I can clearly remember the famous night when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
He was one of those great heroes of your youth from a time when a hero did stuff like walk around on the moon and not get famous for being on celebrity TV. His death reminded me of a lot of things. The space race. My own eternal fascination with space and also Armstrong himself and what it must have felt like to walk on the vast eerie emptiness of the moon and also to look back at the planet Earth, the small blue dot in the sky where everything we had ever known about happened. It must have been mind blowing.
Whilst Armstrong was walking on the moon I was at primary school and doing a project on the moon landings, collecting wrappers off bean cans and sending them away for Apollo Mission posters. It seemed very exotic and exciting at the time to be sent posters through the post. Oddly someone landing on the moon seemed almost normal. I thought by the time I was 25 we would all be living on Mars. Neil Armstrong got to walk on the moon, I will always dream of having the chance.
Pop culture felt the same and space was a big part of the futuristic yearning of music at the time and for some years afterwards. These days it’s petered out, no-one seems interested and more or have given up and it’s hard to imagine a boy band singing about anything more exotic that pretend love songs.
But for some time there was a whole load of great space songs and these are just some of them…
1. ‘Silver Machine’ Hawkwind
For sheer lunacy not many top 5 hits can match this. The ultimate anthem of the space rock kings has to be number one because it’s part of their canyon and not just a one off song. Lemmy’s vocal on the song is as timeless and whacked out as outer space and this period of Hawkwind is one of the great moments in UK rock n roll…weirdness, intelligence and great songs all mashed together through an LSD sieve.
2. ‘Space Oddity’ David Bowie
The deep sadness and darkness of space is captured in this doody pop song that was Bowie’s first ever hit. The Starman always seemed to be from out space to with his alien features he was convincingly spaced out to sing this classic.
3 ‘Astronomy Domine’ Pink Floyd
The genius Syd Barrett was already a space cadet when this was recorded but for that brief year of creative overdrive he wrote some of the most influential songs of all time and created the template for his band mates to echo less convingly but with far more success for decades to come. This eeire song really captures the endless mystery of space and the human mind and we must give a special mention to Syd’s Intasteller Overdrive which is another tripped out space tinged classic.
4. ‘meninblack’ The Stranglers
A space song about alien visitation from the Stranglers when they started going a bit weird. The track with its speeded up vocals and slowed down backing track was flipped out enough to see Martin Rushent quit working with the band and was on the Raven album, the next record would see the band explore the theme to even more depth in, what is for many purists, the band’s best but most difficult album and one that nearly destroyed their career. Special mention to the earlier released Rok It To The Moon- theb side to 5 Minutes and it’s fantastic bass line and space tinged futuristic lyrics.
5. ‘Junk Satalite’ Man Or Astroman
The manic, twanging guitar gunslingers had lots of space themes running around their ouvre and their very image and this track is perhaps the culmination of all their space tinged obsessions.
6 ‘Walking On The Moon’ The Police
Perhaps the band’s finest moment, Walking On The Moon seems to have an element of humour in its lyrics that is mostly missing from the rest of their work. It also has that bass line that sounds like those big bouncing moon steps you used to watch n grainy black and white TV hanging onto every moment of the moon landing in the seventies.
7. ‘Killing Moon’ Echo And The Bunnymen
Not specifually a song about space travel but more of a love song and probably using the moon as some sort of metaphor this is in the top ten because it’s a drop dead classic song and arguably the band’s finest moment that also mentions moon in the title…
8. ‘Bike Ride To The Moon’ Dukes Of Stratosphere
Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon was a pretty daunting task. It would have been more daunting if he had tried to cycle there at the Dukes suggested in this modern psych opus and another example of the XTC in disguise knack of writing great songs and then wigging them out.
9. ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ Frank Sinatra
One of the classics and always a good excuse to hear that purest of voices make something brilliant of what he was given. Always reminds me of getting my hair cut in the sixties and the barber playing the radio when the non pop stations would play classics…
10. ‘Rock On The Moon’ the Cramps
Just because they must have come from outer space nd their love of sci fi b movie schlock kinda makes sense here and even when they are not in top gear like on this song they are still better than nearly every rock n roll band in the world and because Poison Ivy is still one of thei great guitar heroe
11. ‘Saturn 5’ InspiralCarpets
Garage rock classic and also great pop song,