Also on the list of real life mad scientists I know: the coworker who once rebuilt his laptop into a destructive heat ray.


We're getting ready to launch a brand new school year! So I've been, y'know, extra busy this week. Not that anyone's terribly surprised when I disappear for a little while here on the blog. At least this time it wasn't six weeks.

One thing I did take the time to do -- said time taking, oh, nine seconds -- was buy the just released Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog Soundtrack off of iTunes. I haven't felt any huge need to talk up the good Doctor -- most of you should already know about the internet sensation that swept geekdom like a giant... sweeping... thing over the course of the summer. (If you're totally clueless, be enlightened.) I really loved the videos, and it was a fait accompli that I'd get the album when it came out.

I won't promise there won't be minor spoilers below, for the record.

While listening to the studio recordings, I found my mind wandering to mad science. More to the point, I found my mind wandering to writing mad science. I have a project or two under the cone of silence that touch on the few, the proud, the psychotically curious, and like a lot of writers i sometimes use the power of music to get my brain in the right state of mind for whatever I'm working on. We are programmed by television and movies to respond to musical cues, almost subconsciously -- the right music can underscore pain or joy, make us happy or sad, get us into the mindset of who we're watching or drive us away, depending on what they're going for. And a writer can use that when they're writing in the first place.

And honestly, writing mad science takes some brain work.

You see, it's easy to assume that mad science is just cute and fluffy and geek positive. Lots of real life geeks of giant brain identify themselves as "mad scientists." Some (I'm looking at you, Van Domelan) even qualify. (Actually, Superguy alumnus Bill Paul still wins the prize for maddest scientist I've met, though it's worth noting i've never actually met Andy Weir. Apparently, when he took an undergraduate apartment near school, he discovered there was a 220 volt tap for a dryer that didn't currently exist. His immediate reaction was "Cool! Now I can make plasma!" But I digress. And yes -- we're going to be talking about Casey and Andy soon.)

The thing is? Mad scientists, as a trope? They're not cute and fluffy and geek positive. They're insane. They're arrogant and deeply broken -- their pain and insanity driving their science beyond all rational measure. It's a powerful image -- one that laymen are willing to accept almost at face value. Scientists seem like magicians to us, after all -- they make nuclear power plants and electrical grids and bridges and chemicals that do everything from regulate brain imbalances to endanger us with four hour erections. Science is huge and can be scary, and these men and women get it using math most of us don't even recognize as symbols. We can believe that one of these intensely intelligent people might go too far -- push too hard... learn too much, delve into things best left undelved, and lose their mind in an arrogant belief that they can force the world to yield its secrets and bend to his whim. As with Faust in an earlier incarnation, we're willing to accept that something supremely dangerous and horrifying lies just beyond the pale, and those who seek after knowledge with too great a fervor will be consumed by it.

And, of course, when you gain the knowledge of the gods, you become a god -- or so you believe. It is natural for the superior to rule over the inferior. World domination isn't an end, it's a byproduct.

The trick is finding the right music to push your brain into that mindset -- to drive that combination of brilliance and hubris, often with a side order of a pain that can't ever be alleviated. Sure, real life scientists might enjoy "Particle Man," but that's not going to combine the hunger for knowledge and the driving need to change/recreate/rule/destroy the world.

On all the Dr. Horrible soundtrack, the only truly mad science fueled song is the intense (and wonderful) "Brand New Day," as our... er... hero goes from a moderately nice and schlubish supervillain poseur to the real psychotic deal. You can feel the brilliance and evil burn out of Neil Patrick Harris, wiping out the "dork and failure" as he says and leaving behind a being who can (and does) terrorize. None of the other songs on the album have this sheer mad science quality. "My Freeze Ray" is cheerful and pleasant and very human, regardless of the advanced technology. "Slipping" and "Everything You Ever" yield confrontation and consequence, but not that pure expression of manic belief.

And that got me thinking. Clearly, I needed a song list. One song isn't enough, after all. I needed songs that had that quality, whether or not they actually dealt with science or mad science or anything of the sort. And I have a music collection, so why not pare through it.

So I did. I found the songs that seem to trigger the right neurochemical response in my brain -- the frantic energy, the certainty, the terrible surety of their quest or cause. There had to be an edge to these songs -- a sense that something isn't quite right in the world. And even if the songs are enthusiastic, they shouldn't be happy. And in many cases, there should be a sense of defiance. Most Doctor Demento songs get let out because they're not staring you in the eye demanding you kneel before them.

I also kind of decided to avoid the cliche and the twee with my picks. "She Blinded Me With Science" isn't on here -- Thomas Dolby might be a mad scientist but his lament is a victim's lament, not a victor's. And "Weird Science?" Please. There's an Oingo Boingo song here, but it lacks goofiness, thank you. "Weird Science" is what mad science groupies play while waiting outside the laboratory in hopes of getting an autograph or a transmutation into some kind of shark-pumpkin person. Finally, I tried to keep it to one song per artist.

Naturally, these are the songs that work for me. They may not work for you. And yes, I'd be happy to hear more suggestions in the comments. In alphabetical order by title, I give you my Mad Scientist Mix.

"American Jesus," Bad Religion: Right off the bat, you see there's no science here. What there is a hard edged beat and a song about entitlement, about superiority, about damning the consequences and damning the world and not caring because you're a special snowflake 'cause preacher told you so. From the driving core of the song:

He's the farmers' barren fields, (In God)
He's the force the army wields, (We trust)
He's the expression on the faces of the starving millions, (Because he's one of us)
The power of the man. (Break down)
He's the fuel that drives the Klan, (Cave in)
He's the motive and the conscience of the murderer (He can redeem your sin)
He's the preacher on TV, (Strong heart)
He's the false sincerity, (Clear mind)
He's the form letter that's written by the big computer, (And infinitely kind)
He's the nuclear bombs, (You lose)
He's the kids with no moms (We win)
And I'm fearful that he's inside ME (He is our champion)

This concept of the spirit -- the demiurge that wreaks its will upon the countryside while still being a part of you? That could as easily describe "madness" in Narbonic or "the spark" in Girl Genius.

"As I Sat Sadly By Her Side," Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Atypical on this list -- most of these songs emphasize the savage joy (or savage motion) of rhythm. This, on the other hand, is a beautifully orchestrated, piano heavy ballad with a sense of melancholy. It jabs my Mad Science hindbrain because of a combination of unsettling music -- it is beautiful, but there is a sense that somehow it denotes a world that's wrong -- and dark imagery. It describes the figure who has hope for the world, and the figure who sees the suffering of individuals. Either one could be a mad scientist -- the woman who sees a shining future or the man who sees the cost and finds it unacceptable. Telling, though, are two stanzas near the end:

Then she drew the curtains down
And said, "When will you ever learn
That what happens there beyond the glass
Is simply none of your concern?
God has given you but one heart
You are not a home for the hearts of your brothers

And God does not care for your benevolence
Anymore than he cares for the lack of it in others
Nor does he care for you to sit
At windows in judgement of the world He created
While sorrows pile up around you
Ugly, useless and over-inflated"

He has seen the world's flaws. She obscures them and dismisses them. He feels responsible for making the whole world well. She feels no responsibility for the world at all. Polar extremes, and both mad.

"Big O!," Tosihiko Sahasi: The theme song from the cartoon. This is the polar opposite of the last entry -- this one's entirely about the savage joy of rhythm. The lyrics not only don't denote some moral dilemma, they mostly consist of "BIG O!" shouted over and over again. The song has a similarity in feel to the old Queen "Flash Gordon" theme, though, and the hammering beat makes your heart beat faster too. Musically, you can entirely accept that madmen build a world from the musical structures within, and then a giant robot blows shit up.

"Brand New Day," Neil Patrick Harris: What started the article. It doesn't get madder than this. This is the moment of epiphany for the bad Doctor -- the moment when he bursts through the nice, shy guy he was before to become the true, future ruler of the world. This is where he stops wanting to look out for kids in the park, and starts wanting to rampage through the streets:

All the time that you beat me unconscious I forgive
All the crimes incomplete - listen, honestly I'll live
Mr. Cool, Mr. Right, Mr. Know-It-All is through
Now the future's so bright and I owe it all to you
Who showed me the light

It's a brand new me
I got no remorse
Now the water's rising
But I know the course
I'm gonna shock the world
Gonna show Bad Horse
It's a brand new day

The distinction between the driven man of scientist and the madman who uses techniques "no reputable scientist would employ" while tearing into fields of study forbidden, for man was not meant to know them... is a moment of epiphany like this.

