Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published June 2nd 2020
Because science is wonderful
I am currently studying, doing a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Creative Writing. At the start of the twenty-first century, I also went to university, where I achieved my Bachelor of Education. But my first stint at university started in 1989 and way back then I studied science. I am nothing if not eclectic in everything, I guess.
But, really, science was where I achieved my best grades in high school. I loved science and I still love science. It is one of the few things I keep on top of in the media, as in I keep up with the latest developments, and am constantly stunned by the scientific illiteracy of those who believe in weird things (like flat-earthers, moon conspiracists, 5G-coronavirus believers, etc.), so I like to make sure I know what I am talking about when I argue with people like that. I like science. My son is looking at a career in science. Science is awesome.
So why have I waited this long to do a column on songs about science? Because I didn't really think there were that many. But, as is often the case, I have developed a small reputation amongst a small group of people for knowing about music, and a friend asked me for some songs about science. Why? Her son needed them for something for his year twelve. I don't know what; I didn't ask. I just said I'd try my best. And I decided to use that for Weekend Notes as well because… why not?
Now, these songs are about science in general, sciences, and even some things only a little related to science. I have avoided computers and pseudo-sciences; this is just science as I was taught it at high school and university. Or something related to those concepts. Also, there are no songs about space because that is a future column, considering how many of those I found in my hunt.
'The Elements' by Tom Lehrer (1959)
Take 'The Major-General's Song' from Pirates Of Penzance, add in the periodic table of elements as known at that point in time, merge the two together, and you have one of the greatest songs about science ever recorded. It is a work of genius. Lehrer was one of the funniest musical-comedians ever, and this is one of my favourites of his.
'NaCl' by Kate and Anna McGarrigle (1978)
Kate (who passed away in 2010) was a great folk musician, who I was introduced to only after her passing. And this song is about the marriage of a sodium atom and a chlorine atom to form salt. No, seriously. No metaphors. This is a love story about two chemical elements. And, damn, if it isn't wonderful. "Think of the love you eat when you salt your meat" indeed.
'Chemistry' by Mondo Rock (1981)
Yes, this song works on the level of "chemistry between two people" but it is stated a lot more blatantly here than in most songs, and it is Mondo Rock with Ross Wilson, so it is automatically a great track. Sorry, going a bit fan-boy there (which is embarrassing for some-one approaching 50 faster than his hairline is receding). Truth be told, there are minimal lyrics and they are repeated a lot, but it's still a great song.
'She Blinded Me With Science' by Thomas Dolby (1982)
A sort of a love song, but the way the female attracted the singer was through science! Well, let's be honest – that would work on me. (No, my ex-wife was not a scientist, before you ask.) While the lyrics start with poetry, it soon becomes rather science-centric… and she soon fails him. It is a rather bizarre song – as much of Dolby's early 80s output was – but it is so cool.
'Science Fiction' by Divinyls (1982)
Okay, this is probably pushing the boundaries of science a lot, but good science fiction stories are based on good, strong science, which is why a large number of scientists were actually influenced by the sci-fi they read as a kid. So I feel completely fine including it here. And this song is basically a love song to science fiction. The Divinyls were Australia music royalty; this is one of my favourites of theirs.
'Weird Science' by Oingo Boingo (1985)
The title track from the film (not great, but Kelly Le Brock was a childhood pin-up) is a strange little mad science mixture, almost a science fiction story in song. It suits the film and the craziness of it. Interesting fact – the only Oingo Boingo songs I know are all from film soundtracks (and 'Stay'). But that makes sense when you consider that one of their prominent members (and lead vocalist) was Danny Elfman, who has composed film soundtracks successfully for years… Sorry. Great song.
'I Think I'm A Clone Now' by Weird Al Yankovic (1988)
Hey, another comedy song! A parody of the song 'I Think We're Alone Now' by Tommy James and The Shondells, but actually based more on the 1987 version by Tiffany who I really liked at the time (she is my age, after all). The song about being a clone is another science fiction styled story that is becoming closer and closer to reality with each passing year. A fine parody and a great song about having a clone. In fact, there are not enough songs about having a clone.
'Big Bang Theory' by Barenaked Ladies (2007)
This song came up in my history songs column, but the young man who inspired my initial research (i.e. looking through my music collection for a few days) insisted on this one because it starts with evolution before it hits the history bits. In fact, it is as much science as it is history. So, fair call, and here it is.
'Science Is Real' by They Might Be Giants (2009)
TMBG released some very good and under-rated pop music, but in 2009 they went in a different direction and released an educational album. I was a teacher at the time and was introduced to it by a fellow science teacher. It was great, and I did use it a couple of times in class. Nothing like catchy tunes to engage students, and I mean that. This is a generic science song from the album, but it is fantastic. And they say unicorns aren't real, so it's even better😊.
'Higgs Boson Blues' by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (2013)
And we finish with the strangest song here. Driving to Geneva, dreaming about Miley Cyrus, Robert Johnson and Lucifer… It is strange. Okay, sure, the Higgs Boson particle does not get a huge look in – just Geneva where they found it – but this song is so odd and so very Nick Cave and I really wanted to include it here.
Science! Ten songs about science in various guises. Surprised me how many I had, and I hope you enjoy this look at the merging of science and the arts. Musically, I mean.