It’s… Retronauts Pocket Episode 1

Well, hello, there! Welcome back, my friend, to the show that never ends. Or at least won’t end for another year, anyway.

Retronauts Pocket 1 cover art

As you may recall from a few months back, the terms of our Kickstarter venture were thus: If we could hit a certain stretch goal, we would not only record 26 biweekly episodes of Retronauts over the next year, we’d also fill in the interstices between those shows with 26 “mini” episodes. Since we blew past most of our stretch goals in very little time, well, here we are. Our very first mini episode. We’re calling the smaller shows “Retronauts Pocket” to help distinguish them from the standard episodes (credit to Ray for coming up with the name), but don’t worry: They’ll all be on the same feed, and the ID3 tags will help keep the 52 total episodes nice and sequential in your music app of choice.

Retronauts Pocket differs from the standard episode template, somewhat. Or at least that’s my intention. I’ve been interested in exploring the things that influence games, from pinball machines to Star Wars, and so the Pocket episodes I put together (or at least the ones whose topic isn’t determined by a Kickstarter backer) will not be so much about games as about the media and other concepts that influence them.

Since we had a straight-up music expert on hand for this first episode — Chrontendo‘s Dr. Sparkle, whom you may recall from last week’s episode — I decided to talk about rock music’s influence on games. Specifically, progressive rock. What follows is a 45-minute conversation that sometimes touches on games, but is really more about the nature of something that was hugely influential on a lot of key game composers, with plenty of fair-use sound clips to provide context.

Retronauts Pocket Episode 1 (July 8, 2013): Gaming Roots – Progressive Rock

Libsyn (45:00 | MP3 | 36.0 MB) | Soundcloud | YouTube (coming soon)

Since music plays such a key role in this episode, here’s a breakdown of the tunes you hear. In case you want to look them up, or possibly burn every copy of the album in question.

  • 5:06 – Jon & Vangelis “The Friends of Mr. Cairo”
  • 6:00 – Rick Wakeman “Catherine of Aragon”
  • 8:06 – Pink Floyd “Money”
  • 8:55 – Pink Floyd “Astronomy Domine”
  • 11:29 – Can “Halleluwah”
  • 12:59 – Mike Oldfield “Tubular Bells”
  • 15:25 – King Crimson “Discipline”
  • 17:41 – Gentle Giant “Runaway”
  • 20:45 – David Bowie “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”
  • 22:45 – Dream Theater “Pull Me Under”
  • 27:13 – The Nice “America”
  • 31:04 – Norihiko Hibino “Metal Gear Solid 3 – Lady Luck Revisited”
  • 34:30 – Nobuo Uematsu “Final Fantasy VI – Dancing Mad”
  • 35:42 – Emerson Lake & Palmer “The Three Fates”
  • 39:10 – Genesis “Watcher of the Skies”
  • 42:35 – Yellow Magic Orchestra “Rydeen”
  • 44:25 – Gong “You Can’t Kill Me”

I realize this isn’t your typical episode of Retronauts, but that was kind of the point. If you hate it, please focus your fury on me as this is all my doing. And don’t worry, we’ll be back to the old-fashioned format next week when Bob takes the driver’s seat.

P.S. We’re still working on the iTunes thing. Apple moves at its own pace, because they’re richer than Croesus. But you can still goof around with the show’s RSS feed like you did last week.


Filed under Retronauts, Retronauts Pocket

44 Responses to It’s… Retronauts Pocket Episode 1

  1. Looking at the the cover photo for this episode immediately made me think of the Judas Priest “Defenders Of The Faith” album cover.

    • Umby

      It’s actually the armadillo tank off the cover of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Tarkus”.

      • Not just “the armadillo tank” — that IS Tarkus, baby. The angry armadillo tank out to destroy Catholicism with righteous atheistic fury. He’s pretty much Reddit’s mascot.

  2. nwilhelmy

    Can are fantastic (“Halleluhwah” is one of my favorites)! I think they had a much bigger influence on punk rock/new wave beyond John Lydon being a fan, too.

  3. JohnLearned

    I like how you guys were talking about how “prog” had become something of a foul term, especially when Dr. Sparkle said that if you didn’t like something, it was “prog.” If you did, it was “something else.”

    It’s been my experience after many years of working in music stores that this sort of finger-pointing isn’t exclusive to prog rock. If you hate it, it’s emo. Or alt. Or Kraut rock. Or industrial. Or bubblegum. Or shoegazing. Or [chose your subgenre].

    • Yeah. Labeling, isolating, demeaning, and “othering” are really big in music fandom. Games, too. Perhaps not coincidentally, a lot of prog influence shows up in soundtracks for JRPGs, a label that is as likely to be used for derision as for description these days.

    • rmckee78

      I feel this way about disco. If I hate it, it’s disco. If I like it, it must be funk, soul or R&B.

