Rock 'n' Roll Spacejam: Open thread


Congratulations and farewell to the European Space Agency's SMART-1 moon probe, which went out in a blaze of glory this weekend, following a three-year career. SMART-1's innovative gradual-orbit-increase trajectory allowed it to complete its mission within a promisingly small budget. In honor of that and film critic extraordinaire Alan Vanneman's salute to National Make Fun of Star Trek Day, here's some far-out skylarking to round out your Labor Day:

If we could make a Rykodisc compilation of space/astronaut songs, what would we include? You've got the obvious picks: Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love," both versions of "Rocket Man," "Space Oddity," "Space Cowboy," Spizzenergi's "Where's Captain Kirk?" What else? It seems like there was a period from about 1968 to 1977 when every band on the planet released at least one space-related tune. There must be whole space rock operas in there somewhere. Does Blondie's "Rapture" make the cut for its lousy men-from-mars-eating-cars rap? Does anybody write space-related lyrics anymore?

I owe this idea to Gillespie, who once had an even better idea for a compilation CD of rock orientalism: Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting," Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Hong Kong Garden," David Bowie's "China Girl," Oingo Boingo's "Reptiles and Samurai," and so on. Contributions to that great moment in cross-cultural exchange are also welcome.

Special Buttinsky Update: I hate to horn in on a post not of my own making, but Cavanaugh gives me props for inspiration above and I'll do anything possible to push an even-greater version of "Rocket Man" than Shatner's own: Chris Elliott's dramatic reading on Letterman of the Shat's dramatic reading of "Rocket Man" at the utterly bogus "Science Fiction Film Awards." The Get A Life! auteur's take is online at YouTube here and will make you glad to be alive (go here for YouTube's compendium of GAL! clips).

Special hat tip to my brother John, with whom I watched the SFFA back in '78 and then the next day debated whether we had dreamed Shatner's performance, and Mark Evanier's News From Me site, which first brought the YouTube of Elliott's performance, itself every bit as much a post-apocalyptic triumph as anything witnessed by Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!, to my attention.

NEXT: Steve Irwin, R.I.P.

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  1. The Byrds have a song called “Mr. Spaceman.”

  2. I found these NASA oriented LP rips last night.

    Man on the Moon, the flight of Apollo 11
    The story of Project Mercury
    Friendship 7, the full cockpit recordings

    Not exactly rock operas, but some of the more talented among us might be able to sample them and make their own.

  3. Pink Floyd – Interstellar Overdrive
    Astronomy Domine

    The Verve – Star Sail

    And talking about space rock operas : Hawkwind’s “Space Ritual” (cheesy as hell, but what else would you expect)

  4. Easy as pie!

    “Silver Machine” — Hawkwind

    “Planet of Sound” — Pixies

    “Starship Trooper” — Yes

    “Space Baby” — The Tubes

    “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” — P.Funk

    “Return of Major Tom (Why me)” — Plant P Project

    “Electric Eye” — Judas Priest

    The entire oeuvre of Gwar!

    “Mrs. Fiend Goes to Space” — Alien Sex Fiend

    “Earth People” — Dr.Octogon

    “Supergalatic Lover — Kool Keith

    “Space Truckin'” — Deep Purple

    “Welcome Voyagers of the Interplanetary Craft” — Klaatu/The Carpenters

    And the profoundly lame “Children of the Sun” — Billy Thorpe

  5. Alien Sex Fiend “Drive My Rocket Up Uranus, Baby”

  6. “Planet Claire” – The B52’s

    “Supersonic Rocket Ship” ? The Kinks

    “This Time Tomorrow” ? ditto

    “Starman” ? David Bowie

    David Bowie himself

    On my iTunes “space music” playlist I’ve included “Journey of the Sorceror” by the Eagles because, even though it isn’t about space or astronauts, it was used as the theme to “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and that’s the only context in which I can imagine it.

  7. Harry Nilsson: “Spaceman,”

    Bonzo Dog Band: “Urban Spaceman,”

    for egregiously self-important space-rock-opera, Yes-man Jon Anderson’s solo album, Olias of Sunhillow,

    and what space-based collection would be complete without Donovan’s immortal “Intergalactic Laxative”?

