Mars Curiosity: Top Ten Intergalactic Throwback Tracks

[In this week’s Throwback column, I pay tribute to the Curiosity landing.]

The monumental landing of NASA’s new Mars rover Curiosity has reignited our love affair with the cosmos. Take a listen to my top ten intergalactic tracks, spanning musical eras as well as our solar system– exploring mankind’s longing, bewilderment, and fascination with the strange world that lies beyond our stratosphere.

10.  Rah Band-  Clouds Across The Moon–  The 1985 au courant synthesizer and drum machine really underscore the heartache of phoning your astronaut paramour from earth only to find that he’s cheating with some cheap moon floozy.  (Speaking of cheap, the budget for the music video must have been sparse and is worth watching for a laugh.)

9.  Incubus-  Stellar– Brandon Boyd compares the simply astounding wonderment of being in space to the way that being in love can also wholly overwhelm.

8.  Europe-  The Final Countdown– These Swedes enthusiastically pay homage to Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with a rousing and grandiose signature keyboard riff, used to get fans to their feet in stadiums, as well as bring magicians on stage.

7.  The Byrds- Mr. Spaceman– Is there “Life on Mars”? 60′s folk rockers The Byrds thought so and were certain that if they asked real, real, nice they might get to take a trip with their alien acquaintances. Far out, man.

6.  Peter Schilling-   Major Tom (Coming Home) – Another send up to Bowie’s Milky Way traveler, and more recently a fun rediscovery for fans of TV’s Breaking Bad, Shilling’s tense and thrilling build makes the tragic story of being lost in space strangely danceable.

5.  Radiohead-  Black Star– The influential experimental rock band laments the toll modern life is taking in an anticipated dystopian future, “Blame it on the black star/ Blame it on the falling sky/ Blame it on the satellite that beams me home”.

4.  The Police-  Walking on the Moon–  Humankind’s astonishment at outer space is used again to convey the sheer exhilaration of love. Sting has noted that the song was about his first girlfriend, “for being in love is to be relieved of gravity”.  Swoon.

3.  R.E.M.-  Man on the Moon– Atlanta alt-rockers R.E.M.’s soaring pop song is not so much about Buzz Aldrin, but instead a tip of the hat to quirky comedian Andy Kaufman.

2.  Elton John-  Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long Long Time)– Produced three years after “Space Oddity”, by the same producer (Gus Dudgeon), Elton John’s more morose  shuttle song, surprisingly, does not allude to its 1969 predecessor, but supposedly was imagined due to songwriting partner Bernie Taupin having spotted a shooting star.

1.  David Bowie-  Space Oddity–  Fitting that so many cribbed from the granddaddy of art rock, the title “Space Oddity” was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s eerie sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Cheerful flamenco guitar and claps contrast the stark story of losing our courageous hero to the unknown.

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