"Chicks Dig Giant Robots," Deathwish IX: Mad science as surf rock. This was the MEGAS XLR, and as suits that work it is enthusiastic and bright, counterpointing the banality of New Jersey with the epic of saving the world from alien invasion in a giant robot car. It might not immediately seem like Mad Science so much as mecha combat, but the core of the cartoon is an automobile nut who loves video games finds a prototype giant robot that's missing its head in a junkyard, and then rebuilds it using his classic car as the head, rerigging all the controls to a melange of video game controllers. That the thing works at all -- much less that it's superior to anything the designers could have hoped, is pure mad science at its best Plus he added flaming eightball paint jobs. And, as the song claims:

You dig giant robots!
I dig giant robots!
We dig giant robots!
Chicks dig giant robots!

As justifications go for your rampage that decimates half of Trenton, it'll do just fine.

"Eli's Coming," Three Dog Night: I'll admit, some of my Sorkin love fuels this pick. In one of the best episodes of Sports Night, Dan (the cool host) sees a convergence of bad signs and declares that Eli's coming. When it becomes clear that he's reffing the Three Dog Night song, and that said song is about an inveterate womanizer, he agrees but said when he first heard it, it sounded like it meant trouble was coming. And, as he says, those things stick with you. And in that way, this has stuck with me. What makes it mad science? Well, it fits musically -- musical and frenetic but with a sense of dread coupled with terrible inevitability:

Walk but you'll never get away
No, you'll never get away from the burnin' a-heartache
I walked to Apollo by the bay
Everywhere I go though, Eli's a-comin' (she walked but she never got away)
Eli's a-comin' (she walked but she never got away)
Eli's a-comin' and he's comin' to git ya (she walked but... she walked but...)
Get down on your knees (she walked but she never got away)

Obsession, fear, flight, conquest. The fools at the Pier 1 down on pier nineteen will pay for defying the will of ELI! Look, it works for my brain. I don't promise it will for yours.

"Genius," Warren Zevon: It was nigh inconceivable a Zevon song wouldn't make the list, but this was iffy. I considered this one, "Piano Fighter" (for it's energy) and others. But in the end, this song has a sense of simmering, respectful resentment masked in a relatively peppy beat. It's the dark face of "Brand New Day" in its own way -- the loss that forms the maniac resolve. "You'll pay," the song seems to say. "When I have taken over the world then you'll pay!"

When you dropped me and you staked your claim
On a V.I.P. who could make your name
You latched on to him and I became
A minor inconvenience
Your protege don't care about art
I'm the one who always told you you were smart
You broke my heart into smithereens
And that took genius

You and the barber make a handsome pair
Guess what--I never liked the way he cut your hair
I didn't like the way he turned your head
But there's nothing I can do or say I haven't done or said

Everybody needs a place to stand
And a method for their schemes and scams
If I could only get my record clean
I'd be a genius

"I Wanna Be a Boss," Stan Ridgway: There are dedicated, passionate, even obsessed scientists who want nothing more than to make the discovery, to find the truth. While some of them might be Mad Scientists, they don't have to be. Mad Science requires something beyond the drive to know. There also has to be ambition -- ambition that can't ever truly be satisfied. This is where the drive to rule comes from -- the certainty that you could do it better, coupled with the sense that finally your genius will be given its unmitigated due. He starts off wanting a nice office, expensive clothes, a lear jet, the respect of his peers... but as the song progresses, his dreams get progressively grander, wilder, not just unlikely but impossible. And then he goes farther:

Now if I find a product I like
I'll buy up the whole company
Shave my face, and grin and smile
And then I'll sell it on TV
And everyone will know me
I'll be more famous than Howard Hughes
I'll grow a long beard and watch
Ice Station Zebra in the nude

And grow my nails like Fu-Manchu
Keep a row of specimen jars
Get other people to work for me--well
Maybe I'll buy the planet Mars, and
Build an amusement park up there
Better than old Walt's place
You'll have to be a millionaire to go
We'll smoke cigars and lounge in lace
Talk the talk of businessmen
And bosses that we are
So here's to me--the drinks are free--
'Cause I just bought this bar!

Within the heart of the Mad Scientist beats the heart of a man who knows that when he rules the world, it will be an absolute paradise. For him, anyway, and who else could possibly matter as much?

"The Math Song," The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets: from the movie Spaceship Zero. It opens with someone shouting "Your facts! Your figures! What are they worth now? Huh? Are they worth the lives of seven billion people?!" So, you know it starts out well. And then the song starts with a good drum beat and high guitar and cheer and a singer who sounds a touch strung up singing a song that makes it clear that yes. Yes these facts and figures are worth the lives of seven billion people. Don't be ridiculous:

X by the tangent of N
N minus pi over 10
That equals negative 9
Negative 9 is so fine

You've got a brain
And nobody really needs another love song

This is the song that underscores the joy and beauty in math, the power of the brain... and honestly, haven't we heard all the ridiculousness about love and adoration and other people before? No one needs another love song! You've got a brain! Read a book!

"The Needle Lies," Queensryche: Another song that sets the tone with a voiceover before it begins. "I've had enough -- and I want out!" [sound of crash] "You can't walk away now," comes the answer, followed by the all-important mad scientist laugh -- a laugh that trails up at the end instead of down. Operation: Mindcrime is a concept album that plunges the horrible depths of mad science. One of its characters is actually called Doctor X for God's sake!

I looked back once
And all I saw was his face
Smiling, the needle crying
Walking out of his room
With mirrors, afraid I heard him scream
Youll never get away

Cold and shaking
I crawled down alleys to try
And scrape away the tracks that marked me
Slammed my face into walls of concrete
I stared, amazed at the words written on the wall

Dont ever trust
Dont ever trust the needle, it lies
Dont ever trust
Dont ever trust the needle when it cries...
Cries your name

In a way, this suffers from the same thing as "She Blinded Me With Science." Nikki is a victim, not a mad scientist. But where "She Blinded Me With Science" is a romp, about the seductive powers of the modern woman with her perfume and her wicked ways... this is about a man crawling away desperately from the madman who has taken over his existence and threatens to destroy it, and there is no escape.

Now that's Mad Science, baby. Dr. X could take Dolby's chick out with one jab.

"No One Lives Forever," Oingo Boingo: This pick was a tossup between it and "Insanity" -- both the version from Farewell -- Live, the last concert Boingo played as Boingo. Both have that burning energy, that intensity that separates the sane from the not-sane, and they both kick the ass of "Weird Science" in pretty much every way. I go with this one because it's less about true full on non mad-sciency psychosis and more about the inevitability of death and the need to therefore go for absolute broke in life, without concern for laws or what is possible:

No one beats him at his game
For very long but just the same
Who cares, there's no place safe to hide
Nowhere to run--no time to cry
So celebrate while you still can
'Cause any second it may end.
And when it's all been said and done . . .
Better that you had some fun
Instead of hiding in a shell-Why make your life a living hell?
So have a toast, and down the cup
And drink to bones that turn to dust ('cause) . . .
No one, no one, no one, no one, no one, no one, no one, no one, no one, no one, no one, no one
No one lives forever!! (Hey!)

The song is a party, a celebration. What it celebrates is that we're alive and someday we won't be so don't hold back! Don't let yourself have regrets! Take this life for all it's worth. Doctor Madblood would certainly agree. Not that he won't prove them wrong. Oh yes. Yes he will.

"The Sidewalk Song (v 1.1)," The Tenmen: For a while, Radio Achewood had a couple of tracks up from 'the Tenmen,' the black clad trio of rickenbacher playing cats who Roast Beef, Emeril and Spongebath all love. They're gone now, which I can understand -- how can one hope to put to music a group defined in a silent medium as the best post-wave musicians of their age. Still, this track has a beat and a funk that's infectious, and feels like distilled productivity. There are no lyrics -- it is, if anything, aureal wallpaper, but I could see it as the closest representation to the music a mad scientist hears in his mind, and that's good enough for me.

"Skullcrusher Mountain," Jonathan Coulton: Yeah yeah, I know. All these songs I've been avoiding all the geek-adored obvious picks. I don't have "They're Coming to Take Me Away." Hell, I don't have any They Might Be Giants on the list. These are songs about the crush and the pain, and here I have geek icon Jonathon Coulton with his parody of romantic light rock songs, all about the mad scientist who woos a pretty young thing. Look, the difference here is the absolute sense of rightness in the protagonist's voice, and the continued failure of his methods to have any positive effect:

I'm so into you
But I'm way too smart for you
Even my henchmen think I'm crazy
I'm not surprised that you agree
If you could find some way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You'd see the voices that control me from inside my head
Say I shouldn't kill you yet

I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don't like it
What's with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don't like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

It's all here -- the lack of ability to see the real world. The absolute certainty that his master plans cannot fail -- be they destroying the planet or hooking with his girlfriend. And, as he said above -- the chick likes ponies and likes monkeys, so why wouldn't a monkey-pony monster be the perfect gift! It's convenient, and no one else one! Honestly, Can't you show a little gratitude?

"Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank," Bare Naked Ladies: This song's subversive. It's very bright and perky and cheerful and you can listen to it a dozen times before it hits you that this guy's a crazy celebrity stalker who thinks Anne Murray's talking to him in her songs. (Or Rae Don Chong. Or others. I've heard several women named.) He is a farmer, he works in the field, and he has come to see himself as the man who feeds the world -- and especially the love of his life -- with his labors. There's no science here but there is the right kind of delusion -- as well as the sullen resentment that can creep in when his letters to the celebrity stop fulfilling his worldview:

All of this corn I grow I grow it all for you
I took a hatchet to the radio I did it all for you
You could have written back,
You could have said "Thank you"
I guess you've got better things,
better things to do.

You say you love me, is that the truth?
Although they've heard the songs, my friends want living proof.
I know your address, I ring the bell
I bring you flowers and a .22 with shells.

He knows what the world is. He knows that he gets it -- he knows the truth. And his friends -- his friends -- won't believe them, and you won't write back so he could prove it. You have to understand, he's got to prove how you feel. He's got to prove it to the world. And then, when he has you and his life is so great... well, his so called friends will change their tune, won't they, but it will be too late. Too late!

Replace the psycho stalking with 'building an Oo-ray,' and Bob's your Uncle. And it's so upbeat in its psychosis.

"What We Need More Of is Science," MC Hawking: I'll admit, I'm not the biggest MC Hawking fan on Earth. It just seemed... I dunno. Cute, to me. A little twee. I didn't hate the Hawk, I just didn't buy in. But "What We Need More of is Science," the first of the Achewood songfights (the second was the fantastic "Corner of Dude and Catastrophe" by MC Frontalot with Brad Sucks) is just a wonderful rant against the people of the world who follow ridiculous cults (from crystals to fundamentalist Christianity in his view) and don't spend enough time listening to their god damn science teachers. This is the sort of rant that leads, fundamentally, to a giant steam powered robot with vortex rays mounted on the shoulders and an unbreakable glass dome on the head where the inventor sits in an easy chair, holding a martini that foams slightly, smiling and saying "where's this God then? Why doesn't He stop me? Mm? Here's my creation -- it's the one beating up His creation." And then he would laugh, and laugh and laugh.

The list is incomplete. The list can't be complete, because there could be something on it tomorrow that serves the same purpose. And the list that works for me might not work for you. If we could find the music playlist that elicited the same brain chemical responses in every listener, we could (of course) rule the world, but so far that goal is elusive. Still, we can get closer. Go ahead and chime in, down in the comments. What's music rocks your Mad Science hindbrain? What do you listen to when you're dreaming of unleashing your unstoppable Pneumatic Steel Legion upon the fools at Tompkins-Cortland Community College? And in what way am I wrong? Which of these songs denotes my clear inferiority, which shall lead to your song list crushing mine like so many grapes held in the hydraulically driven hand of your fabrication robot?

Go on. Prove me wrong, Silent Bob. For if you do not... then soon... I... will... rule... the world.

Of mad scientist mix tape creation.

Look, start small.


You're going to want Handlebars by Flobots, I think.

The entire arc goes from simple joy in youthful intelligence and competence and 'look what I can do!' through increasing frustration with not being able to control the world despite being better than everyone into sheer madness and threats against the entire world, with a musical track to go with it.

There's also a really good Doctor Who vid set to it.

Yeah, I can totally see Handlebars on the list.

Two words, Eric.

(Well, OK, first, these two: "Welcome back.")

But now:

Seanan McGuire.

The best fits, I think, work from a different angle: there's Maybe It's Crazy, What A Woman's For, not to mention two Narbonic songs...and a whole bunch of thematic, horror-movie ones.

Good list.
The Boomtown Rats' "I don't like Mondays" would also be on my mix tape.

And all the playing's stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with the toys a while
And school's out early and soon we'll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die
And then the bullhorn crackles
And the captain tackles
(With the problems of the how's and why's)
And he can see no reasons
'Cos there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die, die?
Oh Oh Oh

Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why
I don’t like
I don’t like (Tell me why)
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why
I don’t like
I don’t like (Tell me why)
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why
I don't like Mondays
I wanna shoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oot the whole day down

Paul & Storm recently took a turn aping Coulton's style for the Song Fu contest. The result, a mad science song about making the perfect girl by stitching together cadavers, is a note-perfect parody. It's called "Live", and I suggest you check it out if you haven't already.

Alice Cooper, from "Welcome To My Nightmare" has a perfect example.

It's Vincent Price's opening monologue to The Black Widow:

Leaving lepidoptera...Please, don't touch the display, little boy, aha cute! Moving to the next aisle we have arachnida, the spiders, our...finest collection. This friendly little devil is the heptothilidi, unfortunately harmless. Next to him, the nasty licosa raptoria, his tiny fangs cause creeping ulcerations of the skin (laugh). And here, my prize, the Black Widow. Isn't she lovely?...And so deadly. Her kiss is fifteen times as poisonous as that of the rattlesnake. You see her venom is highly neurotoxic, which is to say that it attacks the central nervous system causing intense pain, profuse sweating, difficulty in breathing, loss of consciousness, violent convulsions and, finally...Death. You know what I think I love the most about her is her inborn need to dominate, possess. In fact, immediately after the consummation of her marriage to the smaller and weaker male of the species she kills and eats him...(laugh) oh, she is delicious...And I hope he was! Such power and dignity ...unhampered by sentiment. If I may put forward a slice of personal philosophy, I feel that man has ruled this world as a stumbling dimented child-king long enough! And as his empire crumbles, my precious Black Widow shall rise as his most fitting successor!

One of my favorites is not strictly mad science, but its narrative function is exactly parallel to "Brand New Day." "Ephiphany" from Sweeney Todd. The moment when Sweeney turns his back on humanity and becomes an implacable instrument of vengeance. (I'm abandoning blockquote, my HTML is rusty and I'm lazy.)

"Not one man, no, nor ten men.
Nor a hundred can assuage me
I will have you!

And I will get him back even as he gloats
In the meantime I'll practice on dishonorable throats.
And my Lucy lies in ashes
And I'll never see my girl again.

But the work waits!
I'm alive at last!
And I'm full of joy!"

There are two They Might Be Giants songs I'd recommend. The first is more strictly focused on megalomania ("Kiss Me, Son of God") but the second ("No One Knows My Plan") is pure mad science:

"In my prison cell I think these words
I was careless
I can see that now
I must be silent
Must contain my secret smile
I want to tell you
you my mirror
you my iron bars..."

On one of the Powerpuff Girls albums, Bis has a song called "Fight the Power," and it occupies Mojo Jojo's spot on the CD:

"Up on the mountain
I'll be counting
...days 'til we meet again
Get my revenge
We'll never be friends
...i'll keep building up my brain
Just watch your back
For my next attack never know when i'll strike
Could be today
Don't get in my way'll see what you'll never like"

The other CD (the City of Soundsville) has a track called "Mojo Jojo," and it is his theme music overlaid with various applicable quotes ("Curses, curses, curses!").

Those would be my musical picks. As I'd mentioned on the CoH forums, if you're in need of mad scientist reading Soon I Will Be Invincible earns my highest praise. Also high-five on Eli as a portent of something dark.

Looking through my current selection on my ipod-alike that meet two or more of your criteria:
- brilliance and hubris, with a side order of a pain that can't ever be alleviated
- frantic energy
- the certainty, the terrible surety of their quest or cause
- with an edge -- a sense that something isn't quite right in the world
- if the songs are enthusiastic, they shouldn't be happy
- a sense of defiance

* When I am King - Great Big Sea
also "Consequence Free"

* Don't Stop - ATB
Wonderful dichotomy between "Don't. Stop!" and "Don't Stop!"

* Slave Girl - Goo Goo Dolls

* Shackles - Mary Mary (Calderone Big Room Mix)

* Yakety Sax - Benny Hill

* Shut Up - Black Eyed Peas (DJ River Sodium Mix)

* Star Wars Imperial March (Leviathan) - David Levison

* Down with the Sickness - Disturbed
Hard to pick just one Disturbed song... so many of them would be great for this list. Like: "Sons of Plunder", "Stupify", "Fear", or "Stricken"

* Hotel California - Eagles
A man trapped in his own personal hell. And it all sounds so pleasant

* Bring me to Life - Evanescence
("Broken" might also be a good choice, the cover by "Seether" is good)

* Still Alive (feat. Ellen McLain) - Jonathan Coulton
I'm surprised you picked "Skullcrusher Mountain" over this one
Another nice choice (in the Christmas season) would be "Chiron Beta Prime"

* 45 - Shinedown

* Unglued - Stone Temple Pilots

* Something Different (feat. Chali) - DJ Z-Trip
(another good choice might be "Doin' It Like This (feat. Clutch)"

* White and Nerdy - Weird Al

Two instrumental tracks that always give me that vibe are "Powerhouse" by the Raymond Scott Quintette--you'll recognize it from its appearance in the background of many a classic Warner Bros. cartoon--and the version of the Duke Ellington tune "Blue Bubbles" that Don Byron and Uri Craine perform as a clarinet/piano duet on the album Bug Music, as marvelously bi-polar a piece of music as I've ever come across.


It's cheesy, but for getting my megalomania engine firing it's gotta be Queen's "Gimme The Prize (Kurgan's Theme)" from Highlander, complete with movie clips and explosions.

I am the one, the only one
I am the god of kingdom come
Gimme the prize!

This should be a playlist on so we could rock out without owning all of these songs :)

I'd like to propose Ben Folds Five's "One Angry Dwarf (and 200 Solemn Faces)". Although I'm sure Ben Folds meant it as the tale of a nerd who made it big as an adult in more conventional ways, its bitter ranting works just as well if the nerd built a robot army to take Washington.

I can credit thinking of this one because someone put it to clips of Syndrome from "The Incredibles", and it just fit him so well...

You'll be sorry one day
Yes you will, yes you will
You shouldn't push me around
'Cause I will, yes I will
You will be sorry when I'm big
Yes you will be sorry

Now I'm big and important
One angry dwarf
Two hundred solemn faces are you
If you really wanna see me
Check your papers and the TV
Look who's telling who what to do
Kiss my ass good-bye

If you would spare another moment for Jonathan Coulton, perhaps the song, "The Future Soon" would be better suited to the mad science vibe.

"I'll probably be some kind of scientist
Building inventions in my space lab in space
I'll end world hunger I'll make dolphins speak
Work through the daytime, spend my nights and weekends
Perfecting my warrior robot race "

My vote's for "Fixing a Hole", by The Beatles:

I'm filling the cracks that ran through the door
And kept my mind from wandering
Where it will go
And it really doesn't matter if I'm wrong
I'm right
Where I belong I'm right
Where I belong.
See the people standing there who disagree and never win
And wonder why they don't get in my door.

We've got willful isolation, industriousness borne of frustration, brooding introspection, and a dash of self-righteousness. Plus, the music starts with a bit o' the ol' harpsichord — preferred instrument of classy mad scientists everywhere.

First song that comes to mind is FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC off the Final Fantasy 8 OST. That's how my geek rolls.

After that, actually, is Meatloaf's "life is a lemon and I want my money back" (lyrics).

Then it's into some Final Fantasy Advent Children instrumental fight tracks.

What? Did you just call New Jersey banal? My home state has probably got the highest concentration of lunatics and mental ward cases in the country. Heck, I'm living proof (how many other people do you know with an Evil Twin-in-law?). I can accept seeing New Jersey being called irradiated, undereducated, toxic, and forever wishing it was something else (for the northern half, New York; for the southern half, Pennsylvania/Philly). But banal? Oh, it's on like Voltron, Mr. Burns-White.

Now, for a mad science mix tape... I suppose, me being me, I'll throw out the obligatory "For Science" by TMBG (I think I'd have to relinquish this screen name if I didn't mention it first). Though I think "Prevenge" could sneak on there, for the whole "They mocked me, but I'll show them all!" vibe it has. As a video gamer, I'll also throw on one non-vocal video game track - "Magus - Dance With Death" from Chrono Trigger (which is heard most notably when he tries to summon an alien parasite literally eating the Earth).

Oh, one more obvious choice - "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". But just to differentiate myself from all the other evil geniuses, I'll use the Great Big Sea cover.

Oh, we have to have "25 O'Clock" - either the original Dukes of Stratosphear version (that's XTC's side project due to a contract dispute, for those curious), or the TMBG cover of same (since I don't want to go too overboard, I'll choose the original).

One more for now... "Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon" by The Flaming Lips. Partly because something from the album "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" needs to be on there, and partly because the random screaming really adds to the ambiance.

How Dare They, Eef Barzelay (of Clem Snide).

"The sound of laughing chidren's all you hear
And when you clap your hands, the sun appears
The stars must wait in line
How dare they crash the party in your mind

Creatures of the forest great and small
Transcribe your every word in bathroom stalls
Who will pay the fine?
How dare they crash the party in your mind

With great indifference you regard their fate
You drink sweet wine as peasants storm the gates
A nickel for two dimes
How dare they crash the party in your mind"

A lot of his stuff has this really... strange quality to it. I can't pin it down. A really unique perspective, anyway. "Something Beautiful", if you can find it, is sortof relevant to the theme too. Also "Apocalyptic Friend" (which is on his MySpace is... well, maybe not all that relevant, but still worth a listen.

Also seconding 'One Angry Dwarf'.

Every time someone references Big O, I smile. Also Megas XLR. Pure fun. I need to find me some Megas DVDs.

I'm not going to say it's better or worse than Dr. Horrible, as it's from a different mad scientific milieu so the comparison would not really be valid, but for pure archetypal mad scientific brilliance you have got to get ahold of and watch Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still. Retrofuturistic pulp steampunk set in a 2030s world as seen from the 1930s. Giant robots with manual transmissions, and more mad scientistical goodness than at which a stick may be shaken.

Also, oddly enough, tonight and tomorrow one of the local theaters is doing a "midnight movie" showing.

The movie? Weird Science.

You know, that'd be much easier, PP, if they released Megas XLR on DVD. Sure, they'll slap frigging Ben 10: Alien Force on DVD faster than it takes for ink to dry on an animation cell, but be bothered to release Megas XLR at all? Noooo.... Couldn't have one of the best cartoons of the decade on DVD, now can we?

As you might tell, I'm a wee bit frustrated and bitter over its lack of DVD availability.

Also, forgot to throw it out there - at least according to BNL when they discussed the song in Barenaked In America, "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank" is about an actual incident involving a stalker and Anne Murray. So I'm going to take that as a primary source confirmation.

Oh, man, I've got close to a hundred songs on my mad-science playlist. Mind you, I tend to prefer my mad science more bouncy than vengeful. But maybe one of these would do it for you:

1. "Some Fantastic," Barenaked Ladies. When they sing, "To see the look upon your face/When I shot you into space," you know those weenies have got the right idea.

2. "Frankenstein" and "Fifty Years After the Fair," Aimee Mann. Okay, admittedly I mostly have the second one just because I'm a sucker for outdated futurism.

3. "Mastermind," the Divine Comedy. Starts slow, ends big and dark. I love this song.

4. "Wonder Wine," Shonen Knife. Adorable Japanese punk girls in homemade clothes drug and kidnap you for their experiments.

5. "Imitosis" and "Darkmatter," Andrew Bird. The latter, especially, seems to be exactly what you're looking for.

6. "I Wish I Had an Evil Twin," The Magnetic Fields. I have way too much Magnetic Fields. I'm so emo.

7. "Coin-Operated Boy," The Dresden Dolls. Obvious pick.

8. "Virtual Insanity," Jamiroquai. Also has a great asylum-themed video.

9. "Explode," Balthrop, Alabama. Another "the Earth is about to blow up and we couldn't be perkier about it" song.

10. The entire album Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies, by Of Montreal.

I would totally go with "No Spill Blood" as the Oingo Boingo entry on the list. It's the scientist's creations - the castoffs, perhaps - trying to find some sense in a world that they were not made well enough to understand, and building up a society as best they can, because they are the only ones that they can ever live among - and thus the greatest threat to each other.

Oddly, while not having the Sorkin connection, I agree with the sentiment of Eli's Coming. Perhaps it was because I heard it fairly young and didn't understand the lyrics until some time later. Perhaps it's because my first exposure to the song was a cover by a capella group The Nylons (from their live album Four on the Floor). I find their version both more haunting and more frenetic than the original. I'd encourage you to have a listen.