      I really enjoyed the episode, of course I also really enjoy prog rock. Maybe I will feel different the week you guys do an episode on how knitting has influenced video games.

      This is the second time this month I have heard Rick Wakeman referenced in connection to video games. The other was a significantly less erudite discussion on Co-Optitude.

  4. Awesome! When you guys said “mini episode” I was expecting 15 to 20 minutes. You guys are already delivering more than promised in my eyes.

    My gateway drug into prog rock was Tool and The Tea Party, actually. Great prog musicians, almost to the number, deny having anything to do with prog rock.

  5. Christopher McTiernan

    I echo the comment above—I was expecting to get a little 15-minute chunklet, but you gave us a thoughtful exploration of prog rock. No regrets here, Kickstarter-related or otherwise! 🙂

  6. Renato Costa

    Well, I like games, retronauts and prog, so I’m sure I’m in for a treat. My introduction to prog was Dream Theater, then Tool and the assorted Prog Metal bands.

    So, now I’m curious: What are your guys opinion on other bands, like The Flower Kings (and their millions of great side projects, as Agents of Mercy, Karmakanic, Eggs and Dogs and Transatlantic), Beardfish, Moon Safari, The Tangent, Pain of Salvation, Opeth, Porcupine Tree? I mean the bands that are active and touring to this day.
    As you guys say, I like progressive rock for being rather label-free. The limitations and desires to do music are rather non-existant, so there are numerous ways to be creative and innovative (kinda like Indie games, I suppose).
    Well, I’ll be back after listening!

    • Well I can’t speak for the others, but most neo/prog/metal stuff leaves me feeling cold and dead inside, though I love a lot of modern day psyche/stoner rock. Bands like Flower Kings venture too close to being a nostalgia act, the way they sound so much like Genesis at times.

      Despite all that, I have an inexcusable love of Opeth that I simply cannot explain.

  7. Haven’t listened yet but I see the “mini” episode is 45 minutes long! That’s 3 times as long as I expected. #awesome.

  8. I put together an almost complete playlist of the Pocket playlist here: ♫ Retronauts Pocket #1 Playlist

    It’s missing King Crimson and Norihiko Hibino as I couldn’t find those tracks on Spotify. Enjoy!

  9. Sean C.

    I really wasn’t expecting to like this episode. Being as I never really was into prog rock (Or so I thought). But after listening I really loved alot of the music and it did seem to mirror alot of videogame music. I actually really ended up enjoying this ep. quite a bit. It’s great to see the format of this show not just be “We look at this series of games this week” but instead explore interesting things related to games. I think my favorite comment of the episode was by Dr. Sparkle when Jeremy said he never got high and DRS said in all seriousnes try listening to some of the records with drugs and you’ll see a huge difference. (I do not support drug use) I started cracking up picturing Dr Sparkle pulling out a joint after the show and offering it to Jeremy while listening to prog bands together. Someone once talked me into watching The Wall while drunk to find a hidden meaning, I didnt find one but it was greatly more entertaining. Can’t wait to see whats in store next week.

  10. Matt

    Cannot say enough good things about this. It’s like you made it just for me. Buying a few records tonight.

  11. Super Boy Alan

    This is a missing link in my knowledge on game music – I come from more of a classical background, so I’m very interested to hear what you guys have to say on this.

  12. Raymond Fernandes

    I’m more into the more metal side of prog like the aformentioned Dream Theater, but I still love learning about the bands that inspired these modern bands. I’ve recently got into a 70’s band that my friends dad showed me, White Witch. Awesome stuff. I can hear where bands like Mastadon and Dillinger Escape Plan evolved their sounds from.

  13. Chuck Franklin

    Quick Question: I think I missed the e-mail somewhere about backer rewards, has the deadline for submitting episode topic already past?


  14. tssk

    When Jeremy talked about the C64 I shouted “YES!” And by that I don’t mean the band. The PAL releases have loads of prog rock style music on their title screens going for many many minutes. I’m pretty sure Sensible Software at one time ran a prog rock band as a side project.

    Anyway here’s three examples.
    Parallax. Ten minutes. I wouldn’t dare do this on drugs.
    One of the many Wizball tracks.

    And to show it’s not all Galway…here’s Tim Follin with the LED Storm port for the C64. In a “let’s ignore Capcoms music and do our own damn thing.”

    Thanks again for another great episode guys 🙂

  15. Mark P

    Brilliant podcast guys. Tarkus is going on the record player right now!

  16. Great episode. As a novice prog fan (I have a couple of YES albums & like them a lot), I really enjoyed this episode. The Emerson, Lake & Palmer snippet sounded a lot like the boss music in the Metal Slug games:

    Would love to listen to more in the same vein.

  17. Zeether

    You guys brought up YMO and it reminded me that the Sega arcade game Super Locomotive literally has Rydeen in it as a music track.

    • Honestly I’ve never ever heard of Super Locomotive. I’ll have to look it up.

