rob hubbard’s soundtrack for mastertronic’s 1985 commodore 64 video game, action biker. i paid five hundred thousand dollars for this dress. me and colin are looking so cool, our mouths open to the sky, stuffed to the gills, prawn cocktail dripping spilling over our lips and oozing down our necks. he looks so good in his leopard skin pants. i am so full of fuel.
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i want to compose for you. contact me noranygard.com
new ambient from citizen scientist, plastic fern in a dodecahedron: citisci.bandcamp.com/album/plastic-fern-in-a-dodecahedron
i said “get people to vote against it” but should also say, and what is perhaps more key, is ‘create dumb reasons to make people’s votes not count.’
bandcamp united update: twitter.com/bandcampunited/status/1640828811687395328
more info on their website: bandcampunited.org
campaign call: twitter.com/bandcampunited/status/1641951940086222848?cxt=HHwWgMDS8eGlscktAAAA
the best way to hear the music of action biker is probably this video, shoutout to legend derschmu for all the longplays: youtu.be/W5ZSF6A2HZ0
my freaking rob hubbard playlist: youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7mlUTrcZAsP_w4Oc-o5J0zlI4K3vSVMc
me and colin going to prison. too cool for school.
stone oakvalley's authentic sid collection with 898,338 mp3 and flac recordings, here’s their rob hubbard trax: www.6581-8580.com/socse/index.php?field=composers&sorting=year&view=asc&page=1&wildcard=off&add_fields=&query=rob+hubbard&term_counts=0
searching their database for 1985 alone shows over 2700 games that have had their soundtracks recorded.
“a large amount of commodore hardware connected to servers which would reboot the machines, over and over, playing thousands of pieces of music in different configurations, and automatically cataloging and saving the resulting waveforms” ;
from internet archive blog: blog.archive.org/2015/01/13/mirroring-the-stone-oakvalley-music-collection/
do i want to devote my life to this? absolutely not. but i do want to have a better understanding of the history of many of these computers, consoles, and arcade games. for something like the c64, i might pick one or two professional composers and slowly chip away at their gameography on a semi-regular basis, like maybe i’ll talk about rob hubbard once a month for a while.
chris abbott, c64audio, and commodore 64 sid anthology, volume 1: rateyourmusic.com/release/album/rob-hubbard/commodore-64-sid-anthology-volume-1.p/
the cassette cost £1.99. adjusted for inflation, that’s about $7.
you can ride your bike on a lake i guess. this game does not look fun at all. the youtuber beats it in fifteen minutes.
action biker exists to sell a product to kids: kp skips, a disgusting british snack. it’s some kind of chip shaped sort of like the shell of a sand dollar. they’re described as “crispy corn fries” but they taste like “prawn cocktail” and the plastic package describes it as “delightfully floaty, fizzibly melty.”
nasty ad, small seizure warning: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgImmps5YUo
the music is not good. rob hubbard goes on to make great music for the c64, but this, other than the catchiness, is pretty awful. ugh. trying to be chill about my negativity. it’s helpful to try to pin down exactly what isn’t working.
1985 in movies haha! back to the future, the goonies, the breakfast club.
there are three different tunes in action biker: gameplay, title, 11-second death.
title screen: simple bassline, noise snare on the backbeat, lead melody that’s harmonized mostly with parallel thirds. c major, baby. you can turn the music off by pressing f7.
action biker has one sound effect: vroom vroom.
because of the sfx, the gameplay music is left with two available voices on the sid chip, so we’re stuck with a lead melody on one voice, and the accompanying bassline and snare are played by the final voice.
the melody is weak, meandering, and painful. the harshness is due to the bright high range, the strong attack and sustain of the amplitude envelope, and the unnatural rigidity of the computer’s “performance” as it’s expressed through articulations like vibrato.
the gameplay tune is a little over three minutes with a half dozen separate sections, and some rely heavily on the transposition of short phrases — possibly a trick to save memory usage? it’s strange to hear how long each of these separate sections lasts.
super mario bros was published in the same year, soundtracked by koji kondo’s compositions which featured a small number of short sections that looped endlessly.
after the end of the action biker tune, the player is treated to fifteen seconds of listening to their engine rev before the music starts again.
you don’t have to “be koji kondo” to make good music for games. but the spare, ineffectual and aimless melodies are made even more frustrating by the composition’s insistence on its form: begin, move through various sections, end, wait, begin again.
linear time forced on a non-linear experience.
the gameplay music starts by suggesting a g major seven chord with b and d in the descending notes. sort of wants you to think it’s in g major, or then maybe in c major with half-step intervals both within the scale of the key and outside of it, in kind of a “blue note” manner. the tonic feels like c by the end of the tune, but occasionally it feels like the tonic is g. to me, it doesn’t feel bluesy or jazzy, it just feels nauseating.
the “minor” section feels like the tonic is e or possibly g. there’s so much transposition of this small phrase that the key feels unmoored, afloat. it’s kind of suggesting e minor or its relative major, g, but then more accidentals are used as the section continues. i feel like you could just as well read it as still being in “c major with accidentals” as well as the rest of the tune.
it’s just weird to have this video game music be so determined to refuse to find its center tonally.
the most egregious usage of phrase transposition happens during the bridges or transitions into and out of this “minor” section, each of which lasts about 15 seconds and consists of a short phrase that rises in pitch each time it’s repeated.
the first transitional section plays a phrase, raises it an octave, then drops the octave but transposes up a half step, plays it an octave up again. this repeats seven or eight times, depending on how you want to count the final repeat. it feels like a failed gesture towards classical or baroque music, and instead sounds like a demonic carnival.
sort of a ( iii - vi - viiᵒ - I ) chord progression at the end if you’re reading it in c major.
the compositions and sound design in action biker feel rushed, tossed off, and poorly thought out. i don’t think information is available regarding where precisely this soundtrack falls within rob hubbard’s early career, but it’s a terrible start as a listener.
i wouldn’t have found all of these 80s magazine reviews without the legendary lemon64 website, where you can find the links to the scans: www.lemon64.com/game/action-biker
c&vg issue 47 (sep 85) p34: “action biker maintains mastertronic’s tradition of excellent budget-priced software. at £1.99, you would be nuts to miss it.”
commodore horizons issue 20 (aug 85), p16, "ace music" ;
commodore user issue 23 (aug 85), p35, “love the prawn cocktail ones” ;
home computing weekly #118 (25 jun 85), p10, “funky tune, reasonably jolly [...] music is the best piece yet from mastertronic [...] high addictive qualities” ;
this whole thing feels like a scam.
“lurking since second reality ;)” scenestream.net/demovibes/song/10493/
action biker aka sarah nyberg pergament “named her one-woman project action biker after the classic c64-game.”
her myspace: web.archive.org/web/20080709083337/http://www.myspace.com/actionbiker
her bandcamp: actionbiker.bandcamp.com/music
action biker, “hesperian puisto”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tkNd6YFSlI
while we’re at it,
paul slocum pre tree wave: instinctorecords.bandcamp.com/album/sleuth-science
tree wave has another release i didn’t know about, virtual 10 inch (2009): treewave.com/mp3s.shtml
cynthcart whammy bar.
clumsy colin killed the leopard with his bare hands. and i sewed him into the pants