Also for your consideration:
"Dangerous" by Doug and the Slugs

Would you take another look at me if I were dangerous?
Would you take another shot at me if I were fool enough?
To build you a dynasty,
Inside of my head,
I'd have you rely on me,
Drag you around on the floor by the hair on your head.
I'm not ready for all of those passionate schemes you have in mind,
And you ain't ready for my kind

"Black Moon" by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
Very much a rant on the declining state of the world. Destruction is on the doorstep and we sit waiting for it to arrive. But, as the verses continue (and the song's tone becomes more frantic) you get the sense that maybe the singer is ready to provide his own solution, however dark.

Just take a look around the world
The future never waits
We're skating on the thin ice
And we're in the hands of fate
What we need's a little re-direction
To find our blue lagoon
You know it wouldn't come
A moment to soon
Black Moon

"Monsters" by Matchbook Romance
Punk, and kind of cliche. But it has a great driving hook.

"Wizard Needs Food Badly" by Five Iron Frenzy
It's kind of a reversal of the theme. But the video is awesome, and has many mad science elements.

I'll take your word for it that "They're Coming to Take Me Away" is well-known enough that you didn't need to include it on your list- I don't listen to too many mad scientist songs or They Might Be Giants, and I've heard of the song, so I can accept that it is well-known. But it still seems to fit your criteria fairly well. There's the single line, repeated like a mantra, spinning further out of control with every recitation, making the narrator sound progressively less cute and more demented with each line, and somehow more empowered.

This might seem contradictory, considering that the song is about someone awaiting imminent imprisonment, but the looked-for "nice young men in their clean white coats" never materialize, and as the song progresses into madness, the reality of "the funny farm" disappears. The singer has found an escape into madness, and his increasingly strained and distorted voice reflects the cost.

"Paranoid Android" by Radiohead. The narrator of the song mentions taking over ("When I am king, you will be first against the wall"), but it seems like he would prefer that everyone would just die so that he could get some peace and quiet. No science, unless you count 'android' in the title, but plenty of mad to make up for it.

My own list probably won't include a lot of true 'mad science' songs, but I'll try to at least make them connect:

Apotheosis: "Last Midnight", from Stephen Sondheim's 'Into the Woods'

It's the last midnight
It's the boom-splat
Nothing but a vast midnight
Everybody smashed flat

Nothing you can do
Not exactly true
You can always give her the boy

No, of course, what matters is the blame
Someone you can blame
Fine if that's the thing you enjoy
Placing the blame
If that's the aim
Give me the blame

Just give me the boy

She disappears at the end of the song -- she knows at the start that she's going to disappear at the end of the song -- yet she can't stop trying to push for her ultimate triumph. If that's not mad ambition in the face of utter disaster, I can't name it.

Revenge: "All I Ask of You" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Phantom of the Opera'

Not the whole song -- the first three-quarters is a fairly standard love ballad between the ingenue and hero. Then you realize the Phantom has been listening to the entire thing...

I gave you my music
Made your soul take wing
And now, how you've repaid me
Denied me and betrayed me

He was bound to love you
When he heard you sing

'Thanks to me', the Phantom is saying, 'you're irresistable.' And he vows his revenge, breaking back into one of the great mad musical themes of all time.

Mad Understanding: "Defying Gravity" from 'Wicked'

Glinda: You can have all you ever wanted
Elphaba: (spoken) I know.
(sung) But I don't want it
(sung) I can't want it

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes
And leap

Glinda, of course, has a line in the midst of this -- 'Can't I make you understand/You're having delusions of grandeur' -- but the real topper is the moment at which it seems as though the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the North might just team up...

(And yeah, I'm noticing the showtune theme -- don't worry, that'll change.)

Atrocity: "Eat the Rich", Aerosmith

Because I'm sick of your complaining
About how many bills
And I'm sick of all your bitching
'Bout your poodles and your pills
And I just can't see no humor
About your way of life
And I think I can do more for you
With this here fork and knife

The 'protagonist' of the song later calls his 'head-shrinker', who basically tells him that he's doing OK - I hope you have some fun.

From Inadequacy to Greatness: "Eight Easy Steps", Alanis Morissette

How to stay paralyzed by fear of abandonment
How to defer to men in solvable predicaments
How to control someone to be a carbon-copy of you
How to have that not work and have them run away from you

How to keep people at arm's length and never get too close
How to mistrust the ones you supposedly love the most
How to pretend you're fine and don't need help from anyone
How to feel worthless unless you're serving or helping someone

I'll teach you all this
In eight easy steps
Course of a lifetime
You'll never forget
I'll teach you how-to
In eight easy steps
I'll show you how leadership looks
When taught by the best

Isn't the mad genius someone we not only look up to, but also tend to forget is fundamentally inadequate? (After all, it's the inadequacy that drives them to 'greatness', isn't it?)

The Descent into Madness: "Nash Descends Into Parcher's Dark World", from the 'A Beautiful Mind' soundtrack

No lyrics, but an amazing piece of music that's actually more effective within the context of the movie -- hearing the whine of radio receivers just out of tune and the mutterings of secret conversations almost but not quite intelligible adds tremendously to the sense of growing madness implied by this piece. And of course, the conviction that there's a specific job and only I can do that job is the manna for any truly mad person, scientist or otherwise.

I'd concur with the poster above who recommends 'Down with the Sickness', except that the only version of the song I've ever heard is Richard Cheese's cover of the song, sung as a lounge song in the remake of 'Dawn of the Dead'. Though fittingly the song is altogether more evil as a lounge song, the 'madness' vibe, to a degree, is lost in the translation.

I see "Into the Woods" and Phantom and even Sweeny Todd, but no one else thinks "Jekyl & Hyde"?

Another vote for "Epiphany", from Sweeney Todd. For the most amazing rendition, I recommend finding a DVD of George Hearn in the title role (either the broadway production or the concert version):

They all deserve to die!
Tell you why, Mrs Lovett, tell you why.
You see in all of the whole human race, Mrs Lovett
There are two kinds of men and only two.
There's the one staying put in his proper place,
And the one with his foot in the other one's face,
Look at me, Mrs Lovett, look at you!

No we all deserve to die.
Even you, Mrs Lovett, even I.
Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief,
For the rest of us death will be a relief.
We all deserve to die!

Also "The World Has Gone Insane", from the aforementioned Jekyll & Hyde:

The world has gone beserk,
And hiding in the murk new monsters lurk!
I see a sea of snakes upon the floor,
I see the reaper grinning at my door.
I scream in silence:
Bad is good and good is bad,
Sacred is profane,
And it's wiser to be mad,
In a world that's gone insane.

And The Engineer, singing "The American Dream" from Miss Saigon:

Businessmen never rob banks,
You can sell s**t and get thanks,
That's what I learned from the yanks.

I'm fed up with small time hustles,
I'm too good to waste my talent for greed.
I need room to flex my muscles,
In an ocean where the big sharks feed.
Make me yankee, they're my family,
They're selling what people need!

Also, my favourite lyrics from Into the Woods, (specifically "The Last Midnight"):

You're so nice!
You're not good, you're not bad,
You're just nice!

I'm the witch.
I'm not good, I'm not nice,
I'm just RIGHT!

Alice Cooper springs to mind as having a few possibilities... though I think I'd have to agree with the Weasel King that "The Black Widow" is probably best for directly referencing mad science. Still, on my personal mix, I'd be inclined to replace or at least supplement it with "Guilty" from the "Alice Cooper Goes to Hell" album. It's not very madness related on its own, but it has that same defiance for established authority:

I like driving too fast
Love going too far
It seems the law's on my ass every time I stick it out of the door
If you call that guilty then that's what I am
I'm guilty
I'm guilty

Alternately, if one wants to emphasize the madness, "Wind-Up Toy" off of his "Hey Stoopid" album does that pretty well:

But now I'm all smiles
the good little shots must be winning
Yes, they crank my dial
My motor is stalled but my wheels are still spinning
Daddy won't discuss me
What a state I must be
Mommy couldn't stand living with a wind-up toy

Moving on to a different artist, the Alan Parsons project with "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether":

Just what you need to make you feel better
Just what you need to make you feel
Just what you need to make you feel better
Just what you need to make you feel...
At the far end of your tether
And your thoughts won't fit together
So you sleep light or whatever
And the night goes on forever
The you might change like the weather
You're in need of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether

Blue Oyster Cult is a source of several potential ones; my picks would be "Workshop of the Telescopes" off of their self-titled album:

By silverfish imperetrix, whose incorrupted eye
Sees through the charms of doctors and their wives
By salamander, drake, and the power that was undine
Rise to claim Saturn, ring and sky
By those who see with their eyes closed
you'll know me by my black telescope

And "The Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle at Wisseria" off their hard-to-find "Imaginos" album:

On the terminal point
Of the cul-de-sac
Patients are dying
The horses are dazed
From the glare of stars
The starry wisdom
Owned by the Baron
And he's got the cure
A drug by the name of World Without End
A drug by the name of World Without End
A drug by the name of World Without End

Speaking of Frankenstein, I'd also include the song of that name by the Edgar Winter Group.