  8. “And what is that, the ‘crash helmet’?”

    “Oh, I hope not…”

  9. Ooo I?ve got one!

    “Dancing In Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)” by Q-Feel. It’s a fun little song that you can find on 80’s New Wave compilations.

  10. Mark B:

    The strings on that Eagles track are credited to The Royal Martian Orchestra, so there’s another point for adding it.


    (Nominating Sheb Wooley’s one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ Purple People Eater)

  11. Marilyn Manson – Disassociative
    Kovenant – Spaceman
    I-F – Space Invaders are Smoking Grass
    VNV Nation – Genesis (C-92 Remix)
    Covenant – Dead Stars
    Hansel und Gretyl – Uber Alles (The entire album is basically a Nazi Space Opera Spoof)

    I love the fact that in this sort of forum, you’re going to get a very wide sample of musical genres.

  12. “Life on the Moon” – Erin McKeown.

  13. Marilyn Manson – Disassociative
    Kovenant – Spaceman
    I-F – Space Invaders are Smoking Grass
    VNV Nation – Genesis (C-92 Remix)
    Covenant – Dead Stars
    Hansel und Gretyl – Uber Alles (The entire album is basically a Nazi Space Opera Spoof)

    I love the fact that in this sort of forum, you’re going to get a very wide sample of musical genres. Call it a kind of spontaneous order generating hard to find information from disparate sources with excellent local knowledge…

  14. Although not specifically space-related, Shatner’s horrific “The Transformed Man” should be included simply because of his iconic status as everybody’s favorite starship captain and…because…thisistheworstrock…album…evermade.

    That, and because his absurdist rendering of “Mr. Tambourine Man” makes clear that regardless of how classic Dylan’s song is, it certainly isn’t due to great lyrics in this particular case.

    He has, however, more than made up for it with his extraordinary Ben Folds collaboration “Has Been”.

  15. Blue Oyster Cult –


    Workshop of the Telescopes

    Stairway to the Stars

    E.T.I. (Extra Terrestial Intelligence)

  16. For Space: Anything by the Flaming Lips!

    For Orientalism: Turning Japanese by the Vapors, or Tokyo-a-go-go by the Magnetic Fields.

    Anyway, I live in Japan right now and hear more “American” sounding music than anything else. Give the kids what they want!

  17. I’d toss on:
    The Dickies – Killer Klowns From Outer Space
    Sun Ra – Space Is The Place
    Nina Hagen – UFO
    Legendary Pink Dots – The Saucers Are Coming
    Parliament – Cosmic Slop

  18. Also for Orientalism could be “Mesopotamia” by the B52s cuz the study of the near East, especially the ancient near-East, is called “Orientalism”.

  19. “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” by David Bowie!!

  20. Space Lord by Monster Magnet


    Teenage Pussy from Outer Space by Buck Naked and the Bare Bottom Boys

  21. “Telstar” by The Tornados?

    both versions of “Rocket Man”

    Is that a reference to the Shatner & Elton John versions, or to the entire other song “Rocket Man” by Tom Rapp / Pearls Before Swine?

    That one contains the lyrics:

    My mother and I
    Never went out
    Unless the sky was cloudy
    Or the sun was blotted out

    Way better interpretation of the Bradbury classic that the Elton John song.

  22. Graham Parker “Waiting for the UFOs”

    Tasmin Archer “Sleeping Satellite”

    Genesis “Watcher of the Skies”

    Yes “Spaceship Troopers”

    Al Stewart “Sirens of Titan” [are there any other Vonnegut-inspired space songs?]

  23. What a swell idea for a thread! But I’ve gota go to a party where I have talk to people in person and stuff, so I’ll check back later.

