What Is Your Favorite "Space" Song?

Welcome to the Interstellar Jukebox, a new feature here at Sci-Fi Songs where I ask a bunch of great writers, bloggers, musicians, and podcasters to weigh in on some Sci-Fi related music topic. First Question:

What is Your Favorite "Space" Song?

Gareth L Powell

Gareth L Powell is a novelist and short story writer from the UK. He is a regular contributor to Interzone, and maintains a website at www.garethlpowell.com.

I discovered Patti Smith while at school, in the late 1980s. I'd been into the Velvet Underground for a couple of years, and I was just discovering and getting into all these cool American bands, like the Ramones and The Doors. I picked up a vinyl copy of her first album, Horses (1975), at a record store in Bristol, at the top of Park Street, opposite the museum. It was produced by John Cale, whose early albums I really liked, and Smith looked amazing on the sleeve, like some sort of hip androgynous alien, with this fuck-you attitude. I looked at it all the way home on the bus, turning it over and over in my hands. When I finally got it back to my room and put it on the turntable, it blew me away. It was arty and passionate and perfect, and it took no prisoners. It mixed reggae and rock with this spectacularly demented poetry; and Smith had this incredible voice that sounded beautiful and ugly all at the same time. I was 17 years old, and I played it over and over again.

"Space Monkey" is the second track on Smith's slightly patchier (but more commercially successful) third album, Easter (1978), and it's a prowling, swaggering chant of a song, buoyed up by cheery organ and driving bass. Without the vocals, it might almost sound like something by Talking Heads; but here, Smith dominates the music. She alternates spoken word passages with Jim Morrison growls, until the whole thing degenerates into panting and monkey screams.

Patrick Hester

Patrick Hester is an author, blogger, podcaster and functional nerd who hangs out and publishes his stuff at his blog, 'All things from my brain' over at www.atfmb.com and on his twitter feed at twitter.com/atfmb.

When you think of Stevie Ray Vaughan, an image probably comes to mind of a guy wearing a wide brimmed, black hat decorated with wide, silver discs. He's wearing a long white shirt with a dark vest and steel toed cowboy boots that are probably made from the hide of some reptile. He has a guitar (Number One), a Fender Stratocaster, slung across his shoulder with the letters 'S R V' emblazoned upon it. He's playing that guitar behind his back, sweat streaming down his face and hair, a look of concentration fixed upon his face.

He's known for his guitar work, often compared to the late, great, Jimi Hendrix - something that he came to terms with, eventually covering songs like 'Voodoo Chile' in such a way that it became both tribute and signature all at once.

What you may not know is that he was a little brother.

Stevie learned to play guitar by locking himself in his bedroom with his older brother Jimmy's guitar for hours and hours. Jimmy went on to become famous as a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds (Wrap it up, I'll take it) while Stevie toured with his backup band Double Trouble and came into his own in the 80's.

The brothers recorded one album together that I am aware of: Family Style. It was something that Stevie had said he always wanted to do. On it is a decidedly UnVaughan Brothers song titled 'Hillbillies from Outerspace'. It doesn't sound like something you'd expect to hear from these Texas Bluesmen. It starts out with an organ solo, for god-sake. There isn't even any guitar until two minutes into the three and three quarter minute song.

This was Stevie's last studio outing (Recorded in 1990, he died in August of that year in a helicopter accident). It sounds very Texas Electric Blues overall, except for Hillbillies from Outerspace itself, which almost sounds like it should be the featured song of a lounge lizard somewhere and not the Vaughan brothers. Still, as you listen to the rest of the album, you can feel the love that went into it, the playfulness of two brothers creating music together. I especially like the song 'Brothers' because it showcases that playfulness as one or the other messes up the guitar solos of the other by reaching across to pluck or loosen a string. It just brings a smile to my face.

Never a hit, it still produced a couple of timeless songs. Tick Tock, for example, which shows why Stevie should be remembered just as much for his lyrics and singing as for his guitar. "One night while sleeping in my bed I had a beautiful dream, that all the people of the world got together on the same wavelength, and began helping one another..."

Stevie's story has always touched me. Like far too many artists, he was taken from us just as everything was coming together for him; he'd battled drug and alcohol addictions for years only to come out of it clean, sober and rededicated to his music, boo'd off the stage at the Montreux Jazz festival in 1982, he returned in 1985 to rock the house to a wall of applause, and in 1990, he'd finally recorded an album with his brother and was touring with Eric Clapton - definitely a high point in anyones career.

I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughn after his death. His legacy is his music, and his talent and his passion, is right there in every song. Even Hillbillies from Outerspace. :)

John DeNardo

John DeNardo separates his time between blogging at SF Signal (http://www.sfsignal.com) and putting out oil fires. One of those is a lie.

My favorite "space" song is "Space Oddity" by David Bowie. It captures the music of its day (1969) and tells a fantastic story that still has impact. And...is there any singer more science fictional than David Bowie?

Abby Holmes

Abby Holmes is a staff writer and music blogger for The Wenatchee World. Likes: Cats, myths and legends, pie, Led Zeppelin. Dislikes: Raisins, sports, spiders, “Who Let the Dogs Out.” Read her blogs at http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/weblogs/give-it-spin/ and follow her on Twitter: @abbytron.

“Space Oddity” by David Bowie

David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is not only my favorite “Space” song; it’s my favorite Bowie song. Recite the lyric, “Ground control to Major Tom,” and you’re bound to set off a sing-along. Bowie is one of the greatest musical artists of all time. While this can be said of many great musicians, it’s especially relevant to him. Besides the overwhelming presence of his influence in the music of so many modern artists (Nine Inch Nails, Tears for Fears and Radiohead, to name a few), Bowie pioneered science fiction as a musical theme. Though his songs span an array of musical styles, they are instantly identifiable. “Space Oddity” was one of Bowie’s earliest singles, from his 1969 album of the same title. It’s the ballad of a fictional astronaut who delivers his final transmission before drifting off into space, frequently referred to as a metaphor for drug abuse. Regardless of the deeper meaning, the song laid a new path for rock music in its time, inspiring even Bowie himself. It’s truly timeless, a work of art with a tremendous amount of gravity to this day.

Kate Baker

Kate Baker is the Podcast Director for Hugo and Fantasy award nominee, Clarkesworld Magazine. She has also narrated for StarShipSofa, Escape Pod, and Fantasy. When not tackling large piles of neglected literary fare, she has also been known to be a mother of three, an administrative professional, gamer, aspiring writer and a zombie. No, really.

I didn't realize how many "space" songs I actually had when I queried the word in Itunes. Incidentally, I have NO idea how "Space Jam" got on my playlist.

Don't look at me like that.

When I originally saw the question, I knew I was going to answer, "Space Dog" by Tori Amos. From the album, Under the Pink, Tori takes you on a multifaceted journey with the song. She starts off with some interesting synth tones, a hard-driving beat and then switches gears to melodic and undulating piano.

The song is full of anger in that condescending, sneaky type of way, and easy to sing when you're unhappy with something. However, I think that forensic analysis could be applied to most if not all of Tori's repertoire. There is some great debate as to what the song actually means, with some people dismissing her stuff as magnetic poetry thrown up all over a refrigerator, and some fans arguing the song is about numbing to ones beliefs.

Personally, that is what I find so compelling about Tori Amos' work. Complicated and seemingly random lyrics hold meaning and paint a larger and ultimately different picture to each listener. To those who take the time to really open their ears and mind, a whole world unfolds.

It would happen to be why I have almost everything she's ever done on CD and in my mp3 collection.

Curtis Silver

Curtis Silver is a bad-ass freelancer based in sunny Florida. He can currently be found writing at Wired.com, at Everyotherthursday.com and Shamable.com. You can reach him by holding out a long stick, his blog or on Twitter cracking wise.

I am not a musician. I fiddle from time to time on the guitar and can slap my hands on my jeans in some sort of rhythm. I'm a writer, so to have musical influences in my creative life I have to get very specific. I love music; my library of tunes is massive. There is a song for every situation, every emotion and every time of day. When asked however, to get minutely specific and write about how a song with "space" in the title (referencing outer space I'd have to assume) I had to sit back and take a long glance at my library. Less like a glance and more like a stare. Album by album, track by track. The names of songs long have eluded me, like the album count in the King Crimson discography.

Finding the right song that I could attribute to some sort of inspiration or telling moment in my creative development with the word "space" in the title seemed like such a daunting task. It turned out, it was pretty damn easy. I have chosen the song "Space Suit" by They Might be Giants. It appears as track number 38 on the album Apollo 18. The album came out in 1992 and was my first exposure to They Might be Giants, who have provided much inspiration over the years.

I had just turned 14 in 1992 and had traded a friend Pearl Jam's Ten for Apollo 18. I would of course re-buy Ten several years later. They Might be Giants took me away from my otherwise mundane life to a world full of contradictions and odd behavior. However, the one track that stuck with me was the one track with no lyrics at all, their lyrics being something TMBG is known for. Space Suit instead is an off worldly little trip that mystically blasts your imagination into the lower atmosphere and hangs there, looking down on the planet below. My art took that turn and that's when I began writing more as well.