Oh, going over the list a bit more and expanding to "right kind of madness," we have another obvious pick - "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads. If nothing else, the French lines should earn it inclusion:

"Réalisant mon espoir/
Je me lance vers la gloire..."

(Translation: Realising my hopes, I throw myself towards glory)

If that's not mad science in a nutshell, what is?

I didn't see Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog until about two weeks after part three went up on the 'net and my friendslist was full of comments of surprise at the ending. Once I'd seen it myself, this reaction struck me as the same sort of naivete in things Whedon I said Scott Kurtz exhibited about the theatrical movie Serenity (as opposed to the tv pilot movie Serenity). Kurtz said any planned (and now abandoned) followups must be prequels since [the movie's been on DVD three years and I'm still afraid to include a spoiler in a Websnark comment]. Joss Whedon does that sort of thing to his tv series characters every season finale - Serenity wasn't the patch for Firefly's series finale, it was the patch for Firefly's season one finale. What makes people think Whedon wouldn't do the same thing in a three-episode standalone web drama?

Mad science music? Uh, sorry, I got nothing.

"Poison Flowers" by Mono Puff (TMBG's John Flansburgh's side project) is sort of a love song from one aspiring mad scientist to another.

Who's gonna wear my sandals
Stained with cherry soda?
(We will, we will, we will)
Who's going to ride my bike
When I'm back in school?
Who's going to build my death ray?
Who's going to build my death ray,
And grow poison flowers...
Poison flowers with me?

Who's going to steal the row boats
From the lifeguard's station?
(We will, we will, we will)
Who'll type manifestos
At my summer job?
Who's going to build my bomb?
Who's going to build my bomb,
And grow poison flowers...
Poison flowers...
Poison flowers...
Poison flowers with me?

32 - Yes, that does end up being the determining factor for most statements I make like that. Megas, Juniper Lee. Something else I can't remember right this moment.

Soul Coughing's got a couple of good choices; I'd maybe go with "Supra-Genius".

Will you shoot the blue Earth down?
In your space station, polishing a ray-gun
You say correlation is not causation

Also thematically appropriate: "Mis-Shapes" by Pulp.

Just put your hands up, it's a raid
We won't use guns, we won't use bombs
We'll use the one thing we've got more of
That's our minds

On a non-musical note, mad scientists are currently being redefined to something that, while not (usually) cute and fluffy, is definitely geek-positive. Just saying.

I have four recommendations; one song from One Ring Zero, one from Tom Waits, and two from Harry Chapin.

One Ring Zero's music can be worked into many parts of a mad scientists life. Their best mad scientist-style instrumental would probably be "Who Stole the Tarts".

Tom Waits has a perfect "Mad Scientist" voice: it comes out very strongly in the song Reeperbahn. It could easily be a song he'd sing to a protagonist upon their first meeting. Here's a snippet.

"Now if you've lost your inheritance
And all you've left is common sense
And you're not too picky about the crowd you keep
Or the mattress where you sleep
Behind every window, behind every door
The apple has gone but there's always the core
And the seeds will sprout up right through the floor
Down there in the Reeperbahn"

Harry Chapin has two songs fit for a mad scientist's iPod; the Rock and The Sniper.

The Rock is about a scientist who tries to do the world right only to be spurned by those he wants to help.

"'The rock is gonna fall on us.' He told the magistrates
"I believe that we can stop it but the time is getting late
You see I've done all the research my plans are all complete."
He was showing them contingencies when they showed him to the street

Just a madman--
Everybody knows the rock leans over the town
Everybody knows that it won't tumble to the ground
Everybody knows of those who say the end is near
Everybody knows that life goes on as usual round here"

The Sniper is pretty self-explanatory.

"You bug me, she said.
Your ugly, she said.
Please hug me, I said.
But she just sat there
With the same flat stare
That she saves for me alone
When I'm home.
When I'm home.
Take me home.

He laid out the rifles, he loaded the shotgun,
He stacked up the cartridges along the wall.
He knew he would need them for his conversation.
If it went as it he planned, then he might use them all.

He said Listen you people I've got a question
You won't pay attention but I'll ask anyhow.
I found a way that will get me an answer.
Been waiting to ask you 'till now.
Right now!"

I'm so saddened my favorite band of all time hasn't been mentioned. Must remedy that.

For mad scientist music, you must have mad scientists:

I'm so saddened my favorite band of all time hasn't been mentioned. Must remedy that.

For mad scientist music, you must have mad scientists:

I'm so saddened my favorite band of all time hasn't been mentioned. Must remedy that.

For mad scientist music, you must have mad scientists:

I'm so saddened my favorite band of all time hasn't been mentioned. Must remedy that.

For mad scientist music, you must have mad scientists:

I'm so saddened my favorite band of all time hasn't been mentioned. Must remedy that.

For mad scientist music, you must have mad scientists:

Sorry for the multiple post. I didn't know any of them was actually getting through until now...

Crime by Temposhark
Hell Or Holiday by Planetakis

I have several other songs that juice the adrenaline as well, but I think these are closer to theme.

Within Temptation's "Destroyed" is an interesting lament that works for the poor minon (or perhaps creation?), caught between her master "I did my best to please you, but my best was never good enough" and the public who ridicules and condemns the mad scientist "It's so easy to destroy and condemn the ones you do not understand, do you ever wonder if it's justified"...

And it's got a solid riff...

"We can believe that one of these intensely intelligent people might go too far -- push too hard... learn too much, delve into things best left undelved, and lose their mind in an arrogant belief that they can force the world to yield its secrets and bend to his whim. As with Faust in an earlier incarnation, we're willing to accept that something supremely dangerous and horrifying lies just beyond the pale, and those who seek after knowledge with too great a fervor will be consumed by it."

It's not just that, but the fact that there are genuine mad scientists in real life. Tesla and John Nash being pretty prominent.

Benjamin Franklin wasn't one, though the pop-culture urban legend of him flying a kite during a lightning storm (not quite what happened) makes him seem that way.

Thomas Edison wasn't quite one either, though certain depictions make him seem a bit borderline.

And then there's the brilliant Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television (and almost-inventor of a working nuclear fusion reactor until his funding was cut off), who isn't a mad scientist either, but managed to accomplish a heck of a lot by himself.

So the trope is art imitating life to a certain extent.

I don't rank Edison as a scientist at all- at least no more so than Bill Gates is a computer programmer.

Both men were clever at using the work of others to get rich- and Edison was absolutely unscrupulous about taking credit at every turn, stealing whenever he could get away with it, and doing everything in his power to crush all competition.

Eh, he wasn't a scientist by my measure either, but that's primarily because he didn't deal much with theory. He was an inventor, though. While he was unscrupulous and took credit for a lot of things he didn't do, not every invention was someone else's work. If he'd dealt with theoretical science rather than practical application, he would still have been a scientist, even after stealing people's work.

Scientist isn't a title that gets stripped away for misconduct. It's a role. I mean, it's like saying "Ernest Wumpfortle wasn't a baker. In his later career, he stole Jeremiah Frankenthal's cake recipe!" One must presume that at one point, at least, ol' Ernest conducted some bakery. Thus, he was a baker. Edison invented things. He was an inventor. If he'd done science, he'd be a scientist. Later activity doesn't change that.

This is not to say, of course, that Edison was necessarily an admirable person. The guy was an asshole. But to say that prevents him from having been a scientist is nonsensical.

Sorry for the rant. It just bugged me a bit. More on topic, how about the song Twilight, by the Electric Light Orchestra? That's got some definite mad qualities. Sort of like the euphoric upswing of a mad scientific episode.

And finally, remember the difference, please, between mad scientists and mad doctors. Frankenstein was not a mad scientist. He was a doctor. Mad scientists meddle in That Which Man Was Not Meant to Know. Mad doctors meddle in God's Domain. Related but distinct disciplines, gentlemen.

