Flash Fearless and friends
This is a request piece, because after I mentioned Flash Fearless in my previous post, a few pulp/planetary romance loving friends wanted to know more.
So, for all of you out there that were curious, here goes.
The Rocky Horror Show debuted in the West End in 1973, doing a rock’n’roll parody of horror.
And somewhere somebody started thinking – could the same be done with other popular genres? With, say, comic-book science fiction?
And so, between October and December 1974, a rather eccentric group of musicians was assembled in Chrysalis Studios, to record a rock’n’roll spoof of the classic serials of the ’30s and ’40s, penned by Steve Hammond and David Pierce with a little more than a wink and a nod to Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon.
The project was called Flash Fearless vs the Zorg Women, parts 5 & 6.
The record that answers the question… can I get Alice Cooper on vocals with John Entwistle on bass and Bill Bruford on drums, produced by Bob Ezrin?
Of course you can.
The plot (if that’s not too strong a word) – having escaped the evil snake men, Flash Fearless, a star-spangled hero of the skyways and his companions (including Dulla, his girlfriend) have a brush with the space pirates, and finally crash on the planet of the Zorg Women, a sort of aggressive, sexy matriarchy that’s removed men from the picture after securing a few specimens to milk for genetic material. Flash, being a fine specimen himself, obviously attracts the attention of the King of the Zorg Women. Many shenanigans ensue.
OK, subtle is not.
The story is presented as two episodes of a lost serial, together with a comic book version of the story in the liner notes.
What to say about this weird record?
I acquired my copy about thirty years ago, during the vinyl sale in Turin’s legendary Rock&Folk record store. In my defense I can point at my long standing passion for science fiction and planetary romance, and the utterly incredible cast1.
Because the cast is excellent: Alice Cooper provides vocals for both Flash and the captain of the space pirates, John Entwistle is the voice of the last man on Zorg, his usefulness superseded by the appearance of good looking Flash. Elkie Brooks is the King of the Zorgs, and in the sidelines we find Bill Bruford and Carmine Appice, the Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward, Eddie Jobson, Keith Moon, Nicky Hopkins, Kenny Jones, Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior… an incredible line-up.
So what did not work?
Much has been said about the weakness of the musical numbers – the all-star team is working with second rate material. Apart from the two Alice Cooper numbers, the only true memorable piece is The Chop, a wild, racy, macabre piece about castration perfectly served by John Entwistle’s notorious gallows humor.
But also, in my opinion, what’s lacking is the true affection and respect that O’Brian’s writing showcased in Rocky Horror. While being a savage parody, the Rocky Horror Show was fueled by a great passion for the subject matter. This is tragically lacking in Flash Fearless, and the end result is a limp thing (aha!), missing a lot of opportunities and basically telling us jokes that do not work. A rather forgettable record, on which a lot of huge artists wasted their talents.
A pity, really.