On Saturday, April 24 of 2010 Google marked the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Telescope. Mankind’s fascination with space goes hand in hand with our looking to the future, and Hubble has helped to blend imagination with reality by bringing us amazing images of the solar system, universe and galaxy. Although some might argue that outer space is without sound, here on Earth we have no shortage of songs about space, and what we interpret and imagine it to be. Popular music has already made it into space figuratively and literally (The Astronauts have a tradition of waking each day to The Beatles “Good Day, Sunshine”). Here are a few tunes that “Boldly go where no song has gone before”.
“Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Eumir Deodato
Originally composed in 1896 by Richard Strauss, inspired by Neitzsche’s writings and best known as the fanfare from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey”. The song itself is likely one of the most widely recognized “space anthems”, while the Eumir Deodato’s Jazz interpretation of the song charted at number two on the pop charts in 1973, while bringing home a Grammy for “Best Pop Instrumental” that same year.
“Space Oddity” by David Bowie
Space Oddity was the first big hit for David Bowie, charting in the top ten in 1969. Bowie’s tragic song of an ill-fated space mission where the fictional astronaut “Major Tom” is first given accolades on his brave travels into orbit until things take a turn for the worse. The song was rush released to coincide with the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing.
“Major Tom” by Peter Schilling
Peter Schilling’s 1983 contribution to the ongoing rock saga of Bowie’s space faring Major was one of many, but was easily the second most successful (Bowie’s being the first). Many rockers make mention of Major Tom, but none so specific. Schilling’s interpretation of the story leaves us a happier ending with the Astronaut safely retuning to Mother Earth.
“Walking On The Moon” by The Police
Other than the fact that The Police are awesome, this is an awesome tune and clearly one of The Police’s more Reggae inspired songs using the repeating lyric “Walking On The Moon” it otherwise has very little to do with space (besides maybe the music video). It’s reputed origins lie in Sting writing it while he was intoxicated… Which perhaps qualifies as “spaced out”.
“Star Wars/Cantina Band” by Meco
By the third day after it’s release in May of 1977, Meco Monardo had seen the movie Star Wars at least a dozen times. Later that year his disco version of the song topped the charts. Kind of hard to believe looking back that Star Wars was first released at the height of the Disco era, but listening to Meco’s version certainly combines the two fads of the time well, and always gives me a smile.
“Flash’s Theme” by Queen
Long before Major Tom got stranded in the coldness of space, the 1950’s were dominated by other space faring heroes like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Sadly, the 1980 movie remake “Flash” was somehow even cheesier in retrospect to the spaceships on fishing line that Flash piloted in the 50’s. Still a worthwhile watch as Flash continues his battles with Ming the Merciless. Queen scores the soundtrack well, particularly with this title track.
“Rocket Man” by Elton John
Although the song resonates the theme of Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, there is no mention of Major Tom in Rocket Man. In this song’s case the Astronaut heads off to Mars, somewhat reluctant to leave his family. Although it only reached number six on the U.S. Billboard charts, it remains one of Rock’s great anthems, leaving us with the insightful advice that “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise the kids, in fact it’s cold as hell”.
“Across The Universe” by The Beatles
More of a mantra than a space song, “Across The Universe” came at the end of the end for The Beatles, and although originally recorded and released on a charity for wildlife compilation, it was re-released on The Beatles “Let It Be” album. To quote the author Sean Egan, ” Across The Universe retains it’s charm and is conducive to making one at peace with the cosmos”. Like many of The Beatles lyrics, this ones is shrouded in mystery and wonder.
Although there are many more pop, as well as movie and television space-themed songs I likely omitted from this list, like space travel, this list serves merely as a beginning, with no end in sight.
In closing, I quote the immortal words of the great Astronaut and space traveler Buzz Lightyear… “To Infinity and beyond!”