Next month will mark 50 years since the Apollo 11 Moon landing/Stanley Kubrick pulled off the world’s most elaborate lampoon (delete as appropriate). To celebrate, here’s a select few celestial bangers to blast you out of this world.
‘Space Oddity’, David Bowie
Honestly, this whole list could very easily be entirely comprised of Bowie songs. From ‘Ashes to Ashes’ to ‘Ziggy Stardust’, the OG Starman’s discography is packed full of otherworldly musings. But for the sake of variety, we’ll just focus on the one that started it all. Taken from the 1969 self-titled album, this single was released just a couple of weeks before the lunar landing itself. It garnered Bowie fame and attention thanks to the BBC’s usage of the song in their coverage of the event, and has since become the staple soundtrack for all things space-related. It also holds the prestigious accolade of being the first music video shot in space, thanks to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in 2013.
‘Rocket Man’, Elton John
Another obvious one, I admit, especially with the recent movie of the same name. Released just a couple of weeks after Bowie’s ‘Starman’ in 1972, this song catapulted Elton John into the stratosphere and secured him a global hit. Similar in theme to ‘Space Oddity’, the narrative follows a lone man, reflecting somewhat existentially on his isolation; trapped in both his spaceship and his mind.
‘Johnny B. Goode’, Chuck Berry
On first glance, this 1958 foot-stomper has nothing to do with space. Upon closer analysis, this remains true – this song is not about space. It was, however, the only pop song to be recorded on the golden record of the Voyager spacecraft. Pretty fitting, I’d say, to be the single song representing the entire modern human race. If some intelligent lifeform ever stumbles upon those two little spacecraft, this is what they’ll hear. Oh, and it also heavily features in an iconic scene in Back to the Future, so there’s another tangential sci-fi link there.
‘The Race for Space’, Public Service Broadcasting
Okay fine, this isn’t so much a song, more an entire album. PSB’s brand revolves around taking old news clips and turning them into audio samples for concept rock albums. This spectacular LP chronicles the infamous technology/arms race between the US and the USSR, highlighting the magnificence and misery of both sides. Starting with JFK’s iconic “We choose to go to the Moon” speech and ending ten years later with Apollo 17, it’s a triumphant yet tragic epic that really can’t be delineated and is well worth 43 minutes of your time.
‘Interstellar Overdrive’, Pink Floyd
Scraping the barrel? Us? Never. Sure, okay, this song is entirely instrumental and has nothing explicitly spacey beyond its name, but come on, just give it a listen. The centrepiece of Pink Floyd’s 1967 LP The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, this fuzz-laden ten-minute masterpiece is a transformative experience for the ears. The psychedelic rock scene would later go on to define a generation, but this space jam was very much a key driver. Evoking sounds and feels previously unexperienced by us mere mortals, the Syd Barett-led quartet tapped into something eminently ethereal.
‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’, Richard Strauss
Another pretty obvious one, but it would be remiss of me to not give it a mention. If the name means nothing to you, it’s the one from 2001: A Space Odyssey that goes BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM. Since its use in the Kubrick cult classic, it has found its way into a host of other movies including Zoolander and Toy Story 2 thanks to its instant astronomical association.
‘The Whole of the Moon’, The Waterboys
An ode to inspiration, this 1985 ditty is anthemic in every sense of the word. The song’s narrator finds themself marvelling at people able to experience the world with fuller glory than they could conceive of: “I saw the crescent / You saw the whole of the moon”.
‘Ticket to the Moon’, Electric Light Orchestra
ELO’s 1981 LP, Time, is a retrofuturistic classic following the story of a man suddenly deposited in the year 2095 without warning or way to return (see Felix Issue 1670). Not for the first time on this list, the protagonist expresses fear of the future and the newfangled technology (read: loss of humanity) it brings, making for a reflective yet distressing ballad.
The Felix Music team would like to thank all contributers and readers of the paper’s greatest section for another consistently strong and enjoyable year.