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December 4, 2010

As a Green Lantern uber-fan, I'm drawn to anything in popular culture that crosses paths with my favorite Emerald Gladiator. One of the things I've been pursuing lately is how Green Lantern has been used in music beyond the rapper who goes by the same name. In this multi-part series I'll be looking at Green Lantern as he appears in music history.

While there are certainly several songs about Green Lantern from filk and geek rock artists, to begin our exploration I decided to focus on how Green Lantern has been referenced in songs that aren't about the mythos at all, although most of what I found were aimed clearly at the pop culture loving audience. One song in particular took some digging to solve the mystery of how the Green Lantern oath ended up as a lyric in a Hi-NRG song about infidelity!



Donovan
The first reference to Green Lantern I found was the well known song, “Sunshine Superman”, by Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan. Released in July of 1966, “Sunshine Superman” was originally written as a song for Donovan's future wife, Linda Lawrence, but went on to become one of Donovan's signature tunes. In the song Donovan tells Linda that “Superman and Green Lantern ain't got nothin' on me”. Whether he was a Green Lantern fan or the choice to include GL was solely based on the need to fit the rhythm of the song is unknown.


Certainly the most fascinating song I discovered on my journey was a Hi-NRG song titled “Caught in the Act” by Earlene Bentley. The song is unique in that it makes absolutely no reference to Green Lantern at all, but it mysteriously uses the Green Lantern oath in its lyrics about someone who's discovered the infidelity of her mate. How did the oath end up here of all places!? It's far too blatant to be a coincidence.

Earlene Bentley's Greatest Hits
In the late seventies disco and pop music was the rage and a higher tempo electronic dance style of music, dubbed Hi-NRG, rose in popularity of the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender community at dance clubs on the west coast of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and parts of Europe and later helped shape techno and club music. During the eighties and into the nineties many former Motown artists jumped on the Hi-NRG bandwagon and Earlene Bentley was a singer who joined the stable of Hi-NRG artists, although she found limited success with her only mainstream recording being a song called “The Boys Come To Town” from the Police Academy 2 soundtrack.

Even though Earlene ironically went on to play a bit role in Batman Begins as a nurse at Arkham Asylum, her association with comic books ends there and she clearly had little to do with the inclusion of the oath in the song.  Finding a scan of the dance club mix EP I learned that two people co-wrote the song, Ian Levine and Fiachra Trench. Levine and Trench are a song writing/producing duo from the United Kingdom who have over the years worked with many big names in the music industry from Elvis Costello to Paul McCartney. So what was their connection to Green Lantern?

Ian Levine
While not much is known about Trench, Levine has an intriguing past not just because of his role in the development of Hi-NRG music, but also due to his involvement in Dr. Who. As a major fan he acted as a continuity editor on the show and helped save it in the mid-eighties when it was nearly canceled, and he is credited with saving many of the only recordings of early episodes from destruction when it was discovered that the BBC routinely discarded old recordings to make way for new ones in their archives.

But, wait for it, here's the information that ties Levine to Green Lantern and how he must be the one who incorporated the oath into “Caught in the Act”. Ian Levine is known to possess one of the greatest American comic book collections in the world. In 2005 he added the one missing book to his DC collection, making him the only known person in history to own one of every book that DC Comics has sold at retail since the 1930's! While this isn't conclusive proof – he most certainly had to be the one who put the lyric there. Mystery solved!


Since the 1950's, before geek rock, there was filk music. Most often performed at conventions acoustically, filk has historically been folk music with a science fiction and/or fantasy slant but in more recent years the definition has certainly widened to include rock music and parody, becoming somewhat of an umbrella term for any music that encompasses pop culture from geek rock to Weird Al Yankovic.

Indy GL film, "Bite me Fanboy"
If Kirby Krackle are the Beatles of geek rock, Ookla the Mok are geek rock's Buddy Holly. Formed in the early 1990's in Buffalo, New York, Ookla the Mok takes its name from the popular Thundarr the Barbarian character. While they haven't been on the radar much in past few years, there's not overlooking their contributions to today's geek rock popularity, having written and performed the theme to Disney's Fillmore cartoon and scored the Green Lantern inspired indy film Bite Me Fanboy.

Over the year's Ookla has recorded two songs that make reference to the Green Lantern universe, both from their “Super Secret” CD from 1998. “Super Powers” features lyrics that cleverly includes the origins of most of the icons of the Marvel and DC universes, including the reference to Hal Jordan's Silver Age Origin with the line “a dying alien helped me accessorize”. Meanwhile “My Secret Origin” deals with the realization that we all lead pretty ordinary lives despite wanting to live the lives of our heroes, lamenting that “I'm waiting for my rocket to land so I can get my power ring.”


2004's “When Hal Jordan Saved the Sun” by #1 Defender on their “The Diary Truthful” CD makes reference to Hal Jordan in the title only, although I suppose one could twist and turn the lyrics around to make it fit what might have been going through Hal's mind during that bleak period in his Parallax possessed life.

E for Everyone
And finally, Kirby Krackle, the geek rock band that has worn out my Bose headphones, has certainly made reference to Green Lantern in their most recent CD, “E for Everyone”. While “Ring Capacity” will be covered in the second installment of this series as what I consider the best Green Lantern song recorded to date, there is another song from their sophomore release that includes the Green Lantern Corps in their lyrics.

“Great Lakes Avengers” speaks of being a hero and trying to get on a super team, but only the GLA are interested in adding our singer to their roster. Three verses in, “I tried to join Green Lantern Corps, Those Guardians were such a bore, They said 'no way' but I wasn't surprised. That's okay those uniforms were so tight that I feared they'd chafe my thighs!”



All of the songs mentioned in this installment are available from a number of online digital music stores and some may be found at your local music stores.  In the case of Ookla the Mok and Kirby Krackle - both of these groups deserve your support and I do highly recommend Kirby Krackle's "E for Everyone" CD.  While I do not endorse one source over another, here are links to the songs that can be purchased by Amazon. 

"Sunshine Superman" - Donovan
"Caught in the Act" - Earlene Bentley
"Super Powers" - Ookla the Mok
"My Secret Origin" - Ookla the Mok
"When Hal Jordan Saved the Sun" - #1 Defender
"Great Lakes Avengers" - Kirby Krackle

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