A perhaps predictable subject for this week’s Tuesday Ten: it’s all about space, what with it being the 40th anniversary of the first moon landings this week. I’ve always thought of songs written to be about space travel, or related subjects, to be a very common theme, but in the event it actually turned out to be a really bloody hard list to collate. I’m sure that readers of this will suggest many more than I came up with, though…
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
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Where else to start than with the song that seems to sum up the mystery and wonder (and our darkest fears, too) about space travel like no other. Released, of course, the week of the moon landings back in ’69, it’s apparently been re-released this week (which was news to me). Either way, it’s a beautiful song that I’d think that few people don’t know just about every word to it, and it perfectly encapsulates the marvel of seeing the earth from space, the worry of how to deal with it all when coming back down – both how…mundane the earth will be, and how to deal with the whole world wanting a piece of you, and then the fear of what happens if it all goes wrong and Major Tom gets stranded up in space (which was a very real fear for the actual members of the Apollo 11 mission). An iconic song for an iconic event.
An instantly recognisable song from it’s very first moment – the Hammond Organ line is one of those that sticks in your head once you hear it – this track is probably the Inspiral’s finest moment. A surging, soaring 60s-influenced track (just check the backing vocals!) with a thunderous backbeat, it’s a song that celebrates the age of men first going into space, against the backdrop of the assassination of JFK.
/Good Luck Mr Gorsky
The It Girl
A song about an urban legend/joke regarding Apollo 11. No, really. Other than it’s slightly odd subject matter, it’s otherwise Sleeper-by-numbers. In other words, inoffensive indie-pop with Louise Wener’s dreamy vocals centre-stage…
/Kelly Watch The Stars
Talking of dreamy, music about space doesn’t get much more dreamy and lush than this. This album was something of a surprise when it came out – few acts have ever sounded like this – but quickly became a favourite in the press and with listeners, mainly as it was so beautifully done, and somehow never crossed the line into schmaltz. This song, more than the other singles, was the glittering peak of the album, presumably about watching the wonders of space at night, and the effects in the background bring the image of meteors shooting across the sky.
Welcome To Earth
Talking of the wonders of space from earth, Apop’s creative high-point from nearly ten years ago was seemingly obsessed with space, extra-terrestrial life and questions about our existence. I could equally have picked Starsign for the list, with it taking the idea of wanting to leave the mundane existence on earth behind and go somewhere “where no-one knows my name“, but instead it’s the sky-gazing love-in of Eclipse I’ve picked, where the total solar eclipse of August ’99 is used as the focal point of a way of bringing people together in peace.
/Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Not everyone uses space in direct terms in music – just take Jason Pearce. The opening (and title) track from one of the most extraordinary albums of the ’90s, the spacey bleeps providing the backdrop to a jaw-dropping lullaby where drugs ease the pain of the memories – as the lyrics use the metaphor of space to lose onesself with a lover. It’s such a near-perfect song that it’s kind of amazing that this version was changed very late on prior to release, due to the refusal of the Elvis Presley estate to allow use of part of Can’t Help Falling In Love With You“. Quite whether the inclusion of that would have bettered the final version is something that I’d say is open to debate.
/Out of Space
The Prodigy Experience
Talking of drugs and space imagery, this track is about little more than getting “off your face” and ascending into outer space (“…to find another race”), frankly – and let’s be honest, it sounds like a fun idea in the hands of this song. Did they run out of places to go raving on this earth, or was it an early reaction to the clamp-down on raving, and a desire to go somewhere where they weren’t going to be bothered by the police all the time?
An album of space-obsessed industrial mentalism that reaches heights this band never hit again, frankly. One of the (many) crazy peaks is this track – the lyrics suggest a (hyper)speedy comet ride, the messy layers of metallic guitars, drums and synth lines take us on a ride to match the music.
/Planet of Sound
Trompe Le Monde
Some may disagree, but for me Pixies have one of the most peerless back catalogues of any band, and they also gave up before they became shit. Ok, so they reformed, but there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with their performances now, either. Anyway, to this song (one of the highlights of this album): Alien receives transmissions of rock music, hunts in vain for source, rocks like a (very crazy) bastard for two minutes and six seconds. Earth to Black Francis…
/Supernova at the End of the Universe
Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
The whole album (all two hours of it) is structured like a trip into space, getting further and further away from the earth until they reach the “Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain…”, but before that there is this, which begins with the sound of a rocket taking off, and then as a languid beat shuffles on, we get various samples from the Apollo 11 mission scattered through the track, which is more than anything why this is here.