As mentioned in the previous Patti Smith post, I once whiled away a weekend on the US west coast, feverishly depositing dimes into a clunky old Galaga machine as featured in Matthew Broderick’s 1st career defining moment in 1983. Sound-tracking this momentous couple of minutes was a mysterious band known briefly as The Beepers, a seemingly inconsequential synth-pop act with only a brace of credits to their name. It turns out they weren’t officially a band at all, more of a made up group assembled by composer Arthur B. Rubenstein for the WarGames soundtrack, and once more for the theme from Blue Thunder.
The Beepers actually consisted of session synth wizards Brian Banks and Anthony Marinelli (now internationally known, all be it vicariously, through their keyboard antics on Michael Jackson’s Thriller) and Northwest Sinfonia cellist Cynthia Morrow. With Rubenstein rounding off the production/performance team, former Bee Gees associate Yvonne Elliman was enlisted as lead vocalist on Video Fever adding her folk-tinged earthiness to their Galaxian-like backing.
So how does this record qualify for spiky-dread status you ask? Well… aside Elliman’s previous rock-reggae credentials (singing back up on Eric Clapton’s sub-Marley moment I Shot The Sheriff), there’s no denying the debt The Beepers owed to the likes of Vince Clarke, Phil Oakey and their Casio tinkling contemporaries. The Human League et al being the computer savvy cousins of post-punk, therein The Beeper’s became punk’s 2nd cousins twice removed, or something.
You may still be scrutinizing this track’s inclusion but after a mere 20 seconds, Video Fever goes from pulsating pop to a synthetic steppers beat, Moogs and Arps skanking away in the back, instantly entering it in the Skank Blog annals. Now stack up your change and get ready to play…
The vocal version of History Lesson, also from the WarGames soundtrack:
And of course The Beepers’ theme tune from Blue Thunder: