While SEGA music fans celebrate the likes of Jacques, Naganuma, and Mitsuyoshi who created hours of original tracks for iconic SEGA games during the Saturn and Dreamcast eras, its important to remember that SEGA has also relied heavily on pre-existing music licensed for their titles. Samba de Amigo, for example, used contemporary tracks from the likes of German pop group Bellini, Chumbawamba, and Santana, as well as classic music from the 50s and 60s including tracks from the Gipsy Kings, Perez Prado, and Quincy Jones. Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future also featured several licensed tracks, so many that subsequent re-releases were once in fear of losing iconic tunes thanks in large part to the fact that Crazy Taxi‘s HD release scrapped the original game’s soundtrack which featured Bad Religion and The Offspring. SEGA learned their lesson with Crazy Taxi, however, as the mobile release of the game reinstated the original soundtrack and Jet Set Radio‘s HD release promoted the fact that the soundtrack was largely intact in their marketing of the game.
Internal SEGA development team United Game Artists, known for Space Channel 5 and Rez, put music at the forefront of their titles. Music not only played a part in enhancing the mood, it was a vital part of gameplay. Sure one can play Jet Set Radio or Samba de Amigo with the speakers muted (why would you want to though?), but muting Space Channel 5 or Rez? You might as well unplug the console. Throughout the month of May, SEGA Tunes we will be focusing on both the original and licensed music featured in United Game Artists games. This week, we’re kicking things off with a classic.
Space Channel 5 parts 1 and 2 featured some of the best original SEGA music ever heard, composed by the likes of Naofumi Hataya, Kenichi Tokoi, Mariko Nanba, Tomoya Ohtani and the Sega Sound Team. But before the player experienced any of those tracks, they were greeted with the iconic opening fanfare of “Mexican Flyer”. Composed by British composer and trumpeter Ken Woodman, “Mexican Flyer” was released in 1966 on the Ken Woodman and his Picadilly Brass album “That’s Nice”. Visually, Space Channel 5 was inspired by the 1960’s space-age chic which featured a futuristic and luxurious look of stark whites, clean lines and bright colors. It only made sense that the music would match the game’s visuals, and while SEGA’s composers created some fantastic tracks, “Mexican Flyer” was ripped right out of the 60s era and was the perfect choice for the game’s main theme.
While “Mexican Flyer” is undoubtably Ken Woodman’s most well known track today, back in the 60s Woodman and his band made a name for themselves with their hit “Town Talk”. Just as “Mexican Flyer” became the theme to Space Channel 5, “Town Talk” became the theme for several radio shows including Paul Kaye’s Radio London shows and as the theme for Jimmy Young on BBC Radio 2.
With the release of Space Channel 5 came the a remix of “Mexican Flyer” from Naofumi Hataya and Kenichi Tokoi. This remix was mellower, at least initially, before building up into a cacophony of blaring trumpets that lead into a much more bombastic rendition of the theme. Being a modern piece, trumpets occasionally abruptly cut off, not afraid to hide the remix’s electronic nature. The remix of “Mexican Flyer” paved the way for additional remixes which were collected in the special album “Space Channel 5 Remix Tracks” which featured five original remixes as well as the original “Mexican Flyer”. While I’m not posting all of them here, I’ll leave it to you to seek out the soundtrack, the album is notable for including “Mexican Flyer” remixes from Adam F. (better known to SEGA fans for his track “Fear” in UGA’s Rez) and the incredibly talented and dearly departed Kenji Eno (composer and game designer behind Saturn and Dreamcast classics Enemy Zero, D, D2, and Real Sound).
Yup, that’s right, Kenji Eno composed a Space Channel 5 remix. And no, the fact that I am posting “Mexican Flyer” on Cinco de Mayo is not lost on me.
Next week on SEGA Tunes: We listen to the incredible music from UGA’s RezAd: