By Madeline Bocaro ©
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing
July 20, 1969
It’s a fabulous night for a moondance – by the light of a magical moon.
If your moon is blue tonight, let’s make it shine!
In the jazzy tune ‘Destination Moon’, Dinah Washington and her sweetheart blast off for a ‘supersonic honeymoon’ in ‘the modern atomic way’!
Come and take a trip in my rocket ship
We’ll have a lovely afternoon
Kiss the world goodbye and away we fly
Alan Freed’s popular Moondog radio program, was named after his show’s theme song – a 1949 R&B track called ‘Moondog’s Symphony,’ an avant-garde piece which features a dog howling. Freed began promoting R&B music to a mass audience on WJW in Cleveland in 1951, and later in New York City at 1010 WINS). Freed also popularized the phrase “Rock and Roll.” He also promoted dances and live concerts, and appeared in many early rock and roll films. Freed He was fired when the FCC asked him sign a statement saying that he never accepted payola. He refused to sign, but it was true. This led to his downfall. He died an alcoholic at age 43 in 1965.
The blind composer of ‘Moondog’s Symphony’ was a busker (from Kansas) in New York City, also known as Moondog – Louis Hardin. Hardin was a serious composer who released several records in the 1950s and was championed by jazz great Benny Goodman, composer Toscanini and even modern composer Steve Reich. Hardin sued Alan Freed for using his song, and namesake in 1954, and won the case.
Listen – Moondog’s Symphony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0bxoxtalGU
‘How High The Moon’ has a gorgeous, magically smooth vocal. It was recorded in 1951 by Les Paul & Mary Ford. They immediately perfected their new technique – this is the very first instance of multi-tracked vocals (pioneered by Les Paul himself, the inventor of electric guitar and effects such as reverb, echo and delay). This layered recording must have sounded even more magical at the time, as it was so unique and groundbreaking. It must have been as exciting as seeing the Chicago World’s Fair lit up at night by Tesla in 1893 when the light bulb had been recently invented. This still sounds glorious!
‘Blue Moon’, written by Rodgers and Hart in 1934 was made popular by the harmonizing doo-wop group The Marcels in 1961. This standard has been covered countless times by musical legends of all genres, including Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan!
The Honeymooners television show begins with the iconic graphic of Jackie Gleason’s face in the moon rising over Brooklyn (amidst added fireworks shot at Coney Island). When I was a kid, I could swear that I could see Ralph Kramden’s head outlined in the craters of the actual moon! I still see it sometimes. The Honeymooners starring Jackie Gleason and Art Carney had its debut in 1951 with short sketches. The classic 39 episodes (that we all know and love) were filmed for CBS-TV in New York City. They aired from 1955-1956. What a year! The instrumental orchestral theme song was written by Gleason. It was titled ‘My Greatest Love’, but the song also had lyrics as ‘Melancholy Serenade’ sung by Connie Francis on her second album. Connie Francis also sang ‘The Hucklebuck’ – the song which Ralph and Norton dance to in the episode ‘Young At Heart’ – however, the record they are playing on the show is by Kay Starr.
‘Melancholy Serenade’: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Weuej6k15-o“
‘The Hucklebuck’ Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vihnr5dM3PM
‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ was first a slow-tempo waltz written by Bill Monroe. Elvis Presley had a big hit with the song at age nineteen in 1954 using an upbeat skiffle rhythm and a slight echo on his gorgeous vocal.
The Bill Evans Trio released an album called Moon Beams in 1962. A blonde Nico (before she became the gothic priestess) graces the album cover! They covered the popular jazz standard ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeams’ from 1940 (music by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Johnny Burke). It had previously been a hit for Frank Sinatra. Bob Dylan covered it in 2016. The strange lyrics portray a man at a country music dance falling in love with a woman who has a deformed nose. Luckily, Evans’ version is an instrumental! In 1958, Evans composed an improv titled ‘Peace Piece,’ which fittingly inspired John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine.’
Listen ‘Moon Beams’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NTxWQfMSsA
‘Moon River’ is a classic written by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. We all have clear visions of Audrey Hepburn strumming an acoustic guitar and singing the song on her window ledge in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
‘Fly Me to the Moon’ was made most popular by Frank Sinatra in 1964 due to the timing of the moon mission (after almost 100 other versions had been recorded). It was first recorded by singer Kaye Ballard under the title ‘In Other Words’. Connie Francis recorded it in Italian. Hundreds more cover versions ensued. It was the first recording ever played on the moon (by Buzz Aldrin on a cassette tape).
Frank Sinatra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEcqHA7dbwM
John Lennon’s wonderfully intense vocal on The Beatles’ cover of ‘Mr. Moonlight’ (originally by Dr. Feelgood and The Interns) did not help to make the song a hit. This is on Beatles For Sale, their fourth album in 1964. The Hollies and The Merseybeats had also recorded the song prior.
