the video above). Waffles!
10) Loving Lovers Love
When public television stations need cash, they put on all sorts of entertainment for their viewers, in an attempt to get donations. Pearl Forrester tried doing the same thing in Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (ep. 822), only to make enough money to go to the track. But she still had to put on some entertainment, and her duet with the Observer was a surprisingly tender, yet confusing love ballad about…something. It was creepy, any way you look at it.
9) Master Ninja Theme Song
Because those Van Patten brothers are so headstrong! Easily the coolest thing about Master Ninja (ep. 322) was the theme song Joel and the ‘Bots decided to make for the old ’80s TV series. Here’s a fact that never fails to blow my mind: Tim Van Patten, the horrible, horrible star of Master Ninja is now a respected TV director. Seriously, he does episodes for HBO all the time, including The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Rome, and more. Seriously, the guy who drove a van with a hamster in it in Master Ninja directed episodes of those acclaimed shows. Weird, huh?
8) United Servo Academy Men’s Chorus Hymn
No offense to anyone else on the show, but Kevin Murphy/Servo had the best voice on the show. Having an entire chorus of Tom Servos singing in harmony together? It’s actually pretty awesome, as this song from The Starfighters (ep. 612) ably proves. It’s also kind of scary, actually. One man, singing each part at a time, should probably not sound that good when all the tracks are played together — and there were many, many parts to each harmony.
7) Hired: The Musical!
Most people know “Hired” as the short that precedes Manos: The Hands of Fate, but that’s just part two. Part One is in front of Bride of the Monster (ep. 423), which leads to Joel and the ‘Bots putting on “Hired: The Musical.” It’s kind of a brilliant send-up of Broadway musicals, in all honesty; it’s a little too easy to imagine this actually being actually, sincerely performed. Hell, it might end up replacing Turn Off the Dark when it finally tanks.
6) Ode on Estelle
The capricious Crow once fell hard for Kim Cattrell — it should be noted he fell for early ’80s Cattrell in the early ’90s, well before she got obsessed with showing the world her vagina on Sex in the City — and once sang her quite a nice song. But when watching The Magic Sword (ep. 411), Crow fall even harder for Estelle Winwood, and sang this lovely, lovely ode to her. It got significantly less lovely when Servo interrupted, but it also got significantly more hilarious. Why this song is not available on YouTube is a crime. An internet crime.
5) Tubular Boobular Joy
The episode this appeared in, Outlaw (ep. 519), was the episode that won the 1993 Peabody Award for “Outstanding Quality Programming.” A big part of that win was this vaudeville revue-style song about boobs, butts, and groins, which Outlaw had in copious amounts. Ah, naughty bits… there need to be more songs about you.
4) Idiot Control
Pod People (ep. 303) had more music than a typical episode of MST3K, with the songs “Clown in the Sky,” “Music from Some Guys in Space,” Joel’s explosive power chord, the public domain karaoke machine, and the unforgettable “Idiot Control” You can’t get the context from the clip, but in the film there’s a shitty rock band who records a shitty rock song that has incomprehensible lyrics, thanks to the mush-mouthed singer. So, Joel and the ‘Bots just recorded a straight pick-up of it — not just the song, but the entire bizarre scene — with what the lyrics sounded like. “Sack of monkeys in my pocket, my sister’s ready to go!” In summary: IT STINKS.
3) The MST3K Love Theme
Pick your favorite! There were numerous versions of the opening theme throughout the years, as different casts cycled through, but the end credits always remained the same. The sci-fi rock band Man or Astro-man? even covered the theme and scored themselves an in-show namecheck by Joel thanks to it. The end credit instrumental is still hauntingly beautiful, and it still brings a tear to my eye, thinking back on all those nights of my youth where my friends and I would watch the show and that was the last thing we’d hear.
2) The Greatest Frank of All
Village of the Giants (ep 523) was a bad movie with a oddly great cast, but the tribute to TV’s Frank is the highlight of the episode. In the episode, Frank gets fired from Deep 13, and the gang sings this loving tribute, which is really a good song, if a little overblown. I wouldn’t mind if someone replaced “Frank” with “Ethan” in this song, and played it at my funeral.
1) Let’s Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas
There are MSTies who prefer the other Christmas song the cast did, “Merry Christmas…If That’s Okay,” but it’s actually a little too genuine. Meanwhile, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians‘ (ep. 321) “Let’s Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas” is gold from beginning to end, as it mostly revolving around Patrick Swayze’s iconic role as bouncer/zen master Dalton in Roadhouse… as he relates to Christmas. It’s a joyful tune that should be on every holidays playlist, especially with lyrics like, “I’ll have to smash your kneecaps if you bastards touch my car!” Is there a better sentiment for Christmas? I think not.