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Is it VGM? – “Disco Space Invaders” (Funny Stuff)

January 15, 2010

Ok, this track is dipping into the bottom of the barrel of ridiculosity: Disco Space Invaders (1979). A previously unknown album predating Pac-Man Fever (Buckner and Garcia, 1981), this was discovered by the folks at Points-TV back in 2007. It’s classically cheesy, but ultimately far better than Buckner and Garcia’s Pac-Man disco “treat” which I have never managed to suffer myself through. “Disco Space Invaders” also poses some interesting questions for whether or not it is actually vgm: does the mere inclusion of game audio automatically make a song vgm? Here is a music video someone made to make the listening easier:

“Disco Space Invaders” (Funny Stuff)

“Disco Space Invaders” contains sfx of the lazer turret from Space Invaders firing as well as the explosions, the flying saucer, and the intense downward beat of the Invaders as they move across the screen and come steadily closer. Space Invaders is notable for this four-note ‘song’, a piece of dynamic audio that responds to the player’s actions: the more Invaders destroyed, the faster the aliens move. This is the first game to feature background audio, and given the soundtracks of the time, it’s not that much of a stretch to call it ‘music’.

The integration of the sfx with the music seems to emulate the sense of gameplay in Space Invaders, in some ways predicting early vgm albums that would contain gameplay recordings. The sfx are also better integrated with the beat and melody, making “Disco Space Invaders” in many ways more sophisticated in the use of game audio than Pac-Man Fever, which tends to only use game audio at the beginning and end of the song with the bulk of the piece consisting of lyrics about a particular game or videogames in general. While it’s not exactly a masterpiece, the song is actually kind of enjoyable, and a much more pleasant listen than Buckner and Garcia’s nightmare.

Even so, because the majority of “Disco Space Invaders” is original, the song is more about the Space Invaders phenomenon than music from the song. For that reason, I don’t really consider it to be vgm, even though it contains game audio (and technically game music) as part of the song. (“Dancing Cats”, the second half of the album, doesn’t even have anything to do with videogames.) For it to be vgm, the song has to be primarily about the game’s soundtrack rather than about the game itself (or in this case the act of play). For the first true vgm album, you’ll have to zip ahead to 1984’s Video Game Music by Namco, consisting of recordings of Pac-Man, Pole Position, and other popular arcade games by the company.

The interesting thing though, like Pac-Man Fever, Disco Space Invaders is really labeled as vgm simply because there’s nowhere else to put it. This becomes interesting when we consider Yellow Magic Orchestra, which is really an album of electronic pop music than vgm (“Computer Game: ‘Theme from The Circus’) takes up only 1:48 of the entire album), and so the labeling seems more based on historical novelty than it being actual vgm.

Interesting fact, Disco Space Invaders is not the earliest recording of videogame audio: that privilege would go to Yellow Magic Orchestra (1978) which included a recording from The Circus and The Invader. However, Funny Stuff, the group that created Disco Space Invaders, is also Japanese.

Oh yes, and here are the lyrics:

Let’s all together do space Invader
Let’s all together do space Invader
Let’s all together do space Invader
Let’s all together Ha

Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot…………

2 comments

  1. Quite interesting entry. I have learnt about some other musical projects inspired by or based on arcades and computer games such as the mentioned Buckner & Garcia, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Playback, Mi-Sex or the Atari ‘Kids Stuff’ records. But I had never heard of this one.

    Do you know any other works like this that have been released in vinyl? Specially during the arcade golden era (late 70s to let’s say mid 80s).

    Thanks and kind regards!


  2. Sounds like you know more than I do about this stuff! The only one not on your list that I know of is the horrific Donkey Kong Goes Home. More recently, there’s 8-bit Construction Set, but I’m not sure if that used SFX from games in it. You can check out vgmdb.net to see what else is on their list.



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