“Moonflight” and Other Spacey Songs

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We have written from time to time around here about music and the space program. In 1962, the Telstar communications satellite inspired a number of records, including the #1 hit of the same name by the Tornadoes.  The tradition of the musical space wake-up began during the Gemini era and continued through the end of the space-shuttle program. In early 1972, with nine Apollo missions in the books and two more set to fly that year, a group of British studio musicians called Apollo 100 scored a Top-10 hit with “Joy.” In 1973, the Ventures (who had cut a version of “Telstar” back in the day) recorded “Skylab (Passport to the Future),” which spent a couple of weeks on the Easy Listening chart. Other space-inspired songs from the 60s and 70s include “Space Oddity” and “Rocket Man” and “Space Truckin’,” the 80s hit “Major Tom (Coming Home)” and a number of spacey film soundtracks that span the decades. But the historic flight of Apollo 11 was especially inspirational, as you’ll see on the flip.

—The most timely of the Apollo 11-inspired tunes was “Moonflight” by Vik Venus, which features cut-ins from Buddah Records bubblegum acts. It charted in June, a month before Apollo 11’s flight, and began its brief Top 40 run during the week of July 26, peaking at #38 two weeks later. “Moonflight” is voiced by New York DJ Jack Spector and was produced by Lewis Merenstein, a versatile man to be sure, one year removed from producing Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks.

—Cut-in godfather Dickie Goodman’s own Apollo 11 entry, “Luna Trip,” spent a couple of weeks on the Hot 100 in September 1969, reaching #95. Like most Goodman songs, the clips used for the cut-ins provide a good summary of the big hits of the moment.

—Late in 1969, Joe Simon cut “Moon Walk (Parts 1 and 2).” It was recorded in Nashville with several of the city’s top studio cats and produced by influential DJ John R (Richbourg). It’s incredibly damn funky, although its connection to the Apollo mission is fairly tenuous at first—Joe tells his lady he can’t stop loving her while saying she’s got him doing the moon walk, whatever that means. Only later do things get a bit more explicit, when Joe explains the step and finally says, “Here come some rocks / A little of that moon dust  / Put it in your bag / Walk home with me now.” “Moon Walk” reached #54 on the Hot 100 in an eight-week run starting in January 1970.

—Also in 1969, a Belgian group called the Tenderfoot Kids recorded a song called “Apollo 11,” one of several singles they made in 1969 and 1970. The Internet knows precious little about it. I can’t make out much of the lyric, although the last of it seems to include an airport PA announcement of some sort. If the YouTuber who posted it is accurate, it reads (translated to English), “All those passengers to the space flight number one, please go to gate number 12 for immediate embarkation.” Whoever the Tenderfoot Kids were, they must have listened to their share of Cream records, because “Apollo 11” sounds like it should be one. It didn’t chart in the States, and may never have been released here.

—On The Ballad of Easy Rider, which was being recorded during the Apollo 11 summer, the Byrds did “Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins,” a brief throwaway that nevertheless would have felt highly meaningful when the album came out that fall.

—Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull used lunar command module pilot Michael Collins as a metaphor for loneliness in “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey, and Me,” which appeared on Benefit, released in 1970: “It’s on my mind I’m left behind / When I should have been there walking with you.”

—The best of the Apollo-themed songs was written by John Stewart (of Kingston Trio/Bombs Away Dream Babies fame) and first recorded by Reg Lindsay, an Australian country singer. In 1974, Lobo covered “Armstrong” for his album Just a Singer. It’s about the way the people of our troubled world united for a just a moment to watch one of us walk on the moon.

(Rebooted from a 2014 post.)

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