May the 4th be with you!
OK, if you don’t get that reference, you’ve probably never seen STAR WARS, which would be a darn shame! Entertainment has certainly used space as a theme for many movies, TV shows and yes, songs. From television shows like “The Outer Limits,” “Star Trek” and “The Twilight Zone” to movies such as “Aliens,” “Close Encounters,” “The Right Stuff,” “The Martian” and “Apollo 13” (to name just a few), there has always been an innate curiosity about the planets. Space has inspired some pretty dope songs too, but music has also inspired space – did you know that Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” was the first music heard on the moon as Buzz Aldrin stepped on to the surface? No? Well here’s some more space/music themed trivia for you:
The first ever song performed in space happened in 1962 when Ukrainian cosmonaut Pavlo Popovych sang “Watching the Sky,” a Ukrainian song requested by Serhiy Korolyov, Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer.
In 1965, NASA began the tradition of waking up their Astronauts in space with a song from Earth. During a two-day Gemini 6 mission, the crew was woken with “Hello Dolly.” The practice came to an end during the final shuttle flight in 2011, but in an effort to make every morning memorable, wake up music included “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay, “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO and “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang as well as taped messages from Paul McCartney, Beyonce, Elton John and more.
On that same aforementioned 1965 mission, Gemini 6 astronauts M. Wally Schirra (Harmonica) and Thomas Stafford (Bells) performed “Jingle Bells” as a joke, playing the song while pretending to see Santa’s sleigh in space.
In 1969, Apollo 12 astronauts became the first to perform a zero-gravity dance, getting their groove on in weightlessness to The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar.”
In 1986, Jean Michael Jarre wrote a piece for Astronaut Ron McNair to perform on his saxophone, making it the first piece composed for, and debuted in space. Sadly, McNair was on the Challenger Mission and so after his death, saxophonist Kirk Whalun recorded the work, calling it “Ron’s Piece.”
In 1988, a cassette of Pink Floyd‘s live Delicate Sound of Thunder album (minus the box, for weight reasons) was taken into space by the crew of the Soviet Soyuz TM-7 mission. Both David Gilmour and Nick Mason attended the launch. The tape was left on Mir station when the mission crew returned to Earth.
In 2004, NASA sent a second Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, into space. The Rover’s main objective was to investigate whether Mars ever had suitable environments for sustaining life. At one point, the Rover was woken by Duran Duran’s “Is There Something I Should Know?” to encourage it to find more answers since it was moving along slowly!
In 2005, Paul McCartney serenades the International Space Station Astronauts Bill McArthur and Russian cosmonaut Valary Tokarev with the song “English Tea.”
In 2009, Belgian Astronaut Frank DeWinne would appear on screen during several of U2’s U2360 tour dates, doing video greetings and reciting poems from space.
In 2011, U2 were at it again, performing many concert link ups with the International Space Station (ISS) – including one with astronaut Mark Kelly, now a Senator from Arizona.
Also, in 2011, NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson performed the first space-earth duet, performing Tull’s “Bourree,” with Coleman playing the flute!
In 2012, the first song ever played from Mars via NASA’s Curiosity rover was “Reach for the Stars,” by will.i.am. The song was beamed to earth, and was written to encourage school-age children to never stop reaching for their dreams.
In 2013, Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield actually performed David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” from SPACE and filmed a video whilst doing so.
Also, in 2013, Chris joined The Barenaked Ladies and the Wexford Gleeks in the space-to-earth musical collaboration (Go Canada!), performing the song ISS (“Is Someone Singing”).
In 2018, NASA engineers played Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” in an attempt to wake up Opportunity (as mentioned above), as it went radio silent for months. Sadly, it didn’t work.
In the same year (2018), Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster was launched into the Solar orbit with the sound system looping David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and “Life on Mars?” continuously.
If you’re a Play MPE member, and want to get in to the space game, recording either a lyrical track about the outer limits or a music bed that could be used in a film/TV show/commercial about space is always a good idea. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of interest in all things alien, and by doing so, you’d get the song(s) in front of many musical tastemakers who could be looking for just the track to add to their shortlist. A good track could send you on a rocket ride to greater opportunities (pun intended, and yes, you can groan).
…And coming back to songs about space, here are just a handful to inspire you:
“Rocket Man” – Elton John
“Intergalactic” – Beastie Boys
“Cosmic Girl” – Jamiroquai
“Across the Universe” – The Beatles
“Starman” – David Bowie
“Satellite of Love” – Lou Reed
“Planet Earth” – Duran Duran
“Walking on the Moon” – the Police
“Into the Void” – Black Sabbath
“Spaceman” – The Killers
“We are all Made of Stars” – Moby
“Sleeping Satellite” – Tasmin Archer
“Sally Ride” – Janelle Monae
“Out of Space” – Van Halen
“There’s a Moon in the Sky” – B52s
“Man on the Moon” R.E.M
“Under the Milky Way” – The Church
“Space Junk” – Devo
“Puttin’ People on the Moon” – Drive-By Truckers
“Spaceship” – Kanye West
“Space Walker” – Depeche Mode
“Looking for Astronauts” – The National