If there’s one thing I’ve learned from compiling this massive survey of songs about Superman, it’s that someone should be making a Superman movie with a disco score that takes place in the 1970s. That would be the perfect Superman movie and there is plenty of sonic source material already in existence to score the film.
I don’t think the same can be said for any other superhero, not even the Dazzler, and not any other member of the Superman Family — though we’ll find out about that for sure next week when I tackle songs about Superman’s friends, family, and foes.
Pam N Pat – To Be Superman
This 1981 pop disco song takes the odd point of view that the good old days were simple, but only Superman can deal with all the new things the world has to offer, particularly in the area of romance. This is the only single the duo ever released, but Pat — full-name Patrick Jean-Baptiste — was previously part of another disco singing duo, fronting the very successful first French disco band ever Ottawan, among which “D.I.S.C.O.” was one of their huge hits.
Panama – No Superman
With its awesome wacka-wacka funk intro, this is the ultimate infectious disco Superman song. I cannot get it out of my head. I wish I had heard it back in 1978 when it was released. I’m pretty sure I would have bought it. I mean, that was the year the Grease soundtrack came out and I bought that, and this is like A HUNDRED TIMES BETTER. The premise here is simple. He is telling a lady that she is NOT Wonder Woman, that he is NOT Superman, but that doesn’t matter, because she doesn’t need a Superman, she just needs a MAN. Simple 1970s logic. You can argue with it from your 21st Century perch, but 1978 was a different time. This was the flip side to the band’s version of “Nights in White Satin,” but this Superman song is obviously superior. One of the songwriters on this, Jean Claude Bonaventure, went on to produce the hit version of “Lambada” in 1989 — and that’s a pretty catchy song, don’t let anyone try to convince you any different. Stream it on Spotify.
Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra – Superman is Callin’
Peter Thomas was a German composer who is mostly known these days for his soundtrack to the 1966 cult science fiction TV show Raumpatrouille (or Space Patrol), as well as some of his music used in the George Clooney film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and nearly 200 other films and TV shows. This song is from the suspense film Der Mörderclub von Brooklyn, one of a series of about FBI agent Jerry Cotton, and sung by German folk pop duo Kerry and Kaye. It was also a B-side to their 1967 single “Mister Akkerman,” also written by Thomas. Buy it here or stream on Spotify
The Pinks – Superman
This is infectious 1985 Swedish pop disco by an all-kids band and you will be ashamed of yourself for liking it, but you just can’t help it. I can’t tell you what the song is about since it’s in Swedish, though they do chant “Super-super-superman!” in the song. One of the co-writers, Monica Forsberg, was the Swedish dubbing director for Disney from the 1980s to 2000, and did the actual Swedish voice dubs for Aladdin, Disney’s Ducktales, Tarzan, Mulan, Hercules, Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Sadly, I can’t find anything about the actual band.
Suzi Quatro – Official Suburbian Superman
Before Joan Jett there was Suzi Quatro and we all knew about her because of her role as Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days who had the most unusual hairstyle of the 1950s. As this 1973 song reveals, she had a harder edge before Happy Days scooped her up, but I don’t think we kids knew that. Maybe that’s for the best since here she’s pining for a fellow who “acts like Mr. Snow White with all his seven dwarves” — whatever that means. Suzi also pleads for the ladies to “leave that door ajar / Wham, bam and thank you.” Definitely not the Superman we were accustomed to back then. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Radio AM – For the Man Who Has Everything
Starting with a bit from the old Superman radio show, this song from 2013 offers Superman’s lament that he just wants to be a simple guy. He just wants to be Clark. Call him Clark, make a Superman happy. This is a nice little song from a Bueno Aires band. Buy it here.
Raw Soul featuring Barbara Stant – Superman
Barbara Stant was a singer from Norfolk, VA, and once you’ve listened to her rip up this song, you’ll be astonished to know that she never hit the big time. But she recorded a number of songs in the 1970s. This song is written by Lenis Guess, who’s considered the central figure in the Norfolk soul music scene. What’s the song about? Superman saving Barbara’s love life, of course. She asked and he came to her rescue. As he does. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
San Diego Junior Theatre – It’s Superman
The 1966 Broadway musical It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman seems to have been relegated to the dustbins of history after its 129 performance run and then crash, boom. I remember watching the 1975 TV production featuring ‘70s legends Loretta Swift, Alan Ludden, and Kenneth Mars. This forgotten Superman adventure isn’t getting a Broadway revival anytime soon, but it does get a performance now and then in smaller venues. The truly brave can listen to the entire original Broadway cast album.
Rick Springfield – I’m Your Superman
Well before “Jessie’s Girl” — 1973, to be exact — Australian soap opera heartthrob Springfield describes how his special lady makes him feel just like Superman, but with the added bonus of not being afraid of kryptonite. This is a catchy bubblegum rocker with a great vocal chant refrain from Springfield’s second album. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Straw – Weird Superman
Coming in at the end section of the ‘90s Brit Pop movement, Straw depicts a desolate, gritty streetscape inhabited by the Weird Superman who “could not fly but on alcohol I can leap tall buildings.” The chorus to this 1998 song starts with a throwback to the REM cover of the Clique song, intentionally or unintentionally. The band itself seems to have crashed and burned, their second album never being released.
