Ricky’s ABC variety show Malibu U lasted a mere seven episodes in the summer of 1967, but they managed to cram in a ton of A-list music talent into that time, including the Doors, Marvin Gaye and Buffalo Springfield. But it’s the second episode, which aired on July 28th, that has become the stuff of legend in the world of world of geeks. Leonard Nimoy came on in full Spock regalia and lip-synced his new song “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.” It was the union of Star Trek and The Hobbit, and perhaps one of the most surreal moments of the Summer of Love.
Star Trek‘s first season had ended three months earlier, but it had already become a sensation. Dot Records was eager to cash in on signed Nimoy to a record deal despite his complete lack of music experience. Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space came out in June of 1967 featuring such memorable tunes as “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Earth” and “Lost In The Stars.” This was the exact same month that the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper, but it still managed to reach Number 83 on the Billboard album chart.
“The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” wouldn’t appear until the follow-up LP in 1968, but it was already in the can when the Malibu U appearance came around. Ricky Nelson portrayed the dean of the fictional Malibu University on the show, and every week musicians would stop by the school to play some tunes. Apparently, this also included aliens from the 23rd century with a strong interest in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. For years this amazing video was only available on bootleg VHS tapes traded around at Star Trek conventions, but here it is thanks to the magic of YouTube.
The surprise success of Leonard Nimoy’s musical career quickly lead to Decca Records giving William Shatner his own record deal. Never one to be upstaged, he upped the crazy factor of Nimoy’s album by cutting a psychotic spoken word rendition of “Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds” as if he were having some sort of bad LSD trip. It’s also become the stuff of nerd lore, though it loses some points because it didn’t find a way to incorporate another touchstone of geek culture.