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Moonage Daydream: The Rock Album as Science Fiction
June 23, 2010 3:17 PM   Subscribe

"Having vaulted from the fringes of pop culture into the mainstream after a newly atomic America became obsessed with films about mutants and aliens, SF literature matured and flowered throughout the '60s and beyond, just as rock 'n' roll did the same. It was inevitable that the two would mix."
posted by gman (47 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I enjoyed the entire thing until I got closer to the end and realized there was going to be no mention of Blue Oyster Cult.

Maybe I don't have a refined ear or totally understood the aim of the piece, but... what...the...frick?

Points awarded for the mention of Dr. Octagon(/Kool Keith/Black Elvis), but I'm going to need to take a walk and think this over.

Yes, I am that bothered by this.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:34 PM on June 23, 2010


No mention of Flight of the Conchords? Bowie's in Space!

Do you want to borrow my jumper, Bowie?
posted by GuyZero at 3:36 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


See also Janelle Monáe, the robot-obsessed Robyn--who else? This is going to be fun.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:38 PM on June 23, 2010


I immediately thought this was going to be all about Hendrix. And his description of "Rocket 88" as an "instrumental" is a little odd, what with the video right there...

But still, cool post!
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:44 PM on June 23, 2010


See also Janelle Monáe, the robot-obsessed Robyn--who else? This is going to be fun.

You're right. That's the attitude I should have.

Good call, btw.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:47 PM on June 23, 2010


But Rocket 88 is about a car. Rock & Roll is about cars, dummy.
posted by The World Famous at 3:49 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plus, Sheldon Allman, who's been covered on the blue before, though I don't know if you'd call him sci-fi, or space age.

And Kraftwerk maybe? Again, I don't think of them as scifi, but others may disagree.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:58 PM on June 23, 2010


The Ventures in Space, the one that started it all.

I must deplore this serious lapse in scholarship.
posted by warbaby at 3:58 PM on June 23, 2010


Man or Astroman?
posted by furiousthought at 4:03 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do you want to borrow my jumper, Bowie?

Do you have one really freaky sequin space suit, man?
Or do you have several ch-ch-ch-ch-changes?

posted by filthy light thief at 4:05 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Needs more Afrofuturism.
posted by box at 4:06 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll throw in Gojira's "From Mars to Sirius".
posted by MikeMc at 4:07 PM on June 23, 2010


are we in an alternate universe where Kilroy Was Here is taken seriously?
posted by TrialByMedia at 4:09 PM on June 23, 2010


Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- Karn Evil 9 on Brain Salad Surgery.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:13 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fear Factory's Obsolete.
posted by BeerFilter at 4:13 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


from the bit about hawkwind's 'space ritual'...

Legendary author Michael Moorcock, a regular Hawkwind collaborator, delivers a metaphysical spoken-word piece titled "Black Corridor" — which just goes to show that his stentorian voice is just as grandiloquent in reality as it in on the page..

er, i always thought it was robert calvert who read that piece on that album. and, wot, no gong? or even (gulp) the alan parsons project? but respect for describing 'tales of topographic oceans' as 'excellent'. i know from experience that takes some guts.
posted by peterkins at 4:20 PM on June 23, 2010


Sure "Rocket 88" is superficially about a car. It's actually a thinly veiled metaphor for Ike turner's penis.

"We're pullin' out about a half-past-eight" is a size reference and " My convertible top and the gals don't mind" is clearly about Ike's uncircumcised foreskin.

The More You Know.
posted by sourwookie at 4:24 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks, sourwookie. I understand that Michael Moorcock, a regular Hawkwind collaborator, has written extensively on the subject.
posted by The World Famous at 4:26 PM on June 23, 2010


Someone by the name of "Moorcock" has written extensively on the topic of Ike Turner's penis. Funny world, this.
posted by sourwookie at 4:29 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine used to say of Styx's Mr. Roboto? If it could ever be quantified how bad that song truly is, the world would come to an end.

Good to see Space Ritual in there, though.
posted by philip-random at 5:12 PM on June 23, 2010


Powerman 5000's Tonight the Stars Revolt comes to mind.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:20 PM on June 23, 2010


Straight from Rocket 88 to The Byrds, which is pole vaulted in favor of Bowie? That's nearly two decades of music this author is leapfrogging.

Okay, to begin with, the first Rock and Roll song is not Rocket 88, which was recorded in March of 1951. It was "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino, recorded all the back back in 1949. I know Sun Studios wants to claim to have invented rock and rool, but just listen to Fats; it's pure backbeat, and he's singing about watching women. Rock and the fuck roll, pure and simple.

Okay, with that out of the way, here is a necessarily incomplete inventory of science fiction-themed rock songs that predate Bowie:

Flyin' Saucers Rock 'n' Roll, Billy Lee Riley, 1957
The Flying Saucer, Buchanan & Goodman, 1958
Flying Purple People Eater, Sheb Wooley, 1958
Bo Meets the Monster, Bo Diddley, 1958
The Blog by the Five Blobs, 1959
Teenage Brain Surgeon, Spike Jones, 1959
Radioactive Mama, Sheldon Allman, 1960
Journey to the Seventh Planet, Otto Brandenburg, 1961
Martian Hop, the Ran-Dells, 1963
Blast Off, The Monks, 1966
The Little Man from Mars, Perrey & Kingsley, 1966
Strangers from the Sky, Kim Fowley, 1967
UFO, Dudley & The Doo Rytes, 1967
E.S.P., Beaver Patrol, 1967
Green Slime from Outer Space, Charles Fox, 1968
Shape of Things to Come, Max Frost, 1968
Flashing Lights, Screaming Lord Sutch, 1970
Space Child, Spirit, 1970
The Creature, The Sweet Acids, date unknown (late 60s)
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:31 PM on June 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Okay, this article lost me immediately by claiming rock started in 1951 with Ike Turner. There is plenty of evidence otherwise. You have to pretty much suck as a writer to blow your lede with poor research.

