Various Artists

Ultimate 50's Rockin' Sci-Fi Disc

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As science fiction film and literature became popular in the 1950s and the space race kicked off, outer space became quite a hip subject for novelty-tinged rock & roll records. The Ultimate 50's Rockin' Sci-Fi Disc gathers no less than 20 of them, mostly of the rockabilly persuasion, though some more hillbilly-leaning discs make their way into the program too. Billy Lee Riley & His Little Green Men's "Flying Saucer Rock & Roll" is the only track here to have achieved reasonably wide renown, and even that wasn't exactly a big hit. So a shortcut to commercial success outer space-themed rockabilly was not, but the mini-genre did leave behind a good share of infectiously fun and silly music. Much early rock & roll was infectiously fun and silly, yes. But what's here is yet sillier, with exuberant if slightly generic boppers about boogying with Martians, being the first man on Mars, rocket trips, rocking on the moon, and even catching, as Paul Perryman tells it, "Satellite Fever, Asiatic Flu." These frenetic odes are sometimes topped off with wiggly simulated outer space noises that are far more dated than the music itself. Inviting sociopolitical contextual analysis is probably the last thing these demented space cowboys had in mind, but it's striking how -- contrary to the paranoid dread of alien monsters in so many films and comics of the time -- these fellows seem positively over the moon at the prospect of meeting outer space creatures. It's that celebratory vibe that made a small contribution toward counteracting the Cold War doomsday view of extraterrestrial life, and makes this charming if somewhat trivial listening today. On a more sober note, it would have been nice if the original release dates and labels had been posted for these rarities somewhere on the package.

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