  24. There’s always the Rainmakers’ “Rockin’ at the T-Dance” which has these two verses:

    Take a trip with me in 1967

    With Grissom, White, and Chaffee on a rocket ride to heaven

    A dead-end date aboard AS-204

    It was American made

    Only the best for our boys

    And we were rockin’ at the T-Dance

    Rockin’ at the T-Dance

    I had another date with a homecoming queen

    I took her to the prom in Apollo 13

    We orbit the moon

    We couldn’t get home

    Little Queenie’s mom was pissed ’cause her baby didn’t phone

    And we were rockin’ at the T-Dance

    Rockin’ at the T-Dance

    You gotta give them some credit for working in the launch vehicle designation…although the problem was in the command module, and AS-204 was used successfully 11 months later on Apollo 5.

  25. Rick, no! resist the siren call of meatspace!

  26. Everyone’s Gone to the Moon by Jonathan King. It got to #17 in 1965.

    As for the Far East stuff, don’t forget Kay Kyser’s 1948 hit recording of Frank Loesser’s Slow Boat To China.


  27. “Space Age Love Songand” and also “Telecommunication” by A Flock of Seagulls
    (Their music is great)

    “Telecommunication” is my fave Flock song!

    Radio light
    To your solar system
    On a beam of light.
    This is telecommunication,

    What a swell idea for a thread but I’ve gota go to a party where I have to talk to people in person and stuff, so I’ll check back later.

  28. Duke Ellington’s “Blues In Orbit.”

  29. Ok, I’m seriously splitting now. (No, this is not a Mona impression, back when she used threaten to leave H&R)

  30. I second windypundit’s nomination. The Rainmakers so rock! They recorded a libertarian classic, Government Cheese.

    Funny, though. I saw the guys live at Milwaukeee’s old Century Hall in the 80s, when they played out as Steve, Bob & Rich, and I didn’t like the show. I dunno, maybe they played covers of songs I didn’t care for. Maybe I was just mad about getting dumped by some girl. 🙂

    Century Hall was a great venue, before some @#*%$! burned it down.


  31. Asteroid and Startship Landing – Kyuss

    Stargate and other tracks from the UR (Juan Atkins) Nocturbulous Behaviour mix

  32. Dark Star by the Grateful Dead

  33. “Man on the Moon” by Bob Mould….

    partly because it quotes Sun Ra’s “Space is the Place” in its outro….

  34. “I Don’t Want To Live On the Moon” by Ernie (Bert’s hetero lifemate)

  35. “Cosmic Girl” – Jamiroquai

  36. “All Alone” by They Might Be Giants. And “Space Suit” from the album “Apollo 18.”

  37. Rush’s Cygnus X-1
    And of course TMBG’s Why Does The Sun Shine?! (And Destination Moon, and the Planet of the Apes tracks, etc..)

  38. “Flying Saucer Attack” by the Rezillos.

  39. No Duran Duran, who were, after all, named after a space villain? Planet Earth, Ordinary World?

  40. “Spaceman” by Babylon Zoo, also “Space Is the Place” and “Starside” by Spacehog. And how has the Hoagy Carmichael/Mitchell Parish standard “Stardust” not been mentioned?

  41. The Flaming Lips have a bunch of space songs:

    I Want My Own Planet
    Do You Realize?!?! contains a line about floating in space
    Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon

    are a good start. I also always liked to imagine that “A Spoonful Weights a Ton” was about benevolent space creatures rescuing mankind from a certain death.

    And Tim C? As of a few months ago, “the Rykodisc compilation” is a purely nostalgic reference. The label and its associated distro and publishing arms got sucked up by Warner for a ridiculously large amount of money, and the Ryko catalog is now part of Rhino. The pioneers of music on CD go bye-bye.

  42. Great minds think alike: I too once had the idea for an 0rientalism-themed compilation, but, alas, never wrote it down. Besides the ones mentioned, such a compilation could include the following:

    Turning Japanese – The Vapors (Yes, probably a sexual eumphemism, but the video draws on Orientalist stereotypes)
    China Grove – The Doobie Brothers
    Woman from Tokyo – Deep Purple
    Kashmir* – Led Zeppelin
    Walk Like an Egyptian* – The Bangles
    Istanbul (not Constantinople)* – They Might Be Giants (cover of pre-rock era song by the Four Lads)
    Ahab the Arab* – Ray Stevens (a country singer/comedian, but the song was, I believe, a pop top 40 hit, so we might as well count it)
    Traveling Man – Ricky Nelson (verses speak of his “China doll” and “pretty Polynesian baby.”)

