Mister Boomer still has the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon running through his head. Aside from the fact that we’ve lived a half-century since then, it is still amazing to look back and remember the sense of wonder and awe we all had at this historic feat. As Mister B has said many times through the years, what was a constant for boomers throughout their formative years? Music. Sweet music; there was music everywhere. There was swinging and swaying and records playing, and there was dancing in the street (with apologies to Martha and the Vandellas). So that got Mister B thinking about his favorite moon — and outer space — songs of the era.
Blue Moon, The Marcels (1961)
Written by Broadway legends Rogers and Hart in 1934, Blue Moon is a song that spanned the decades leading up to the Boomer Generation. Billy Eckstine recorded it in 1949; Mel Torme did a jazz version that same year, and Billie Holiday recorded it in 1952. Elvis recorded the first rock version of the song in 1954. Although each hit the charts with a measure of success, it was not until The Marcels gave us their doo-wop version in 1961 that the song reached the top spot on both the Pop and R&B charts.
Mister Boomer does not remember the first time he heard the song, but certainly remembers the bop-bada-bops and the dip-da-dips that made it so unique.
Telstar, The Tornados (1962)
This song, written by Joe Meek, was an instrumental tune that Mister B, and probably many other boomers, thought was by The Ventures (nope). The single by the English band, The Tornados, was released just one month after the Telstar communications satellite was launched into orbit. It caught the imagination of both the British and American public, and rocketed to number one for three weeks. As such, The Tornados became the first British group to ever hold the number one spot on the U.S. charts, a harbinger of the British Invasion yet to come.
Fly Me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra (1964)
Originally written by Bart Howard and released as In Other Words, Kaye Ballard was the first singer to record it in 1954. In subsequent years, it was recorded by a number of artists, including Johnny Mathis, Nancy Wilson, Eydie Gormé and Peggy Lee. After singing it in an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963, it was Peggy Lee who convinced the songwriter, Bart Howard, to officially change the name to Fly Me to the Moon, as it had become popularly known.
For boomers, the version that may best be remembered is the one by Frank Sinatra. By then it was estimated the song had been recorded more than 100 times. Quincy Jones arranged Frank’s version, upping the tempo and sending the song to new heights. It was played onboard Apollo 10 while the astronauts orbited the moon, and became the first song played on the surface of the moon when Neil Armstrong played a cassette tape of the recording after his historic first steps.
Mr. Spaceman, The Byrds (1966)
Written by Jim (aka Roger) McGuinn, the song was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek look at extraterrestrial life. Three years away from Apollo 11 landing on the moon, the country had experienced hundreds of UFO sightings and some close encounter abductions. Rather than fear the visitors, The Byrds song implores, Hey Mr. Spaceman, won’t you please take me along for a ride.
Space Oddity, David Bowie (1969)
The single of this tune was released the week before the launch of Apollo 11. Major Tom is Bowie’s fictional astronaut character in the song, about an astronaut heading out into uncharted space, never to return.
Here am I floating ’round my tin can, far above the moon. Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.
Rocket Man, Elton John (1972)
Inspired by a 1951 Ray Bradbury short story of the same name, the song explores space travel like it had become just another profession — a far cry from the way it was looked at by the Boomer Generation.
She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour: 9 a.m. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.
Elton John played the song at the launch site of Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998.
Of course, there were many. many more songs and references to outer space within songs throughout the boomer years. What’s your favorite moon or outer space-themed song, boomers?