The Space Camp Song!
Posted: March 12th, 2006
Creator: Brett Simon, Jeff Finley
There’s no background for Space Camp. Nothing happened prior to Space Camp. It is an epoch in time.
I was in sixth grade when this video premiered and it is among my most cherished early internet memories. I remember it being the top trending video on YouTube. The fact that it only has two million views today seems impossible. But then you must realize that, months after it was released, the most-subscribed-to YouTube channel was Smosh with… 2986 subscribers.
I don’t think this video was ever given the credit it deserved. There were other popular video sharing platforms at the time, but Jeff Finley’s decision to host it on YouTube provided a boost to the platform. Imagine being able to say that: we moved the needle… of YouTube’s popularity. Brent went on to become what I would consider the most famous guy on the internet for a brief time, even appearing on Jimmy Kimmel.
Now, there’s the fact that appearing on Jimmy Kimmel and appearing on Jimmy Kimmel in a spacesuit has satirical implications, but Brent ended up having a camera presence that I didn’t find to be goofy at all. Like, people were laughing with him. To me, he was the first crossover star. The first time that the media machine plucked an unknown guy on the internet who had talent and introduced him to a mainstream audience.
Further, Finley’s later videos documenting Brent Simon’s life, including him playing Space Camp on a keyboard in Walmart, are among the oldest surviving examples of what we now refer to as vlogs. In fact, Finley and Simon may be able to lay claim to inventing the “… in Walmart” video genre.
Brent Simon’s Space Camp is the purest video to ever appear on the internet.
Jeff Finley is one of Brent Simon’s close friends from Ohio. He used to own the websites thewetcat.com and Nerdpunk.com, but has since branched off into an eponymous site. Without going too deep into it, most members of this crew seemed to be fun-loving, musical, nerdy, creative guys who were lightyears ahead of the game back in 2006. I’m oversimplifying, but they never attempted to commercialize it. Brent ended up releasing an album, Finley has continued to do his thing, and that’s that.
Finley’s video editing and animation capabilities are important to note because back in 2005/2006, these were extremely rare skills. Not only was he using unique title pages, transitions, subtitles in his videos, but he also designed primitive animations that were displayed at the end of Space Camp. Finley published his first video on December 21st, 2005.
Brent Simon is a keyboard player, vocalist, and self-styled nerd. The story behind Space Camp, as I understand it, is that Brent had a band, he quit the band, and at some point, Jeff Finley asked him to help make some short videos and upload them to the internet. One of those songs was Space Camp, which Brent had written after attending space camp as a kid.
Space Camp is a brilliantly composed piece blending satirical realism with cosmic synthpop. Like the more crude Big Booty Bitches released several years later to similar success, the video of the song performed live boosts its listenability by a significant amount.
First of all, the video is only two minutes and five seconds long. It was an early pioneer in the formula for successful YouTube videos–fit for purpose, short, and rewatchable.
It starts with no introduction, just a closeup of the LCD of Brent’s synthesizer as the drum track begins. Five seconds in, the camera has panned out to show a full view of a 28-year-old(?) Brent Simon ripping the keys in his computer room with a classic monitor and junk strewn about. This is the quintessential image of early-aughts nerd.
Thirty seconds in and we have liftoff. Finley has adjusted the camera angle to show Brent with a classic astronaut poster in the background–clearly not a prop–just as he belts out “At Space Camp excitement did abound–I flew so high with-out leaving the ground–in the simulator I-broke the speed of sound–the multi-axis trainer flipped me around.”
All these years later, I can’t place what’s so good about this refrain. It is a serious song in that outer space is cool. Space camp is cool. But the playful, Candyland-esque melody combined with Brent’s cracking and inflective delivery leaves you just as amused as you are entertained.
In the second short verse, Brent’s lyrics are, simply, good. He then breaks into the refrain again–a little too much oscillation compared to the first time–but then we get something quite special. He breaks down into righteous melody as Finley’s primitive animation of a younger, overweight Brent wearing an “I survived anorexia” shirt is superimposed onto the screen and dances to the beat. Then, there are a few classic, some iconic, space-related images where Brent’s picture is pasted in.
This last segment is significant because it marks the changing of the guard. The transition from eBaums/Funnyjunk/JibJab flash animation to real-life talent showcase. More amateurs were getting access to cameras, and so videos of things happening in real life would soon take over. If only we knew.
Thank you, Mr. Simon and Mr. Finley, for your contributions to the early internet.