If nothing else, this article proves that music lost its subversiveness about the same time SF did, in the early 1980s.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:31 PM on June 23, 2010


chrome
zolar x
von lmo
posted by Hammond Rye at 5:37 PM on June 23, 2010


I Hear a New World
posted by Hammond Rye at 5:43 PM on June 23, 2010


Jeff Wayne - War of the Worlds
posted by Hammond Rye at 5:51 PM on June 23, 2010


Mindcrime is sci-fi? I always thought it was about old fashioned things like politics, idealism, and 'justifiable violence.'
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:08 PM on June 23, 2010


Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Flaunt It
posted by Babblesort at 6:18 PM on June 23, 2010


Okay, to begin with, the first Rock and Roll song is not Rocket 88

Okay, this article lost me immediately by claiming rock started in 1951 with Ike Turner.


Leave. Him. Alone. You're lucky he even performed for you bastards. LEAVE IKE TURNER ALONE!!!!

Seriously, Ike Turner's awesome and gets overlooked enough as it is. IMO his catalog puts Tina's to shame. I'm OK with letting him have this one, in no small part because any choice for "1st evar rock song" is going to be contentious anyway.
posted by Kirk Grim at 6:33 PM on June 23, 2010


Sonic Attack.
posted by ovvl at 6:39 PM on June 23, 2010


this article proves that music lost its subversiveness about the same time SF did, in the early 1980s.

It does certainly if you completely skip something like Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation in favor of ummm, Queensryche ...? who are, at least, magnitudes better than Styx. Actually, everybody's magnitudes better than Styx. Justin Bieber is magnitudes better than Styx.

Did I mention how awful that song Mr. Roboto was? Oh, I guess I did. But I guess I haven't quantified it well enough because the world still seems to exist, or maybe it's just my Philip K Dick infused imagination playing tricks on me again.

Science Fiction - 1984

posted by philip-random at 6:41 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised that they missed the most obvious Styx song of all:

We thought that they were angels,
But to my surprise
They climbed aboard our starship
And headed for the skies!

posted by Halloween Jack at 6:53 PM on June 23, 2010


Actually, everybody's magnitudes better than Styx.

REO Speedwagon is not magnitudes better than Styx. Damn Yankees are not magnitudes better than Styx. Winger and White Lion are not magnitudes better than Styx. Mainstream popular Rock & Roll is choc full of bands that are/were horrible and unaccoutably popular. Styx was not the first, nor will it be the last, band to be unbelievably awful and at the same time enormously popular.
posted by The World Famous at 6:58 PM on June 23, 2010


Are you all teasing me? Major Tom wasn't even sci-fi. It was just news.

This is sci-fi.

Billy Thorpe's Children of the Sun
posted by Mike Mongo at 6:58 PM on June 23, 2010


Memory Of A Free Festival
The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We're Gonna Have a Party!
posted by Sailormom at 7:17 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorite example: Dave Greenslade's 1979 "Pentateuch of the Cosmogony" (doesn't work so well as music) w/art by Patrick Woodroffe (fantastic!)

(bad) image
posted by Twang at 9:53 PM on June 23, 2010


Interstellar Overdrive?
posted by Sebmojo at 10:15 PM on June 23, 2010


37 comments and no Klaatu? Or Devo?

Robot Rock
Paranoid Android
Sferic Waves
The Final Countdown
The Female of the Species

What are we on about again?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:50 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great idea to explore, but the list woefully incomplete and too prog-heavy. I think a lot of rock and punk was already infused with a sci-fi, dystopian quality to it even if it doesn't mention rocket ships or flying saucers.

REO Speedwagon is not magnitudes better than Styx. Damn Yankees are not magnitudes better than Styx. Winger and White Lion are not magnitudes better than Styx.

I don't think any of those other bands polluted aurally raped the teens of the world with as many records sold as STYX did....therefore, yes, YES, they suck fantastically, and thoroughly,\ and exceedingly and perhaps even criminally.


Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto?

Ugh. Yuck. Yuck yuck....Bleech...

posted by Skygazer at 11:40 PM on June 23, 2010


What about Loverboy and Foreigner?
posted by The World Famous at 11:58 PM on June 23, 2010


Well, now you've done it. I'm pretty sure when all three of those bands are mentioned right after the other: the baby Jesus cries.
posted by Skygazer at 2:30 AM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


People should be warned: Listening to Sferic Waves while driving may cause speeding tickets if not accidents. Please use responsibly.
posted by wobh at 3:11 AM on June 24, 2010


Say what you want about any of Styx's other songs, but as any Supernatural (the TV show) fan can attest, "Renegade" is a fucking great song.
posted by kmz at 7:00 AM on June 24, 2010


I enjoyed the entire thing until I got closer to the end and realized there was going to be no mention of Blue Oyster Cult.

Veteran of the Psychic Wars?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:37 AM on June 24, 2010


OK I just had to stop my boss from rattling off a list of a hundred Scifi-themed Hawkwind songs. Thanks a lot.
posted by yoHighness at 9:00 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since it's so widely despised (there are certain Usenet groups where mentioning it is grounds for banishment ...), I couldn't fail to leave out what nooooone mentioned: Zager and Evans 1969 In the Year 2525.

(There ... OK now, who's doing the article about Sci-Fi in "New Age" / "Hearts of Space" ambient?)
posted by Twang at 12:29 PM on June 24, 2010


I Robot by The Alan Parsons Project, and probably others by them.

Time by the Electric Light Orchestra.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:33 PM on June 24, 2010


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