The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Contest
Here at Popdose, we post a lot of mixtapes. A lot. Just about every Friday somebody’s posting a weekly mixtape, and every few months we’ll collaborate and put together an Ultimate Mixtape (so far, we’ve done Drinking, Road Trips, Tax Day, April Fool’s Day, and the James Joyce collection of short stories in Dubliners). And let’s not forget that every month Ted Asregadoo is putting together a Mix Six collection. What’s that, tough guy? You think we blew it? You think we left out something so critical, so genre-defining, so basically fundamental to the theme of the mixtape that without it we might as well have just strung together thirty-five sound clips of annoying ringtones, car alarms, and pairs of fighting cats screeching at each other? You think you know what we missed?
Well, here’s your big chance. To go along with the Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Mixtape, we’re hosting a contest. The prize, graciously provided by MyCase Concepts, is an iPad folio case featuring the words “Don’t Panic” on the cover in large, friendly letters. The challenge, is quite simply, to suggest a song you think should have been included in the mixtape. Tell us the song name, the artist who performed it, exactly where it fits into the mix, and, most importantly, why you think it should have been included.
Leave your suggestions in the comments below (and email me your contact details). Multiple suggestions are fine. Lobbying in favor of someone else’s suggestion is also fine. You’ve got until the end of Friday, May 13th to get your entries in. The Popdose staff will be voting on the entries over the weekend, and we’ll announce the winner sometime next week along with a collection of B-sides that weren’t included in the original box set for various reasons.
To help you along, and to perhaps provide some entertaining trivia as you listen to the tapes, I’ve included some insight into how and why some of the songs on the Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Mixtape were selected. These mixtapes are much more of a collaborative process than our readers might recognize, so I also thought it would be appropriate to provide some credit to the Popdose authors who made the suggestions. You might have expected a lot more audio clips from the radio series. There’s certainly no shortage of material available. I originally had snippets of dialogue picked out to precede each and every song. But when I started putting together the first volume, I realized that the clips tended to just break up the coherence of things – they were interrupting the flow of music far more than they were contributing to the narrative. So I kept the clips to a minimum. After all, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a lengthy, complex story, and if you’re not already familiar with the source material, half a dozen fifteen-second clips aren’t going to make much of a difference.
BOOK 1: THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
2. “Journey of the Sorcerer” – The Eagles: This was suggested by DwDunphy. It is, I believe, the only instrumental in the Eagles catalog. It was used as the musical theme for the BBC version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. According to unimpeachable sources on the internet, Adams said he had wanted something “sci-fi” sounding while at the same time suggestive of a traveler, so this banjo-based instrumental struck him as ideal.
3. “Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled” – Porcupine Tree: It’s difficult for me to resist declaring this as my favorite song of the entire set of mixtapes. This was suggested by Jack Feerick and I’d never even heard of Porcupine Tree before I dug up this video on youtube so I could listen to the song. It’s associated with Arthur Dent’s departure from Earth only seconds before it is vaporized by a Vogon Constructor Fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass, and I can’t imagine any song fitting here more perfectly. The voice you hear at the end of the song is Marshall Applewhite, who led the 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult in a mass suicide in order to advance to a transhuman state and travel to an alien spaceship they believed was trailing Halley’s Comet as it passed through the solar system.
5. “Don’t Panic” – Coldplay: I’d never describe myself as a fan of Coldplay’s music, but it’s hard for me to name any song I specifically dislike, and easy to name several that I like just fine. This song is one of the latter. I’ve always associated this song with the film Igby Goes Down, which I enjoyed, and musically this song fits in pretty well into this section of the mixtape. Aside from the title, some of the lyrics fit the situation nicely – Arthur’s home, the place where he’s grown, is completely done for.
6. “Against All Odds” – Postal Service: After being cast out of an airlock into empty space by the Vogons, Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent are facing nearly impossible odds. In fact, the Guide describes their chances of rescue from such a dire situation as “two to the power of two hundred and sixty-seven thousand seven hundred and nine to one against.” This Phil Collins song is loaded with lyrics that fit perfectly with the theme (“leave without a trace,” “taking every breath,” “all I can do is watch you leave,” “there’s just an empty space,”) but the original version clashed with the other music on the mixtape – so I was happy to discover that Postal Service had covered the song in a style that fit in much more cohesively.