An early electronic instrumental ‘Silver Apples of the Moon’ is by Morton Subotnick, who used a specially designed synthesizer which he called an ‘electric music box’. Unlike most electronic records at the time, Subotnick (who was also a classical composer) created more structured pieces. His manipulated ‘beats’ were made by pulses. Although it was made over 50 years ago, on some planet in the distant future this will be considered pop music.
The making of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6lrzvDPQPM
The Doors take us on a ‘Moonlight Drive’ on their second album Strange Days (1967). This was the lyric that Jim Morrison had shown to Ray Manzarek who was blown away, cementing the idea to form a band. It was the first song that the band recorded, but it did not appear on their debut album. Jim poetically invokes a strange erotic journey.
“Let’s swim to the moon, let’s climb through the tide, penetrate the evening that the city sleeps to hide.”
He uses a double entendre at the end; ‘Baby gonna drown tonight/Goin’ down, down, down.”
The eerie sounding slide guitar of Robby Krieger lends an otherworldly ambience to this tune, which Manzarek calls a ‘rock tango’.
It’s a good thing that Jim is wearing his moonglasses!
The psychedelic ‘Child of the Moon’ by The Rolling Stones was demoed for Beggar’s Banquet but did not appear on the album. It was released in May 1968 as the B-side of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’. The melody is very much like The Beatles’ 1966 song ‘Rain’. The song’s video shows phases of a woman’s life as the creepy, unmoving and never-aging Rolling Stones always seem to be in her path. Keith swings in and out of the trees, a feat that proved more difficult for him later in life.
Watch the cool video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_PjGiuJI1M
The apocalyptic ‘Bad Moon Rising’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival was released in 1969 – four months prior to the first moon landing. It’s the first single from their Green River album. The band’s songs have sound-tracked many films about the Vietnam war. This song has been featured in more than ten films.
‘Moonchild‘ is a song by King Crimson on their 1969 debut album Court of the Crimson King. It is used in the soundtrack of a great 1998 film, Buffalo 66 starring Vincent Gallo and Christina Ricci.
Cat Stevens’ lovely ‘Moonshadow’ appears on his 1970 album Teaser and the Firecat (before he became Yusuf Islam, and later simply Yusuf). It’s a nursery-rhyme style ballad.
‘Moondance’ by Van Morrison is a classic jazzy swing number. It’s on his 1970 album of the same name. The music is perfect for a moondance! It was released as a single much later – in 1977.
Another moondance – ‘By the light of a Magical Moon’ is on the 1970 Tyrannosaurus Rex album A Beard of Stars. It was the first of the band’s albums on which electric guitars were used, and the last album before the team of Marc Bolan and Mickey Finn went completely electric with a full band (as Bob Dylan had done in 1965) and shortened the band’s name to T. Rex.
Marc Bolan performed ‘Crimson Moon’ on British television in 1977. The song was on his final album as T. Rex, Dandy in the Underworld. Bolan, who knowingly presaged his youthful passing in many interviews died in a car crash in September at the age of 29.
Crimson Moon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GToxrNf5KE8
Watch the Marc 1977 Television shows : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYA8AhxQyFQ
‘Moon Over Alabama’ originated as the German ‘Alabama Song’ by Bertolt Brecht with music by Kurt Weil. The song with its dissonant chords and oom-pah beat was first sung by Weill’s wife Lotte Lenya. It was used in Brecht/Weil’s 1930 opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogonny.
The song was covered by The Doors and by David Bowie – who was influenced by the opera’s title for the name of his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. The Doors recorded it as ‘Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)’ in 1966 and performed it live numerous times. Bowie first performed it live on his 1978 tour. It first appeared on a Bowie record as the B-Side of an updated 1980 acoustic version of ‘Space Oddity’.
The Doors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAK5blgfKWM
Bowie’s song ‘Space Oddity’ became a hit, released just over a week prior to first moon landing in July 1969. The spacey sounds were made by a stylophone – an instrument that David had endorsed in 1960s advertisements. The song ‘s theme is isolation and dislocation. A detached astronaut floats in space, strangely comfortable with his situation. It is highly suggested that he cut the cord himself. Bowie was inspired by the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey (which I refer to as Stanley Kubrick’s space ballet). He also recorded a version in Italian.
Watch the official ‘Space Oddity’ 1972 video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYYRH4apXDo
Paul McCartney’s ‘Monkberry Moon Delight’ is on his solo album Ram from 1971. The lyrics are mainly druggy nonsense, but I’ve always liked this one from Paul. The pioneer of shock rock, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins covered it on a Canadian single in 1973. The song appeared on the compilation Screamin’ The Blues in 1979. McCartney wrote it with Hawkins in mind, but Jay was anti-drugs, so he changed the words to ‘Sippin’ Monkberry Moon Delight.
