Wowsers! These punk and metal songs all sound like Inspector Gadget
BY GREGORY ADAMS
Wowsers, today (December 4) marks a whole 40 years since the premiere episode of Inspector Gadget. Titled “Winter Olympics,” the pilot found the titular cartoon character in somewhat of an embryonic stage (he has a moustache for this one episode; it looks pretty weird), but it also hits the beats that count: Gadget is a cyborg lawman sent around the globe to foil the evil schemes of the M.A.D. organization. He’s kind of a bumbler, though. Most missions succeed through a mix of dumb luck and some behind-the-scenes gumshoeing from Gadget’s niece, Penny, and her pet pup, Brain.
Also in place from the jump was Inspector Gadget’s iconic, earworm theme music. Written by composer Shuki Levy, the intro works a choppy synth bass along a playfully eerie motif, which is ultimately resolved by a gleeful chorus of “Go Gadget, Go!”
If you’re thinking the theme sounds familiar, that could be because it was heavily inspired by composer Edvard Grieg’s famous "In the Hall of the Mountain King," a dramatic 19th century piece of orchestral music from the composer's *Peer Gynt* suite that you’ve no doubt heard in countless TV shows, movies, commercials, and more.
Similar to what Levy did with the Inspector Gadget theme, Grieg’s piece has also been referenced by a number of metal bands. Savatage might be the most on the nose with their nod, having integrated the melody into “Prelude of Madness” off their 1987 full-length, Hall of the Mountain King. This list, however, gets a little less literal, collecting a few spiky motifs that may or may not intentionally be working the angle.
In honor of the Inspector’s big day, here are a few thrashin’ twists on his signature theme. Mercifully, this message will not self-destruct.
Dead Kennedys “When Ya Get Drafted”
While pre-dating Gadget, you’d be hard-pressed to not notice how much East Bay Ray’s solo on Dead Kennedy’s “When Ya Get Drafted” takes on the overall creepiness of Grieg’s “Mountain King” motif. The solo is likewise a perfect encapsulation of East Bay Ray’s signature guitar tone throughout the DK catalogue: blow-out reverbs; the unearthly warble of an Echoplex tape unit; and the sense that Ray was riding ‘60s surf guitar style along a nihilistic new wave.
Go-Go-Gadget Timestamp: 1:07
Floridian death metal legends Death’s 1988 sophomore album, Leprosy, notably took the band in a more progressive direction than the fast-thrashed mania of their landmark debut, 1987’s Scream Bloody Gore.
Leprosy’s opening title track starts off devastatingly, with some classically-informed doom passages and considerable double-kick treachery, but the tune stops on a dime to get extra Gadget-y, chunkily transposing a similar eight-note sequence four times.
Bonus points to Death for doubling-down on the theme with a more streamlined, viciously-trilled take in “Forgotten Past.”
Go-Go-Gadget Timestamp: 1:50
Dismember "Override of the Overture"
I’ll be honest, I don’t know too much about Sweden’s Dismember, but “Override of the Overture” came up in a YouTube recommendation recently, and it instantly perked my ears with its Gadget-like siren song.
Following about 30 seconds of literal downpour, we’re treated to a festering, BOSS distortion-diming trill that absolutely rocks that familiar minor key chromaticism in the back half of the phrase. Like Death’s “Leprosy,” the riff is then transposed a key lower once the thrash beat comes in.
The rest of the tune pivots from crunched-out mosh, to raging melodicism, to finessed soloing — kind of splitting the difference between early Entombed and the sweeter attack of Gothenburg-style death metal. Might have to check out the rest of this record someday.
Go-Go-Gadget timestamp: 0:30
Lagwagon “Inspector Gadget”
Let’s close out clean, here, and point out that Santa Barbara punk quintet Lagwagon did a legit take on the Inspector Gadget theme for their 1991 debut album, Duh. While reasonably faithful, drummer Derrick Plourde's busy-bounce kick work comparatively adds a more progressive bent to the piece (the OG theme keeps things simple as a four-on-the-floor).
Oddly, this quick cover is a full-blown instrumental that skimps out on the chorus. Since vocalist Joey Cape doesn’t get to push his familiarly raspy peep on here, my running theory is that Lagwagon learnt this one while waiting for their singer to show up to rehearsal. Just a guess, though!
Entertaining enough, but only available to stream unofficially — the band yanked the musical gag off Duh when they remastered the release in 2011.
Go-Go-Gadget Timestamp: the whole dang thing.