10. “Citizens of Tomorrow” – Tokyo Police Club: Finding a song associated with Magrathea was tougher than I thought it would be. Magrathea was the home planet to a set of hyper-dimensional beings who constructed custom planets for very rich clients, and I figured there would be dozens of songs that fit the theme of “building a world.” I figured right. But most of them were optimistic, uplifting tunes that just sounded horribly out of place being sandwiched between Radiohead’s Paranoid Android and what would follow, a song about how the earth is nothing but a gigantic organic computer.
11. “Computer World” – Kraftwerk: Another Feerick suggestion that fits in nicely here.
13. “42″ – Disco Biscuits: There are only two songs that I’m aware of that are named “42.” This one, and one by Coldplay. I’m not about to include two songs by Coldplay in the same mixtape. And frankly, I don’t like the Coldplay song. I do like the Disco Biscuits song. Plus, it fits nicely into the “getaway” theme of the gang fleeing from the hyper-dimensional beings disguised as mice that want to dissect Arthur’s brain and the police that have come to arrest Zaphod.
14. “Mike’s Blowin’ in the Wind” – Bob Dylan vs. Air: There aren’t too many songs or lyrics that are mentioned explicitly in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but “how many roads must a man walk down,” appears at the end of the first book as a decoy question posed by Benjy and Frankie, the two mice tasked with recovering the “Ultimate Question” from Arthur Dent’s brain. It’s a nice song to conclude the first book with, and there are more than a dozen potential covers, but given the way the mix transitioned from Prog-Rock to Alternative Rock to Electronic Music it didn’t feel right to take a hard right turn and squeeze in a folk song. So I tracked down a mashup of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Air’s “Mike Mills” produced by Team9 that seems to fit the bill.
BOOK 2: THE RESTAURANT AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE
1. “Grand Hotel” – Procol Harum: Another DwDunphy suggestion – the man clearly knows his HG2G history. I’ll let Douglas Adams himself explain why this is the overture to the second album: “Suddenly in the middle of the song there was this huge orchestral climax that came out of nowhere and did not seem to be about anything. I kept wondering what was this huge thing happening in the background? And I eventually thought … it sounds as if there ought to be some sort of floorshow going on. Something huge and extraordinary, like, well, like the end of the universe. And so that was where the idea for The Restaurant at the End of the Universe came from.”
2. “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” – Morrissey: In the book version of the story, the gang falls afoul of the Vogons yet again, and Zaphod conducts a seance to beg one of his ancestors for help. There are dozens of songs about ghosts, but this is the only one I can find where someone is actually asking a ghost for help. Hence its inclusion.
4. “First Wave Intact” – Secret Machines: This is the only song I felt like I was really shoehorning into this production. But it’s a great song. And it does fit – when Zaphod finds his way back to the home office of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the building is attacked and lifted off the planet by a squadron of Frogstar Fighters. I was tempted to use this as the overture for Krikkit robot assault of the cricket match in the next book, but the last mix is reserved for the kind of music the denizens of Krikkit would compose and perform (and that Douglas Adams would enjoy) and the Secret Machines are nice and heavy and loud – good theme music for an invasion of ships from “the most totally evil place in the galaxy.”
5. “Out the Window” – Violent Femmes: When the Frogstar Fighters drop the Hitchhiker’s Guide building off on Frogstar World B, Roosta instructs Zaphod to go out through the window instead of using the door. I love the way this song picks up after the end of “First Wave Intact” – it’s a nifty pivot back to the lighthearted nature of the story.
6. “Insignificant” – Counting Crows: There was a pretty major toss-up between Robyn Hitchcock’s “High On Yourself” and this song. In the end, I went with the Counting Crows song, not because I thought Adams would have liked it better (he wouldn’t) but because it fit in better with both the thematic narrative (Zaphod’s introduction to the Total Perspective Vortex) and the musical narrative (power chords, baby). The first song I thought of for this slot was Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” as covered by Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet. We’re big fans of Susanna Hoffs here at Popdose (and Matthew Sweet as well), but I’m glad I was able to find something different.