      • tssk

        Even better a clone of it was sold by Tony Crowther three times in short succession.
        Loco (1984) was published by Alligata.
        Suicide Express (1985) was published by Gremlin
        and finally Black Thunder (1986) was published by Quiksilva.

        I was totally amazed no-one called him on it back in the day! From memory at least one of them had a Jean Michel Jarre tune.

        Speaking of prog-rock, you missed out on two of the obvious ones.
        Captain Blood (1988) came out on a multitude of formats with Jean Michel Jarre’s music front and centre. It’s also the only game where I have been propositioned by an Alien outside of Mass Effect.

        And then there is the epic and legendary Deus Ex Machina on the Spectrum and C64 which came with a sound track on cassette that you had to synch with the beginning of the game. The cast included Ian Dury, Jon Pertwee, Donna Bailey, Frankie Howerd, E.P. Thompson,and Mel Croucher (who also composed the music). It’s essentially a prog rock opera where you follow an entity in a Brave New World style future from birth to death. It’s overblown and dramatic and it contains one song that changed my view on violent games forever when I heard it almost 20 years after it was published.

        Then a Soldier. Full of strange oaths. Jealous in honour. Sudden, and quick in
        quarrel. Seeking hi-score, even in the laser’s mouth.

        War crimes are easy.
        The uniform’s free.
        Follow the drumbeat.
        Don’t follow me.
        Jump without question.
        Into the fire.
        War crimes are easy.
        This gun’s for hire.
        War crimes are easy.
        When I say ‘jump’, jump.
        Wait for it, wait for it… Jump!”

        (the rest of the song is even more cutting but I won’t copy the rest of the lyrics here given space restraints.)

  18. Joe H.

    And how much of the aesthetic of Final Fantasy games comes straight from the covers of Yes albums?

  19. Chris G

    I hope this episode isn’t indicative of what’s to come. I’m certain nobody funded the Kickstarter to listen to 45 minutes of the two sleepiest voices on the internet (Jeremy Parish and his new sidekick Chrontendo-Man) discussing their favorite music. Nobody cares. Here’s hoping the next episode is hosted by Bob and actually has a theme somebody that browsed here looking for a game podcast would be interested in.

    • Next week is Bob talking about Depeche Mode for two hours. It’s just him, multi-tracked, so he’s having a conversation with himself. It’s going to be pretty brilliant.

    • tssk

      I certaintly funded the Kickstarter to continue to listen to Parish’s dulcet tones.

      Worth it just to hear him namecheck Martin Galway.

    • Marcus

      Jeremy Parish talk to me about insect larvae and I would STILL be thoroughly engaged and entertained.

      • tssk

        Speaking of insect larvae…Martin Galway (again) did the title music to Sensible Software’s Insects In Space. A pretty bizarre Stargate clone. It’s a two and a half minute long song which opens with what sounds like a chorus of bees. This has some gameplay footage but the guy playing cuts it off before the tune begins.

    • Chris G

      I don’t mind the sleepy voice or the randomly, thrown-together stylings of a Jeremy Parish retro-podcast, just wanted to complain about 30 minutes of prog-talk. I went back and read the disclaimer below the audio feed, guess I was warned.

  20. LeAbuele

    Finally you let loose all your prog rock music fury on that one, a very brave podcast, congrats.

    Man that guy who posted the Parallax intro, KUDOS.

  21. The Mellotron discussion reminded me of a prog-videogame connection. Mike Pinder, the keyboardist for the Moody Blues (most known for their concept album “Days of Future Passed” and its single “Nights in White Satin”), first worked in a Mellotron factory. Then he made Mellotron an integral part of the Moodies’ sound for all the classic ’60s and ’70s albums. After Pinder quit the band, he went to work for Atari, consulting on synthesized music.

  22. tssk

    Jamie Mann has doen a complete walkthrough of Deus Ex Machina, all 40 minutes of it.

    Here’s a taster. It’s probably the first prog rock video game. I’m still amazed it was released in 1985. It really is the gaming equivilant of Pink Floyd’s The Wall

    And my favourite bit, the criticism of the violence in gaming even back then

  23. Nick Burnham

    As a mostly classically-trained trombone performance grad student, I’ve had a hard time reconciling my love of Prog Rock/Metal since I discovered it around 2007. I ate everything up I could find, from Gentle Giant to Dream Theater to Shub-Niggurath, in a time when I was supposed to be more interested in Mozart, Beethoven, and Ravel. I’ve always thought it had something to do with my love of video games though; you can’t listen to hundreds of hours of JRPG tracks on repeat without some of it sinking in and taking hold. Thanks so much for indulging in one of my biggest passions for 45 minutes.

  24. Iain Riley

    Awesome episode guys, well worth the KS money right there. Keep up the great work 🙂
    Looking at the comments brought back many memories growing up in the UK playing a lot of these games on my spectrum 48k or c64