One more suggestion from me, "I Am the I Am", by Jackyl:

I am now where I wanna be No longer under your rule, your thumb, I am now free I am now in touch with me I now walk the walk, I rule, I am now free . And now you take a number Now you get in line 'Cause you don't live in your life Now you live in mine

That little twist from independence to megalomania makes me think it works very well for a mad scientist mix.

Oh man, I love "Straw Hat & Dirty Old Hank", especially the live version of Rock Spectacle. Also anything by Warren Zevon. Though I can't think of a better 'mad science' song than the one listed, I would direct anyone to check out the live version of "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" on the Learning to Flinch album, it's much more brooding and epic than the original studio version.

The eternal Thompson gunner
still wandering through the night
Now it's ten years later but he still keeps up the fight
In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley
Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland's Thompson gun and bought it

Posted by Shaenon:
1. "Some Fantastic," Barenaked Ladies. When they sing, "To see the look upon your face/When I shot you into space," you know those weenies have got the right idea.

4. "Wonder Wine," Shonen Knife. Adorable Japanese punk girls in homemade clothes drug and kidnap you for their experiments.

My favorite line from "Some Fantastic":
I don't like to wait in line long, so I built a new machine
It just measures up the distance, and then eliminates the folks between

And I might throw in Shonen Knife's "Explosion" as well

"Fake Palindromes" by Andrew Bird (which was introduced to me by Shaenon Garrity's Narbonic playlist>/a>).

And she says I like long walks and sci-fi movies
You're six foot tall and East Coast bred
Some lonely night we can get together
And I'm gonna tie your wrists with leather
And drill a tiny hole into your head

Also, Skullcrusher Mountain may be a fan favorite, but Jonathan Coulton's "(It's Gonna Be) The Future Soon" is an equally strong entry in the mad science category, though it's more an origin story.

Hmmm. Going old-school here for my first pick, with "The Knife" by Genesis, off of their ancient Trespass album. Not much science, but it is explicitly from the point of view of someone attempting a violent totalitarian revolution:

Soon we'll have power, every soldier will rest
And we'll spread out our kindness to all who our love now deserve
...Some of you are going to die
Martyrs of course to the freedom which I will provide

My next pick is 10cc's "I Want to Rule the World," from How dare You!, which is a bit singsong in its delerium, but is quite explicit in its Mad Science:

So wait for my army of kiddy-winkies, and terrible tiny tots In armored school buses, firing poison pea-shooters And sinking their milk-teeth into your thighs: Delapsus resurgam! When I fall, I shall rise

My third pick is going to have to wait until I can think of it.

Hmm. That first blockquote worked perfectly. The second, theoretically equivalent one, did not. Go figure.

When I Rule the World, I shall have my minions take care of that sort of thing.

32: Evil Twin-in-law? That's going to require an explanation.

I do like Virtual Insanity, but admittedly I never considered it a mad-scientist-ish kind of song.

Come to think of it, Gilbert & Sullivan's I am a Model of a Modern Major-General would be something of a precursor to the plethora of Mad-Scientist songs. But maybe that's stretching it.

Well, the full story would be a full-on threadjack, Miyaa (if you want, dig up my email and I'll give it to you there). The basics are this: my wife has a fraternal twin brother. They were seperated at birth, and she didn't even learn about him until college. After college, she found him, and they reuinted for the first time since they were about three months old. And evil might be a bit strong of a word - but he is rather amoral at times, and he is fond of growing the official facial hair of evil twins, the goatee. So I refer to him as my wife's evil twin, or my evil twin-in-law.

To show what kind of guy he is, he loves it.

The point of "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General" is that he's an idiot. Many of the things he knows are simple references that everyone in Gilbert's audience would have known as well. The final verse makes it clear that he knows absolutely nothing about actual military matters -- he claims to be unable to tell the difference between a rifle and a javelin, for instance.

So, yeah, I think it's a stretch as a mad scientist song.

In retrospect, I think I overstated the case. It's not that Major-General Stanley is an idiot as such, it's that he's absolutely useless as a military commander.

I know it's mostly a social critique of our blood-lust media-driven voyeur culture, but there's something about Tool's "Vicarious" (from the album "10,000 Days") that easily puts it on my mad-scientist playlist.

I'm suggesting it because there's some mad-man defiance in the singer's voice about accepting the joy of watching something or someone else suffer, a super-rational acceptance of a chaotic and amoral universe. I can also imagine parts of the song below as a villain's monologue explaining to a captured super-hero the futility of harnessing his powers for the betterment of mankind.

(btw, for full disclosure, I've snipped out some parts and just include the parts that I think fit the mold best, using "..." to mark where I've skipped a verse or a refrain ).

Eye on the TV
'Cause tragedy thrills me
Whatever flavor it happens to be...
That's my kind of story.
It's no fun till someone dies...

'Cause I need to watch things die
From a distance.
Vicariously, I live while the whole world dies.
You all need it too, don't lie!
Why can't we just admit it?!
Why can't we just admit it?!
We won't give pause until
The blood is flowing...

Credulous at best
Your desire to believe in
Angels in the hearts of men.
Pull your head on out
Your hippy haze and give a listen.
Shouldn't have to say it all again.
The universe is hostile.
So impersonal.
Devour to survive.
So it is.
So it's always been...

We all feed on tragedy...
Vicariously, I live while the whole world dies.
Much better you than I.

I can't say why I was avoiding Dr. Horrible. Honestly, I was so wrapped up with work this summer that I didn't even hear about it until Comic-Con, and we weren't intending to stay until the final panel. Since then I haven't really had the time, but your post finally got me over to the site to watch it.

And watch it again. And to put it on one more time as I write a terribly overdue paper. And bump it to the top of the list of things to do with the fiance this weekend.

Damn you, Burns-White!

(My Typekey login worked! Sweet!)

I'm surprised no one has mentioned "Frontier Psychiatrist" by the Avalanches yet. This twisted blend of samples is a song about mad genius as well as being madly ingenious itself. The rest of the "Since I Left You" album is amazing too, but very very different. Please, give it a listen!

Less obvious personal favourites that I've mentioned before in other discussions:

"Take a Bow" by Muse - Can be interpreted as a thinly-covered attack against Bush and Blair; or the repressed psyche of a mad scientist in-the-making rising up gloriously and, finally, exploding with the full force that your speakers can deliver. ('You will burn in hell, yeah, you'll burn in hell for your sins!')

"Planet Telex" by Radiohead - A lot of Radiohead is good brain music but this one has that tinge of madness, with its distorted but dreamy keyboard chords over a very cheerful "everything is broken/everyone is broken". A good way to start the day.

Leonard Cohen's "First We Take Manhattan"

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I'm guided by a signal in the heavens
I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

My Hillside Thickets and Oingo Boingo choices probably would have been a bit more obvious. For the Thickets I'd choose "Big Robot Dinosaur", about a nerdy kid who gets picked on at school then comes home to find that his father has built a killer robot for him: "And then I said 'Father, oh father...let's kill some people!'". For Oingo Boingo, it'd definitely be "No Spill Blood" because it's actually about mad science, or at least the products thereof--specifically, the Island of Dr. Moreau (on the surface, at least).

The Math Song and No One Lives Forever are great songs though. The latter, I think, sums up the basic Oingo Boingo philosophy of whistling past the graveyard.

TMBG's "For Science" has that retro sci-fi aspect, but it's really more about cliche alien invasions and the Campbellian Hero than mad science. "Yes! I will date the girl from Venus / Flowers die and so will I / Oh, I will kiss the girl from Venus / FOR SCIENCE!"

As for Tom Waits, it's not exactly a song, but "What's He Building In There?" seems apropos.

I'm kind of surprised nobody has mentioned Dr. Steel yet. Mad scientist hip-hop is his whole schtick (and he's damn good at it). "Build The Robots" would work, but so would pretty much any of his tracks except for possibly "Land of the Lost".

Oh yeah, and "Virus" by Deltron (from Deltron 3030) would work too. It's about hacking rather than mad science, and Deltron Zero is supposed to be a freedom fighter rather than a prospective conqueror, but it definitely has the "I'll show them all" feel: "I wanna make a super virus / Strong enough to cause blackouts in every single metropolis / 'Cause they dont want to unify us / So fuck it, total anarchy and can't nobody stop us". Plus it has a sample of a mad scientist saying "The plan has been programmed into every one of my thousand rrrobots!"

