What do Boney M, The Seekers, a seventeenth century Cossack leader, and the Twilight Zone all have in common? Not a great deal, to be fair, but more than you might expect!
Most people use the Internet for important, humanity-furthering endeavors (citation needed) because it is, after all, serious business. I, however, prefer to use it as a tool to steadily increase my knowledge of useless trivia. The following is a tale of one such enterprise.
This story begins, as so many good stories do, with an episode of the Twilight Zone. The third episode of season one – entitled Mr. Denton On Doomsday – to be precise. Roughly 35 seconds into the episode I noticed a familiar tune playing in the background. I had never seen the episode before, but I was sure I had heard that tune before. The hunt was on!
The episode’s Wikipedia entry was of little use, simply noting that the episode used ‘Stock Music’. “Bah,” I exclaimed. “From whence came the stock?” I asked of no-one in particular. After checking the episode’s original airdate (October 16, 1959) I was still at a loss for the source of this haunting melody, so I decided on a new approach.
I was sure that I had heard this tune very recently, earlier-this-week recently, in fact. So I checked my playlist – nothing but Boney M. Deducing that the German pop group probably hadn’t based one of their songs on a tune from an old TZ episode, I was all but ready to give up hope until ‘The Carnival Is Over’ started playing. Déjà vureka!
But I was still unsatisfied. Boney M released the song in 1982 – twenty three years after the episode aired. I returned to Wikipedia to discover that the song was originally written by Tom Springfield for The Seekers (whose music I now love, so you can’t say that this quest for was entirely futile) in 1965. I was getting closer!
Further perusal revealed that Tom had based the song on the tune of an old Russian folk song about (and entitled) “Stenka Razin.” Wikpedia returned to the rescue once again, confirming that Razin was a Cossack leader from the 17th century, and the hero of a popular folk song written by Dmitri Sadovnikov and used in one of the first Russian films.
Bingo! With Razin’s name in hand, I quickly tracked down a Twilight Zone fansite featuring a detailed listing of music used in the show, confirming my findings. So thank you, Internet, for helping me to satisfy a tiny nagging urge that any sane person would have happily ignored. Appreciate it.