10 musical connections with the 1969 Moon Landing
20 July 2019, 18:00 | Updated: 20 July 2019, 18:01
On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon. This momentous event in history has found its way into cultural history in some surprising places…
Saturn 5 was the name of the rocket that went to the moon
Actually, the Saturn V rocket was a craft that launched 13 missions into space between 1967 and 1973 - it took its name from the five engines that blasted the structure out of Earth’s atmosphere. In 1993, Manchester band Inspiral Carpets recorded a song called Saturn 5 and filmed the video at the Kennedy Space Center by one of the enormous rockets.
Alex Turner was inspired by Apollo 11… and Stanley Kubrick
Arctic Monkeys’ 2018 album Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino was named after the location on the moon where the lunar module touched down: astronaut Neil Armstrong announced the landing by saying “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Alex Turner told Radio X: “I’ve got some Apollo mission cups and the word tranquility is in reference to the site of the first moon landing, folks. There’s a picture of the eagle and I think it says Tranquility Base.” The “hotel and casino” part of the title comes from the space-age Hilton Hotel that features in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
David Bowie’s Space Oddity was released in time for the moon landing
The soon-to-be-superstar released his single about Major Tom on 11 July 1969, just five days before the launch of the Apollo 11 mission. The BBC were a bit wary of playing a song in which an astronaut goes missing, but once astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins returned safely, the song gradually crept its way up to Number 5. It fared even better when reissued in 1975, when it topped the charts.
What was the Number 1 single when man landed on the moon?
British act Thunderclap Newman was enjoying the last of three weeks at the top of the British charts as the lunar module touched down on the moon. It was replaced the following week by The Rolling Stones’ much earthier Honky Tonk Women.
In America, the ominous In The Year 2525 by Zager And Evans was at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
What was the first song ever played on the moon?
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin played a cassette of Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon once the lunar module touched down. The song was arranged by producer Quincy Jones, who was later told that his recording was the first music ever played on another planet: “I freaked,” he said.
What other music did the Apollo 11 astronauts listen to?
A music executive called Mickey Kapp was friends with some of the Apollo 11 astronauts and was asked to compile some music to put on to the new, tiny cassette player that the crew were able to take with them. According to Vanity Fair, some of the tunes included were Galveston by Glen Campbell and People by Barbra Streisand.
Cilla Black and Lulu soundtracked the moon landings on TV
Well, kind of. While BBC 1 had presenters James Burke and Patrick Moore commenting on the historic activity on the moon, ITV decided to go a bit “lighter”. David Frost’s Moon Party kicked off at 5pm on Sunday 20 July and interspersed news updates from the Apollo 11 mission with Frost’s well-worn chat show format. Guests included singers Lulu, Cilla Black and Cliff Richard, US song and dance man Sammy Davis Jr, and comic actors Hattie Jacques and Eric Sykes.
There was some sensible talk from TV historian AJP Taylor, but science fiction writer Ray Bradbury found the whole thing disrespectful and walked out on the show before Frostie had a chance to talk to him. Before the show wound up in time for footage of Armstrong leaving the lunar module kicked in just before 4am, crooner Englebert Humperdinck had reportedly collapsed through exhaustion.
Pink Floyd recorded a jam while watching the moon landing
While ITV was enjoying the works of Cilla Black, Pink Floyd were over at BBC’s TV Centre in West London playing some suitably spacey music to the footage coming in from Apollo 11. The programme, which started at 10pm on Sunday 20 July 1969 was part of the Omnibus art series and was subtitled “So What If It’s Just Green Cheese?” - also on the show were Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Dudley Moore.
Dave Gilmour later told The Guardian: “It was a live broadcast, and there was a panel of scientists on one side of the studio, with us on the other. They were broadcasting the moon landing and they thought that to provide a bit of a break they would show us jamming."
Have a listen to a home-recorded tape of the jam:
Neil Armstrong refused MTV permission to use his voice
When MTV launched in 1981, the all-music station used a photo of the Apollo 11 mission as their ident, with the US flag replaced with their own. According to the station’s creative director, Fred Seibert: “We were going to include Neil Armstrong doing his ‘One small step,’ but the lawyers said, ‘You can’t. Neil Armstrong owns his name and likeness.’ I say. ‘We’ve got to use it. It will be terrible without it.’
"So I said, ‘Call Neil Armstrong.’ They do, and Armstrong says, ‘Are you crazy?’” The former astronaut remained quite a private individual in the years following the moonshot, and defended any use of his image carefully. In the end, MTV replace the quote with a beeping sound. The photos are actually of Buzz Aldrin, by the way.
Homer Simpson didn’t watch the moon landings live on TV…
…he was on the other side of the room, listening to Yummy Yummy Yummy by Ohio Express.