    * Your example were all from the Far East, but following Said himself, I have also included songs about the Middle East.

  43. P.S. It’s more fun to try to come up with these on our own, but if you want to cheat, a Google search for “songs about Asia” turned up the following (the latter actually called “Orientalism party mix”):
    I’m afraid I’m not hip enough to have heard of most of these, although I’m kicking myself for not having remembered Murray Head’s “One Night in Bangkok.”

  44. Sheesh, how could I forget Rock the Casbah*!

    * Another Middle East one, of course.

  45. ELO – Time

    Which is more time travel but has space, too.

  46. Hey Simon LeBon,

    Why did shut down? BTW, I don’t think that “Ordinary World” quite fits the bill. (Great song though)

  47. Some Misfits for good measure:

    Mars Attacks
    This Island Earth
    Teenagers from Mars
    I Turned Into a Martian
    Astro Zombies

  48. How you all have possibly overlooked the cheesy but anthemic “The Final Countdown” by Europe?

    Oh, that’s right … most of you weren’t even born until the ‘Eighties.

  49. James Kabala,

    Didya catch my inclusion of “Mesopotamia” by the B52s for the Orientalism category (near-East/mid-East division) at 5:12 PM ? To that I’ll add “The Lebanon” by Human League (It’s so tragic that the scenario that occasioned that song has happened again) (Human League had some wonderful tunes. And remember how cute the brunette gal was? Remember the vid for the song,? Fascination”?)

    For the Orientalism (far-East division) there’s “China Girl” by David Bowie

  50. Lots of choices from Man or Astroman, probably
    “Transmissions from Venus” would be best.

  51. “Resident Alien” – Spacehog?

  52. XTC’s “Another Satellite” and their alter-ego The Dukes of Stratosphear’s “Bike Ride To The Moon”.

  53. The Creatures – “Pluto Drive”
    The Dead Milkmen – “Right Wing Pigeons From Outer Space” (only tangentially)
    Classix Nouveaux – “Nasty Little Green Men”
    Moonpools & Caterpillars – “Martians” (I highly recommend this one)
    Frank Zappa – “Cosmik Debris” (sorta kinda)
    And we gotta include Straus’ “Thus Spake Zarathustra” (since you can’t hear it and not think of 2001)
    Thomas Dolby – “Big Bang Backwards” & “Moonbase”

  54. I second the nomination of Nilsson’s “Spaceman,” which was also covered very nicely by The Roches with Mark Johnson on the tribute CD “For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson.” I thought this song should have been the theme for the network coverage of that poor guy who was stuck up in MIR for so long. In the back of my mind, I still intend to do a little mini-documentary of that particular Space Age episode, with “Spaceman” as the soundtrack. Could be my first YouTube submission … unless someone else beats me to it!

    Speaking of covers, Kate Bush did a most excellent cover of “Rocket Man” on the “Two Rooms” tribute album.

    Long after space travel becomes commonplace, I predict that EJ’s “Rocket Man,” Nilsson’s “Spaceman,” and perhaps Bowie’s “Space Oddity” will be fondly regarded by our descendants as classics that stood the test of time. I hope I live long enough to see it.

  55. My addition to the Space Ode-ities: Gary Lewis and the Playboys, “Way, Way, Out” (the titular song for the Jerry Lewis film of the same name.)

    For the Rock songs with an Eastern Orientation I submit The Tubes, “Sushi Girl.”

  56. Flyin’ Saucers Rock’n’Roll – Billy Riley & His Little Green Men

    Zero Zero UFO – Ramones

    Also from da Brudders, for the Eastern-oriented disc(s):

    Chop Suey and Chinese Rock. [OK, yes, we know what chinese rock really means.]


