I’ve been a victim of an earworm for the past week – not some freak insect-related accident, but a piece of music that’s continually repeating in my head. It seemed to come from nowhere, its lingering melody and emotional lyrics speaking to me as if from a dream, and it’s slowly pulling me down a dark descent into madness. I can’t make out all of the words but those I can hear haunt my soul:
Hold my hand very tightly, very tightly, very tightly… Hold my hand very tightly, oooooh…
Let me explain. My other half was playing Lumo recently while I was drafting a post for Later Levels, so I had one eye on his game and the other on my laptop. This title is a contemporary-take on the isometric-platformer and can be enjoyed by anyone looking for a challenging adventure; but if you’re an older game who lived through the 80s and early 90s, you’ll notice layer upon layer of nods to the ‘golden age’ of video games.
At one point early on, he directed his character into an elevator to ride upwards into the starry skies and on to the next part of the level – and it’s the music that played while this was happening which has been haunting me for the past several days. A bit of quick research revealed it’s from a song called Hold My Hand Very Tightly (unsurprisingly) by Whistlin’ Rick Wilson, along with an interesting backstory.
In the late 80s, 8-bit computer magazines recorded games onto cassettes and then attached it to their front cover so Spectrum and Commodore 64 owners could experience the demos for themselves. Dave Wilson was a staff member at Your Sinclair at the time and, when he and a friend went to a party wearing stick-on side-burns and chest wigs, his crooning alter-ego was born.
Wilson’s flatmate Jim Wellman was a budding musician who had recently come into possession of a Teak six-track portable recording studio. It wasn’t long before the guys decided to record their own song: a tribute to the manufactured pop by Kylie, Jason and the like which was clogging up the charts. Wellman knocked together the music while Wilson wrote and performed the lyrics, and the resulting single was a minor classic.
This explains why Your Sinclair took up valuable space on issue 44’s cover-tape in August 1989 with a Rick-Astley-style tune badly warbled by a man with sideburns ‘that would shame Englebert Humperdink’. Its lyrics were printed in Smash Hits and the song was even played on Radio 1 after a listener called Phillip Schofield’s show and made a request. Sadly for Whistlin’ Rick though, it was his only outing in the charts and his one brush with fame.
Lumo was released in May 2016 and the use of Hold My Hand Very Tightly is one of many old-school references added by creator and industry-veteran Gareth Noyce. A line in the title’s trailer explains that being lost isn’t scary because it’s an adventure, and this sums it up nicely: players take control of a child wizard as they work their way through over 400 rooms. They’ll encounter traps and puzzles as they try to find their way out of the castle they’ve become lost in, while uncovering secrets and lovely little references to the golden age of gaming.
Be warned though because as charming as it looks, it’s pretty tough. I eventually lost count of how many times my other-half’s character died during his playthrough! The other thing that’s tough is getting rid of this damn earworm – I have a feeling that Whistlin’ Rick’s dulcet tones are going to be with me for a while yet.