I also noticed the quality of my writing changed as well around this time. I stopped writing serious prose and crappy teen angst poetry and turned to actual writing that was the groundwork for getting paid for it someday. The shit started to make sense! Looking back, it was still pretty sub-par writing (as if this is Pulitzer Prize winning material) but it was better than before. I suppose that could be attributed to just maturing and spending less time by myself in the bathroom. No, not that. I ate a lot of fiber. Get your head out of the gutter.

There was a lot going on in my life then, besides my writing and art. There were girls, whom I looked at from across the room but didn't talk to. There were sports, for which I played but was never really anything close to an all-star at. There were other things too, like switching from candy cigarettes to real ones and then chewing tobacco. Can I attribute all that to the music too? Did "Space Suit" inspire me to take up tobacco use? Doubtful. Though I can think of a couple songs that might have. Like anything from Nirvana. No, that stuff, while excellent, makes me want to do naughty things with a shotgun. Too soon?

I had also just been recruited into the Green Lantern Corps as well. I remember traveling through the Universe, playing interstellar detective, and listening to that song on my portable CD player. Mind you, the CD player didn't work so well on planets with a high concentration of nitrogen, but I would just aim my lantern ring at it and it'd start right up again. It was a great tune for when I had just savagely beaten the Weaponers of Qward and was propelling back into the stars. Then Sinestro took my CD player one day because the jerk claimed it had some of the yellow crystal in it or something like that. I knocked three of his teeth out, but my CD player was ruined in the battle. This was a devastating event for me. That CD player was the only way I was able to make interstellar travel not so damn boring. Let me tell you, Killowog is no conversationalist.

When I returned to Earth, I bought the CD and kept on with my writing, further inspired by never having to fight crime outside of my bedroom. I wrote three bestsellers within the next four years; sadly none of them were ever finished or actually sold. Ok, I didn't actually write any novels. But I was inspired to. That counts right?

Basically trying to pick out one song that inspires is a daunting task. Yes, I have many songs in my music library that have the word "space" in them. Can I say that they really inspired me? I have no freaking clue. It's doubtful. The way I see it, musicians are inspired by music, writers are inspired by writers. Music may provide a muse or perhaps a creative inflection that sparks when the right music is being played. These days I write best to music from artist such as Porcupine Tree, BT, Lemon Jelly and of course, King Crimson. While I can't pinpoint an exact song or even a particular album that directly inspires my work, I can say that as a whole - the music provides a great setting for my creative juices to flow. The writing is my porn, the music is the fluffer.

How's that for inspiring? Boo-ya!

Justin Macumber

Justin Macumber is a writer and podcaster trying to make his way through this strange new digital world. Find out more at www.justinmacumber.com

I love music. I mean, I really love music. I love the way it can speak to the human heart and soul in ways that words or paint or pictures can't. It's an immediate and deep connection. And, of all the instruments I've heard played, my favorite is by far the guitar. Whether it's acoustic or electric, six-stringed or twelve, played flat, normal, or upright, the guitar is a wondrous tool that can cut and soothe in equal measures. My most beloved guitarist of all time is Joe Satriani. The man... is without peer. Sometimes when I hear him play it's as though his hands were touched by God. What I love most about him is that while he's technically brilliant, he never lets the technique get in the way of the song, or overshadow it. For him music is about the melody, not the number of notes he can hit in a ten second stretch. And, a song of his in particular that I enjoy is the title song from his album "Is There Love In Space?" Joe's no stranger to songs with a light, emotional touch, and "Is There Love In Space?" is one great song in a string of them about what makes all our hearts beat. His best album, in my opinion, has a bit of a "space" title - "Crystal Planet." That album... it just amazes me. Hearing him play, hearing his technique and his heart playing in such syncronicity makes me want to be that much better of a writer. I will listen to his music until the day my ears grow quiet.

Check in next week for Part 2 of the "What is Your Favorite Space Song" Edition of The Interstellar Jukebox.

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  1. Not surprised to see Space Oddity mentioned more than once!

  2. Excellent job, John! Great post.

  3. I like Space Dog by Tori Amos as well. It's a weird little song.

  4. Awesome conceit - I'm a big fan of that TMBG album, and the Aimee Mann.

    My list would have to start with The Roches w/ Mark Johnson's cover of Harry Nilsson's Spaceman. Or Sun Kil Moon's cover of Modest Mouse's Space Travel is Boring. Both of which have roughly the same subtly-treated sentiment, and the same hidden sentimentality for Earth, community, and culture over space itself.

  5. I wonder if anyone can remember a song in the early 80's...about a woman that phones her husband/boyfriend in space and then sings to him over the phone...in the end of the song, they are cut off and then she tells the operator she'll try again next year...

    I really hope there is someone out there that remembers!!!

  6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqAzofwXmVE&feature=youtu.be

    A great new space song by a French/UK duo Audiosonics UK21 The song's called 'So pass me some o' that soma'