  57. Boney M- Night Flight to Venus
    Montrose- Space Station #5
    Rootboy Slim’s “liquor store holdup in space” 😉

  58. Kevin:

    Zero Zero UFO – Ramones

    Thanks for turning me on to a Ramones song that I wasn’t familiar with.

  59. Major Tom (coming home) – Peter Schiling
    Intergalactic – Beastie Boys

  60. Looks like the good ones are taken… Bummer, being 12 hours out of sync with the bulk of the writership. But, there are a couple missing:

    Rush – Countdown

    The Police – Walking on the Moon

    Maybe the Police could re-record that for the new album, but take an additional ten years and do it at a much higher cost. Hmmm… That sounded funnier in my head.

    And since Planet P Project was mentioned, I’ll throw in “Power Tools.” But mostly because I like power tools.

  61. Monsters – Blue Oyster Cult
    The Great Sun Jester – Blue Oyster Cult
    Light Years of Love – Blue Oyster Cult
    Ticket to the Moon – ELO
    Spacehog – Spacehog
    Starside – Spacehog
    Space is the Place – Spacehog
    Kashmir – Dread Zeppelin (Tort Elvis gets abducted by aliens)

  62. Space Invaders – The Pretenders

  63. Practically every song by Hum uses a space metaphor. They are the single most space-obsessed band that I can think of.

  64. “T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (The Awesome Power Of A Fully Operational Mothership)” George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars

  65. For Space: Anything by the Flaming Lips!

    little trivia: the quality of a Flaming Lips album is proportinal to the number of sypathetic critisisms of jesus vs SF anthems…for every jesus song the better the album and for every song about aliens, robots and kung fu the shittier.

  66. Who could forget Captain Beefheart’s (the great Don van Vleit) classic “Big Eyed Beans From Venus”?

    Distant cousins
    There’s a limited supply
    We’re down to the dozens
    And this is why…

  67. The Rolling Stones–“2000 Light Years From Home”

  68. How about the only album that ever won a Hugo — Jefferson Airplane’s* “Blows Against the Empire.” The theme is “a bunch of libertarian hippies steal a starship.”

    *It is the first work labeled as Jefferson Starship, but is from before Airplane broke up and Starship had formed as a band.

  69. I’ll second GWAR and the Misfits (though not that post-Danzig garbage) and add:

    Clutch – Spacegrass; Escape from the Prison Planet

  70. I love Chris Elliot. Does anybody know where I can find a clip of him, as Marlon Brando, doing the bananas dance? I have demonstrated and explained it to my girlfriend, but somehow I don’t think I am giving her the full comic effect of this skit, which still makes me laugh, so many years later.

  71. G Love and Special Sauce: Astronaut

    John Sebastian and the J-Band: Ain’t Nowhere to Hobo Anymore

  72. Leonard Cohen’s “Death of a Ladies Man” ends with

    “It’s like our visit to the moon, or to that other star….
    I guess you’ll go for nothing, if you really want to go that far.”

  73. Grandaddy – Everything Beautiful is far away.

  74. Air – Surfing on A Rocket

    David Bowie – Moonage Daydream

    T.Rex – Ballrooms of Mars

    T.Rex – Cosmic Dancer

    Kate Bush – Rocket

    Wait, this isn’t supposed to only include bands and songs previously released on Rykodisc, is it? In that case, nevermind most of my suggestions.

  75. Air – Surfing on A Rocket

    David Bowie – Moonage Daydream

    T.Rex – Ballrooms of Mars

    T.Rex – Cosmic Dancer

    Kate Bush – Rocket

    Kate Bush – Hello Earth

    Wait, this isn’t supposed to only include bands and songs previously released on Rykodisc, is it? In that case, nevermind most of my suggestions.

  76. “Monochrome” by the Sundays

  77. P.S. That should be “Rocket’s Tail” by Kate Bush, not “Rocket”. My bad.

  78. The B-52s – There’s A Moon In The Sky.


  79. Another TMGB entry: “For Science” (“I will kiss the girls for Venus for science”).

  80. Another TMGB entry: “For Science” (“I will kiss the girls from Venus for science”).

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