Leonard Nimoy’s Records


“Spock’s Theme” by James Horner, as heard in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

star trek 2Leonard Nimoy, the actor who indeed wrote books titled I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock, was much more than the pointy-eared green-blooded science officer aboard the USS Enterprise. In an artistic career of more than seventy years he was an actor of surprising range (given the demeanor of his famous character), a poet, a photographer, a philosopher, and a pop singer.

Maybe it’s for the best Nimoy’s legacy won’t be defined by record collectors like us, because his five albums paint a peculiar portrait of the actor, who passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

mr spock music from outer space

Nimoy had been ailing from obstructive pulmonary disease, which he attributed to his smoking habit, although he had not lit up since around the time he was directing Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Maybe some of the young smokers we know will find a lesson in this and quit, maybe especially those who work here at Hymie’s and just had a baby.

Nimoy’s five goofy albums were all released by Dot Records, which had recently been purchased by the giant corporate conglomeration, Gulf Western, who also swallowed up Lucille Ball’s Desilu Productions, which owned the Star Trek series. His albums were just one of many tie-ins to the series, overseen by a corporation which had previously bought zinc and aluminum importers, the largest cane sugar refinery in the world, and arcade game manufacturer Sega. It’s hard to say how seriously the records were taken.

If there was any doubt, consider the 1967 video of Nimoy singing “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” while surrounded by hobbit/Vulcan pixies.

The first two present Nimoy in his Spock persona, and the rest stretch towards the easy listening/country sound of the re-branded label. Although Nimoy was a prolific poet, he wrote very few original songs on the albums, which consist mostly of pop and folk standards like “If I Had a Hammer” and John Hartford’s ubiquitous “Gentle on my Mind.” One song from the TV series appears, the one which those crummy Platonians forced him to sing.

The only time Leonard Nimoy had a hit, so to speak, was when Information Society sampled Spock’s voice on “What’s on your Mind (Pure Energy),” which reached #3 in the US in 1988. We’re guessing since this predates the 1992 US Federal Court ruling which established that sampling can constitute copyright infringement (The Biz Markie/Gilbert O’Sullivan case), Nimoy probably wasn’t paid for the use of his voice.

Let’s remember Nimoy as an inspiring artist, poet and actor, and not as a singer — though we’re sure people will be calling the shop looking for his albums this weekend. Just a couple days Nimoy posted a brief poem on his twitter page: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”

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