‘Space Invaders’ (1980)

Even if Player One’s ‘Space Invaders’ was the only song to have ever been written and produced in Australia, I’m pretty sure I’d still die a happy man. This stone-cold classic hit the charts in 1980 (although it was released in 1979), and has been ingrained in my consciousness ever since. The video for ‘Space Invaders’ is also very much of its time, complete with special effects intended (I think) to resemble light sabres, kooky little space invaders frog-marching across the screen and a whole stack of dry ice.

If you check out the track on Youtube (double bonus points for the 5:50 12″ remix), you’ll see a link to a bizarre (but touching – the author of the site has now passed away) web page devoted to interpretations of the lyrics to ‘Space Invaders’. Not that there’s a whole lot to interpret, actually. Sing this with me:

Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders ooooooooooh

Of course, there are more complicated lyrics to ponder. The following ‘explanation’, from the same page, should set even the vaguest of minds straight:

It’s a dark, sunken night,
I see another pale sunrise

(This probably refers to those crazy people who stayed up all night playing)

Surrounded by soldiers, glued to-the screens,

(Meaning all the other space invaders players in the arcade)

Hold back the invaders, their infernal machines.

(“Player One” is getting sick of the repeated gameplay and wants to stop but can’t. The Infernal Machines are the arcade cabnets (sic))

We fight to survive,
Running to stay alive
Our bodies aching and tired
There’s nowhere to hide
Our cover’s been blown away

(There are no more of those green base things to protect your laser, and everyone is tired from playing the game)

They’re closing in on me
Dark forces cold and unseen

(Nightime.)

Oh my hip pocket nerve, is aching again
I must go back in and fight it out to the end

(He is starting to ache from standing up and bent over playing Invaders)

Just though (sic) this would help.

Enlightening, what?

Equal parts late 1970s disco, pre-Bronski-Beat falsetto and Kraftwerk motorik chug, there’s something goofily brilliant about the whole thing, including a virtually two-bit song structure that makes me crave those early arcade games – Moon Patrol, Galaga and the rest.

Indeed, I’ll take my cheesy analysis one step further by stating that without ‘Space Invaders’ there would have been no ‘Great Southern Land’ (the sound-effect from which is very similar to one of the Space Invaders sounds).

But seriously, I just thought I’d post this number in honour of Invasion Day (previously known as Australia Day), because given the events of today in Canberra in connection with the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the idea of invasion is clearly still very poignant.

Poem Communities


Image: the Evonne Goolagong tennis wall in Barellan, Australia

My relationship with tennis was electrified by a three year stint our family undertook in a small town in New South Wales in which only four hundred people lived, but one of whose most famous citizens was the Wimbledon champion Evonne Goolagong.

At that age I was unaware of the situation in which Australia’s indigenous peoples found themselves, a mere two hundred years since the invasion of the Wiradjuri peoples’ western plains and grasslands. I was myself an agent of a white bread, monolithic culture.

Typically enough however, like most Australians, despite having no respect for or understanding of indigenous culture, I was happy to claim Goolagong as one of us. At the end of each training session, we would diligently drag the long strip of carpet across the court’s surface, erasing our footprints as we had erased those of they who had walked this earth before us.

Friday afternoon was the time for the young kids to train, with coaches stretched across all four courts. In the final moments of training we’d indulge in a game we called community (but probably goes by other names elsewhere), and which involved every kid crowding onto one court and engaging in a process of elimination.

Each player who committed an error would be forced off the court until only two players were left ‘standing’, with all the other players surrounding the court and cheering on proceedings.

This brings me to the fundamentally connected nature of people and of words. Books are like elaborate games of community tennis (or perhaps, now that we’re a bit older, beer tennis) in which the game is trying to find a single winning poem, knowing also that the beauty of these compilations and collections is that the weak sit alongside the strong, the young and the old coalesce, the short and the long, poems that would probably not talk to each other in any other setting.

These are poem communities.

In these kinds of games of community (and yes, I am toying with ideas here, seeking an in, a connection), there is no real need for a winner. The winner, as we are always told, is tennis itself.

When I speak of books as coherent communities here, I do not mean in the conventional sense of ‘oh, what a disparate, quirky and fascinating bunch of individuals whose work has been assembled here’. Despite having been included myself in several anthologies, I am not interested in the biographical components of these books.

I am interested in these books as communities of poems, not poets. It is only in this distinction that I can bridge the gap between the poem and the solo poet.

Now, back to that nagging problem of invasion.