9. “Rockstar” – Margo Buchannan: This was one of Douglas Adams’ favorite songs. Possibly his absolute favorite. Hotblack Desiato, the ajuitar player for the legendarily successful band Disaster Area, is an old friend of Zaphod’s. And he’s kicking back at Milliways. But he won’t speak to Zaphod because he’s spending a year dead for tax purposes. So I suspect he’ll be wearing sunglasses. It’s worth noting that the members of Pink Floyd, another Adams favorite, once spent exactly a year living outside of Great Britain for tax purposes.
12. “Paint It Black” – Dirty Heads: I knew from the beginning that this was the song I’d be using for this part of the story, when the gang steals a completely black spaceship from the parking lot at Milliways (in the book it belongs to Disaster Area; in the radio series it belongs to the admiral of a battle fleet). There are easily two dozen recorded covers of this song. It’s actually quite fascinating to see how often it’s been covered – and how many of those covers are performed by heavy metal, glam metal, or death metal bands. In the end, I went with reggae because I thought it would connect the previous Guided By Voices song “Sing For Your Meat” with the next song in the mixtape…
13. “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” – Pink Floyd: Another Feerick suggestion. Douglas Adams was a huge Pink Floyd fan. He even played guitar with them on stage and was credited with coming up with the album name “The Division Bell.” I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the whole idea for the Disaster Area sun dive came from this song.
16. “Ship of Fools” – The Grateful Dead: There are lots of other songs that fit this theme (the Golgafrinchan colonists) but I think this one fits the best here. Jerry Garcia’s meandering guitar solo fits nicely with the idea of Ford and Arthur settling into relative contentment on prehistoric earth, despite some depressing revelations.
BOOK 3: LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING
1. “Cricket” – The Kinks: I was hoping for something a bit more expansive to use as an overture, but there just aren’t all that many songs about the game of Cricket. The third volume of the mixtape was intended to be comprised of songs that Douglas Adams himself would have enjoyed, so I had to discount an entire album’s worth of material from the Duckworth Lewis Method that otherwise would have fit the bill here. Which is quite disappointing because they’ve got a song called “Jiggery Pokery” that is an expression that’s actually used in the end credits of the radio version of the Guide.
4. “Sloop John B” – The Beach Boys: Slartibartfast’s ship travels using the science of “Bistromathics,” which is based on the concept that numbers written on restaurant bills within the confines of restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on any other pieces of paper in any other parts of the Universe. How many songs are there about flying Italian bistros? This was the best I could do.
6. “Tactless” – Agrajag: That’s Douglas Adams’ voice you’re listening to.
7. “Cathedral” – Robyn Hitchcock: There really aren’t many songs about hate that could be described as “charming,” “delightful,” “intelligent,” or “whimsical.” This is really as close as I could come to capturing the Cathedral of Hate without digging into the catalogs of bands with names like Drowning Pool, Grendel, and the Hollywood Undead.
8. “Learning to Fly” – Pink Floyd: Douglas Adams was a huge Floyd fan, so this was pretty much a lock for this part of the story, when Arthur learns to fly by tripping while running down the side of the mountain (fleeing from Agrajag) and becoming distracted by spotting a navy blue holdall that he’d previously lost in an Athens airport. I personally would have preferred the Tom Petty version of this song, but the Floyd connection is just too strong to ignore.
9. “World Party” – Waterboys: Another tough choice among many options – but ultimately I think Mike Scott is producing exactly the kind of music that the people of Krikkit would produce themselves. I went with Feerick’s recommendation on this one.
11. “Late in the Evening” – Paul Simon: Douglas Adams dedicated the second book in the trilogy to the Paul Simon album “One Trick Pony,” which he played “incessantly” while writing the novelized version. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes the night sky over the planet Krikkit as “the least interesting sight in the entire Universe.” I thought this would be a fine junction point for those two sentiments, as Arthur, Trillian, Ford, and Slartibartfast arrive on Krikkit.
16. “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” – Pink Floyd: This is my dedication to Douglas Adams. It’s got nothing to do with the larger narrative of the mixtape, or of the story, but I feel certain he would have enjoyed it.
All right…it’s your turn. Leave your suggestion in the comments and email me your contact details. Have at it!