Also, on the subject of geek positivity:

Ununnilium, I don't quite see how mad scientists would be geek positive, insofar as they suggest a portion of our population are idealists poking at the fragile edges of reality with the stick of science at best, or self-destructive madmen with labcoat fetishes bent on world conquest at worst. It doesn't quite paint geeks in the best light. Though, I suppose the prospect of having such abilities at one's disposal is somewhat empowering. Well done, I guess.

Or did you mean that mad scientists would be more well-disposed towards geeks? Fool! Do you think our shared love of Star Trek and vintage computer games will save you? All humanity will feel my wrath, no matter how many times they've read Heinlein or Asimov!

Coming a bit late to this party, so I dunno if anyone will actually read this, but...
"Titans of Our Time" by Iron Savior definitely has a mad science feel to it, even if the mad scientist is one with a heroic streak:

I hold the key to ultimate dream
The perfect construction
A perfect machine
I've designed
Stronger than strong
An invincible force
I'm the creator, I am the source
I'm the mind

I shall be one
One with the world
One with the sun
Up in the skies
I'll be encountering paradies

Savior machine
Creation of mine
We shall be unified, we'll be
Titans of our time
We shall observe
Protect and preserve
We shall be unified, we'll be
Titans of our time
You'll be mine

Devoted to science a seeker I am
Now I will bring freedom and justice
To man
Up in the sky
I will be free
My spirit will fly
And by my hand
War shall be brought to an end

Savior machine

I'm leaving the body
I'm crossing the line
To be an immortal
I will be devine

Savior machine
Creation of mine
We shall be unified, we'll be
Titans of our time
We shall observe
Protect and preserve
We shall be unified, we'll be
Titans of our time
You'll be mine

Forged by the fire
That's burning in my heart
Savior, my destiny
I'm ready to depart
Make me the one
And set my spirit free
Make me fulfill the dream
In eternity

Set me free

How about "I'm Going Slightly Mad" by Queen? That seems to be only a few stops short of terrorizing the general populace with lasers.

"I'm knitting with only one needle
Unravelling fast it's true
I'm driving only three wheels these days
But my dear how about you?"

I've got to agree with "No One Knows My Plan" from TMBG and if you're looking for a Thomas Dolby song that's not "She Blinded Me With Science," how about "Hyperactive"?

At the tender age of three I was hooked to a machine Just to keep my mouth from spouting junk. Must have took me for a fool When they chucked me out of school 'Cause the teacher knew I had the funk. But tonight I'm on the edge - Fellas, shut me in the fridge 'Cause I'm burning up! (I'm burning up.) With the vision in my brain And the music in my veins And the dirty rhythm in my blood!

And for that Freudian psychologist coming in out of nowhere to ask, "Tell me about your childhood" or "Tell me again about...your mother."

Oooh, how could I forget "Twisted"?

"They laughed at A. Graham Bell
They all laughed at Edison
and also at Einstein
so why should I feel sorry
if they just didn't understand
the reasoning and the logic
that went on in my head?
I had a brain
it was insane
so I just let them laugh at me
when I refused to ride
on all those double-decker buses
because there was no driver on the top"

The version I'm most familiar with is off Bette Midler's self-titled. Good times.

Awesome concept for a song list. It's already clear to me that I'm going to have to hunt a bunch of those songs down... actually, I personally find that a lot of Jonathan Coulton's stuff has an undercurrent of basic pain and loneliness to it. I might also suggest "I Feel Fantastic", though I guess that's really more with the pain than it is with the threatening, as well as "The Future Soon".

Come to think of it, a lot of the songs off of Weezer's new album might also have the prerequisite amount of hubris. Maybe "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived"?... don't know. Don't know if Weezer fits your taste.

I am intrigued by this laptop heat ray.

No Tears for Fears? At a minimum, both "Shout" and "Everybody wants to rule the world" would seem to strike the right cord of obsession you're looking for.

I'm going to point at a song by The Protomen. Yes, it's MegaMan as dystopian cyberpunk rock opera, but one of the songs is not just mad sciencey, but bitter mad science - the one who tried, did not quite make it, and now believes humanity no longer deserves his help.

In the words of Protoman, speaking to humanity to explain himself to the new model, Megaman:

Tell me now, is there a man among you here,
Is there no one who will stand up and try to fight?
Tell me man, is there not one in all your ranks,
Is there no one who values courgage over life?

They looked to me once, now they turn to you
Do you understand now, do you see that the truth is
They don't want to change this, they don't want a hero
They just want a martyr, a statue to raise

I've given everything I can, there are no heroes left in man.

I'd recommend several songs by the power metal band Kamelot.

"Rule the World" makes for an excellent snapshot of what you might call Mad Science Puberty. . .

Sometimes I tremble
Like a little child
That faces morning
With a broken smile
Sometimes I crumble
When the shades unfurl
Sometimes I feel that
I could rule the world

"Soul Society" feels like a mad scientist ranting to a priest- equal parts indignant self-justification and admission to being fascinated by the underlying idea of concepts beyond human comprehension.

If my soul could revive
From my carnal remains
What does it matter to me
If it all fades to black
If I'm born once again
Then no one really is free
How could I be condemned
For the things that I've done
If my intentions were good
I guess I'll never know
Some things under the sun
Can never be understood

"Wings of Despair", on the other hand, feels like the Mad Scientist's answer to pathos in general, with a message of defiant ambition.

No one can see it
But you know that it's there
Guiding the steps of your soul
Holding the truth
In the cross that you bear
Die with a heart that is bold

And "Moonlight" makes for a great portrait of a conversation between a mad scientist and a former love interest- imagine Dr. Horrible ten or twenty years later if Penny hadn't been killed.

You cut the silence like a knife
At the edge of my last defenses
You cut the silence like a knife
You know I won't repent for all

Moonlight falling over me
Sail on where the shadows hide
Moonlight crawling down on me
Just like you could not compete with my pride

Got to second 10CC's 'I Wanna Rule the World'

Also - John Vanderslice's 'Exodus Damage' has to be added, it's a calmer, more measured song, but lyrically, there's that slight madness, and he sings it all so emotionlessly, it sounds rather chilling. The chorus, though, has to be the clincher.

Dance Dance Revolution All we're gonna get Unless it falls apart So I say: go, go, go, go down Let it fall down I'm ready for the end

Also, Atlas by Battles. Not only does it SOUND like a song to do mad science to, just consider the (barely audible) lyrics.

People won't be people when they hear this sound that's been glowing in the dark at the edge of the town

That's some mad science right there, surely?

Not that anyone's terribly surprised when I disappear for a little while here on the blog. At least this time it wasn't six weeks.


Whenever Eric disappears for any great length of time, I simply assume he's dead. This means that I can go on to acceptance, move on with my life, and then, when he returns, I have the feeling that I have witnessed a resurrection. Quite satisfying.

Now excuse me, I have to send a wreath to the widow Burns-White.

I wouldn't worry about that - Wednesday's been dead for years.

Another late post, yes... [sheepish look]

Seconded on First We Take Manhattan... I like the Jennifer Warnes cover, myself, it's got an edge to it.

Despite the title, I'm Going Slightly Mad is not what I'd pick for a Queen song; it's too mellow for what Eric described in the body, and doesn't have the drive he's looking for, I think. I'd gravitate more towards One Vision, We Are the Champions for a somewhat more 'wholesome' version of the theme, or Hammer to Fall if you want the angry feel. :)

Look, an even later post!

TMBG: I'd forgotten about "No One Knows My Plan." My brain went immediately to "Prevenge"...

Can you tell that I'm planning prevenge?
Read my mind, yes, I'm planning prevenge

...and "I'll Sink Manhattan."

I'll sink Manhattan
Right under the sea
I'll find the sweetest spot to watch
as it goes away
A river of tiny tears flow from your crocodile eyes
Too late to apologize, I say, as flood waters rise

I'll sink Manhattan
I'll sacrifice friends
I think they'd understand my plan
I'll never be sure

Oddly enough, another song that jumped to mind, which has no actual scientist content, is Tori Amos's "Suede". I'm not big on dissecting her lyrics, but on the gut level I totally pick up a sense of "My purpose transcends good and evil; I can't expect you to understand."

Call me evil,
Call me 'tide is on your side'
Anything that you want.
Everybody knows
You can conjure anything
By the dark of the moon.
And if you keep your silence, silencer on
You'll talk yourself right into a job
oh, little sister, you'll forgive me one day

I would have preferred to send this by e-mail, since I don't know if Mr Burns actually sees comments to older stuff...
...But I figured I ought to mention the existence of "Genius: The Transgression" (

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