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Cruisin' At Lightspeed: Songs For Space Travel

Chip Somodevilla
/
Getty Images

Mankind has been dreaming about flying in space ever since we began looking up to the stars. Once flight and space travel became a reality, songs about flying to the heavens entered the mainstream musical world. If Nicolaus Copernicus were around in '69, he'd surely have put on his gold lipstick, striped disco spacesuit and cherry-red platform boots, and gotten down and dirty with David Bowie's stellar grooves. Go ahead, Nico: "Houston, we have liftoff."

If you were on an intergalactic road trip, what songs would you blast from the shuttle's speakers? Tell us in the comments.

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Come Take A Trip In My Airship

Folklorist Dr. Barry Childs-Helton says that when technology crops up in popular culture, it's usually anticipatory. The earliest examples of science-fiction concepts in music were at the turn of the century during the Tin Pan Alley era. In this 1905 recording, the singer fantasizes about being onboard his airship, circling Venus and Mars with his sweetheart.

Mr. Spaceman

Science fiction in music became more prevalent during the rise of the counterculture. Both Roger McGuinn and David Crosby from The Byrds were serious about the possibility of communicating with extraterrestrial life forms via radio broadcast. McGuinn in particular felt that if the song was played on the radio, there was a possibility that extraterrestrials might intercept the broadcasts and make contact.

Space Oddity

David Bowie becomes Major Tom, a fictional astronaut inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The single was rush-released on July 11, 1969, to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon landings. In the U.K., it was used in conjunction with the BBC's coverage of the landing. The song became so well-known that Bowie's second album, originally released as David Bowie in the U.K., was renamed after this song for its 1972 reissue by RCA.

Chris Boros
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