Students Of Yeronga State High – Superman I Really Love You So
The grand slam of this Superman music list, this song comes via an extremely rare private pressing LP from Australia, circa 1979. The original cast recording of the school stage production of Man of Steel, which was written by Yeronga State High teachers Ian Dorricott and Simon Denver, “Superman, I Really Love You So” is the tip of the iceberg here. The album also features songs like “Clap Your Hands for the Man of Steel” and “The Man of Steel Fan Club Song.” The story has something to do with Clark Kent getting a job at the Daily Trivia as a theater critic, Lois being kidnapped by the Blackhead Gang, Countess Olga the Queen of Crime possessing a clump of Kryptonite, and Jimmy Olsen saving the day.
A Taste of Honey – Superstar Superman
When 1980 arrived, no one told disco that it was all done. In fact, disco lasted well into the mid-80s, but it’s a long way from this band’s energetic single “Boogie Oogie Oogie” just two years before. Still, it’s better than the syrupy hit single from the album, a cover of the song “Sukiyaki” and has an easy-going, almost yacht rock vibe. This Superman is a killer stage performer and A Taste of Honey is standing in the audience, appreciating his smooth moves. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Mel Torme – Sunshine Superman
Everyone already knows the Donovan original of this song, but Mel Torme’s groovy cover version from 1970 blows it away as the more honest face of the era, which dominated by doughy-faced, middle-aged doofuses trying to be hip rather than guys who looked like Donovan. Besides, just to hear Torme name-drop Green Lantern is more like heaven than heaven itself. “When I say we’ll be cool I think that you know what I mean,” Mel croons. I do know what you mean, Mel, I totally do. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Toy-Box – Super Duper Man
There was all that controversy recently about seeing Batman’s privates but this bouncy techno-pop song from 1999 beats that controversy by two decades by asking to see Superman’s “ding a ling” — and I don’t think it means in the Chuck Berry song meaning of the word. Or maybe it does, now that I give some thought to that Chuck Berry song. This 1999 release from the Danish pair — vocalists Anila Mirza is of Pakistani and Iranian descent and Amir El-Falaki is of Moroccan descent — follows up their previous hit, “Tarzan and Jane.” They distinctly describe Superman flying around in red underwear looking for a party, among other things. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Les Variations – Superman Superman
This 1975 release from French rock band Les Variations actually hit #36 on the U.S. charts but I have no recollection of it whatsoever. The majority of the original line-up of the band was Moroccan, with two Tunisian members eventually added to the line-up. Several members left after the success of 1975 and were replaced by Americans. This song is mostly about Superman’s inability to save anything despite his amazing powers, largely because, the band alleges, that he’s suffering from a sense of self-identity. Among the straightforward rocky-style Superman songs, I kinda think this is one of the best, actually. Stream it on Spotify.
Mike Vickers – Superman
This is an instrumental, so there are no words to link this with Superman, but this 1972 piece definitely feels like Superman music from a 1970s TV show that never existed. That’s not an accident, really, since as a track on the KPM 1000 Series of LPs, that’s exactly what it was meant to be. Not a track from an unrealized Superman TV show, I don’t mean, but a track that felt like it was. KPM is a library music company, which meant it recorded and released music to be licensed for use in film, television, etc., which was considerably more affordable than hiring a composer to create an original score. The titles were meant to evoke what the music could be used for before you actually listened to it, so I think it’s obvious what they were going for here. It was featured on Vickers’ album Brass Plus Moog. Along with recording library music, Vickers started his career in Manfred Mann’s band, worked with the Beatles and Keith Emerson, and scored films like At The Earth’s Core and Warlords of Atlantis. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Charenee Wade – Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman
Gil Scott-Heron originally recorded this in 1975, but this 2015 version from a Scott-Heron tribute album is a jazzed-up version that still keeps aspects of the slow groove of the original. The song has been characterized as Scott-Heron arguing for reason over fantasy, using Superman as a symbol of the latter, but there’s something about the lyrics that makes me it could also be read as an attempt to understand why some people have hope despite the facts that say they shouldn’t bother. Maybe it’s a little of both since Wade has represented her take on the lyrics as being a reminder that people need to be responsible for making social justice happen, which, to me, is like finding Superman in yourself. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Westernhagen – Superman
The video for this easy-going, rambling folk rockin’ song by German singer Marius Müller-Westernhagen is an odd, sometimes comedic riff on One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and the translation of the German lyrics doesn’t make it much clearer. Something to do with Superman being dead and the narrator of the song dug his grave and that’s okay because he couldn’t fly anymore and he wasn’t more special than anyone else. But he also seems to need Superman. I guess if I ever meet Westernhagen, I should ask him to clarify. Buy it here or stream it on Spotify.
Whizz – Here Comes Superman
Or maybe this 1978 disco song would be the theme to a ‘70s Superman live-action show instead of the Mike Vickers music. It gets my vote. By coincidence, or not, it was composed by Alan Hawkshaw, who mined similar career territory to Vickers, not only working in library music but also rock — did some stuff for David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Serge Gainsbourg, was a member of the Shadows. His music has been sampled in tons of hip hop, including songs by Ice Cube, The Notorious B.I.G., Big Daddy Kane, MC Hammer, and many others.
The Wonderland Band – Thrill Me (With Your Super Love)