Here at Consequence of Sound, we like to pay attention to musical guests on late night talk shows. Also, the Gorillaz are pretty popular right now, and they’re cartoons, kind of. You might also remember the excellent DANGERDOOM, in which the notorious sometime-performer DOOM and one of the biggest producers going Danger Mouse put together a great album featuring members of Adult Swim‘s cartoon comedy block. But both the cartoon-musician relationship and our love of the musical guest have deeper roots, namely in the guise of Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
From the sci-fi-tastic opening theme to the incidental, segue-ing instrumental spatters, it was clear that music was key to the Ghost Planet. That theme and those licks, written by avant-jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock (with Lance Carter on drums, Alfrieda Gerald providing vocals, and Eddie Horst on bass), provided a constant off-beat presence to the already off-beat show. Another big part of that key would have to be Zorak and the Original Way-Outs. The cartoon house band didn’t much move, but they kind of rocked (thanks to Sharrock and co.). Late seasons included an outro by space rockers Man or Astro-Man?
But the real musical memories were made by the guests. Musically inclined Season One guests included The Bee Gees, Schooly D, and Weird Al, but The Ramones’ turn on the show is one of the highlights. After introducing the band as Zorak’s favorite (because giant mantises make natural punks), hilarity ensues. C.J. Ramone calls their music “snappy,” Marky Ramone improvs a tune of “way way way” to the Ghost’s delight, a tune that Joey Ramone calls subliminal. Then everyone eats birthday cake, even though Space Ghost says the Ramones can’t come because “punks don’t go to parties.”
Space Ghost generally didn’t understand musicians… or much of anything. So, when Alice Cooper came on the show, it was a surprise he wasn’t a girl (“I was actually born with eye make-up on,” he offers). R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe argues that Monster is a concept album about “a layman’s….dissertation…on the black hole phenomenon” and that he hates the song “Shiny Happy People”. In one of the weirder and simultaneously best interviews of the series, David Byrne explains that he would like “to be cute and blonde” before laughing maniacally and fast-forwarding himself. An awkward interview with G’nR guitarist Slash leads to the new nickname “Citizen Longhair.”
In back to back episodes of season three, Jonathan Richman played “Hey There Little Insect” in “the key of X” and Thurston Moore plays the role of Fred Cracklin, speaking exactly five words in an episode dedicated to the then-recently passed Sonny Sharrock, which featured uncut takes of the jazz group’s soundtracking. Later, Kirk Hammet and James Hetfield of Metallica threaten to stomp Tansit, the show’s announcer, and Dave Grohl explains what happens to mucus in space. In season four, Beck explains his life philosophy: “I like to plug things in, and then I like to unplug them, and then I go to sleep.”
Pavement even got in on the action, jamming out over Goldie Hawn. Other, less rock-oriented guests included George Clinton, Ice-T, and Chuck D. In the seventh season, Space Ghost marries Bjork, and Zorak teaches Tenacious D a thing or two.
Tad Ghostal, Zorak, Brak, Moltar and the rest of the Space Ghost crew made their own music as well, releasing Space Ghost’s Musical Bar-B-Que, Space Ghost’s Surf and Turf, and a self-titled soundtrack. Check out the beatbox and awkwardness cover of “Can’t Touch This” sung by Brak below for a taste of that.
Audio Archaeology is a presentation of Media Potluck and Consequence of Sound.