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Music / The Ink Spots

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"I don't wanna set the world on fire, honey..."
Bill Kenny sings a song associated in the popular consciousness with something that wouldn't be invented for another four years.

The Ink Spots were a hugely popular and influential musical group active for 20 years (193454) who were an important forerunner of later rock and roll, doo-wop and rhythm & blues acts, as well as one of the first all-black musical groups to gain widespread popularity with white listeners.

Though their biggest hit, "If I Didn't Care" became a "Mister Sandman" Sequence staple in movies, the group had mostly faded into obscurity in the decades since they went their separate ways in 1954, but that all changed in 2008 when several of their songs were included on the soundtracks to the wildly popular video games Fallout 3 (their song "Maybe" had already been used for the opening and closing cutscenes of the first game, but it was 1997 and computer games weren't quite "mainstream" just yet) and BioShock (followed soon after by their immediate sequels). This established them as the go-to guys for any video game looking to create a "retro" atmosphere, whether taking place in mid-20th century Film Noir times or said era's vision of the future and they've appeared in many titles from different publishers since.

As an aside, only one of the members of the actual band, Huey Long (no relation), lived to see any of this revived popularity, dying in 2009 at the ripe old age of 105.

The Ink Spots give us examples of the following:

  • Large and in Charge: Bill Kenny, the band's lead singer, had to be at least 6'6" and dwarfed the rest of the group who barely even came up to his shoulder.
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: Nothing says pre-Kennedy administration like I - #idim - ii7 - V7.
  • Must Have Caffeine: The aptly titled "Java Jive". Appropriately, it's slightly faster paced than most of their songs.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Magical Maestro: After the singer's face is sprayed with ink, causing an unfortunate Black Face gag, he starts singing in the voice of The Ink Spots, referencing the fact his own face is now full of ink.
    • The original trailer for Blade Runner featured prominent use of "If I Didn't Care". The song quite blatantly clashes with the imagery.
    • Manhattan: "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire'' plays during Charlie's atomic nightmare sequence.
    • The Simpsons: The Treehouse Of Horror XVII episode has Kang and Kodos invade Earth in the third segment The Day the Earth Looked Stupid. Jumping forward to three years later, Springfield is in ruins and the aliens wonder why they were not greeted as liberators, as they planned the invasion to rid Earth of "weapons of mass disintegration" which they refer to as "Operation Enduring Occupation" (in a clear reference to the war on Iraq). The segment ends with the camera pulling away from the smoking ruins of what was once Springfield, as "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" plays.
    • "Maybe" was used in Fallout. It begins with a close-up on a TV flashing classic 1950s images and icons, while "Maybe" plays. Slowly, the "camera" pulls out to reveal the TV set is in the midst of a landscape utterly devastated by warfare.
    • To make it worse, "Maybe" is played again in the ending. Y'know, as the hero is exiled from his home, and marches depressingly into the wastes. Alone.
    • The Walking Dead: The cold open to "The Grove", with "Maybe" playing on the soundtrack, is very much in the style of the original Fallout, going from a wholesome kitchen setting to reminding that there's a zombie apocalypse underway. You almost expect Ron Perlman to narrate how war never changes when the opening credits roll.
    • Fallout 3: The most famous of these by far. The camera focuses on a radio in a bus, as "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" cues up. It pulls back to reveal that the bus is a ruin, with debris scattered everywhere, and pulls further back to reveal that it's in the middle of a burned-out wasteland. Finally the song cuts out as a Scare Chord sounds to announce the arrival of a Brotherhood of Steel soldier in full Power Armor.
      • Worthy of note: Black Isle wanted "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" for the original game's opening, but couldn't get the rights, which is why they used "Maybe".
    • Fallout 4: "It's All Over But the Crying" is used for the first half of the first trailer, following a dog investigating a bombed-out house, the image overlapping (through static) to scenes with the family that lived there Just Before the End.
    • "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" was used as the credits theme for the animated short "Logorama".
  • Set the World on Fire: "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire"
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: One of the strongest contenders for Most Triumphant Example since anime fans learned to associate Ray Charles with collapsing skyscrapers. The video games that Ink Spots songs appear in tend to be very violent, often to the point of absurdity, as well as very cynical about the culture of the era they portray and are bound and determined to milk Bill Kenny's dulcet tones for all the irony they're worth.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Every one of their songs has a monologue in deep bass tones.