“When my kids were young they used to call milk ‘monk’ for whatever reason that kids do – I think it’s magical the way that kids can develop better names for things than the real ones. In fact, as a joke, Linda and I still occasionally refer to an object by that child-language name. So, monk was always milk, and monkberry moon delight was a fantasy drink, rather like Love Potion No. 9, hence the line in the song, ‘sipping monkberry moon delight’. It was a fantasy milk shake. – Paul McCartney
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL6GJ10OBPE
The killer track ‘Half Moon’ is on Pearl, the second album by Janis Joplin, released in January 1971 – three months after her passing in October.
‘The Moon Upstairs’ rocks Mott The Hoople’s 1972 album Brain Capers. The Rolling Stones who were recording in the same studio stole Mott’s original title for their album, Sticky Fingers.
Read my story about Brain Capers: Mott on the Brainhttps://madelinex.com/2018/11/19/mott-on-the-brain/
Bowie’s freakout ‘Moonage Daydream’ is powered by the guitar genius Mick Ronson taking us out of the stratosphere. It’s on Bowie’s 1972 Ziggy Stardust… album. Ronson’s live solo during Bowie’s final gig as the Ziggy Stardust character at Hammersmith Odeon on July 3, 1973 is one of the greatest of all time – both sonically and visually!
“I would literally draw out on paper, with a crayon or felt-tip pen, the shape of a solo. The one in ‘Moonage Daydream’ started as a flat line that became a fat megaphone-type shape, and ended as sprays of disassociated and broken lines. I’d read somewhere that Frank Zappa used a series of drawn symbols to explain to his musicians how he wanted the shape of a composition to sound. Mick could take something like that and actually bloody play it, bring it to life.”
– Bowie, Ziggy Stardust 2002 reissue liner notes.
Album Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFDj3shXvco
Watch Live, July 1973: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaqMwE5NKaM
See my story about Mick’s famous Les Paul guitar: Moonage Daydreaming
And my Ziggy Stardust story:
The boundless Keith Moon, drummer of The Who deserves a mention here. Moon was the ultimate rock star with his wild drumming and even crazier antics – a true madman. Moon died in 1978. Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey (Keith Moon is his godfather) has been an intermittent drummer for The Who since 1996. Harry Nilsson was the owner of the Mayfair London flat where Keith Moon overdosed (on pills prescribed to help him quit drinking) in 1974 at age 32. (Mama) Cass Elliot of The Mamas & The Papas died in the same flat in 1978, also at age 32.
My favorite –The Who – ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ from The Rolling Stones’ Rock N’ Roll Circus, 1968
Watch this greatness to the end!! https://vimeo.com/287190013
Watch a Keith Moon tribute film (with a quick clip of him wearing his Granny Takes a Trip suit, introducing Sparks on American TV- with Ringo Starr) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbhHMwC_FNs
And more clips with Keith singing The Beatles’ song ‘In My Life” https://youtu.be/si-pZiaGrQI
Sparks have an odd and dramatic song on their second album A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing released in early 1973. Also referencing the moon missions, Jim Mankey’s lyrics sympathize with the moon. On ‘Moon Over Kentucky’, Singer Russell Mael warns the moon (addressing its impassive ‘pocked face’) that possessive mother Earth will destroy all. He recommends that the moon join him in cutting its ties with the brutal planet in ‘some new rendezvous’. Russell’s voice is especially gorgeous on the echoing La da di da da da di da das… Morrissey sometimes performs this Sparks song live.
The Dark Side of the Moon 1973 is of course the most popular album on the planet. However, there is no song bearing that title. The track ‘Brain Damage’ which opens with the lines, ‘The lunatic is on the grass…” speaks of Pink Floyd’s former singer Syd Barret whom we know had severe mental problems. The lyrics reflect the scenario of Syd having left the band…
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon
The song that I would play from the album is the ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ with the amazing wordless vocals of Clare Torry. I still have no idea why the moon is depicted as a triangle on the album cover!
The debut album from Tom Waits features the gorgeous ‘Grapefruit Moon’ which has a repeating piano riff that reminds me of the one that John Lennon plays on ‘Imagine’ – in reverse.
‘Marquee Moon’ is the title 11- minute track of the 1977 debut album by the band Television, recorded in one take. This lengthy piece was always a mesmerizing spectacle to witness live at CBGB in the early days of the band’s two-album-only career. The bouncing and weaving guitars of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd is incredible. Verlaine’s reedy yet sincere vocals compliment the intricate playing. Fred (Sonic) Smith, of the MC5/Sonic Rendezvous band (and Patti Smith’s future husband) is on bass.
‘Moonbeam Levels’ (previously labelled ‘A Better Place to Die’) by Prince was an unreleased gem about nuclear war until it appeared on the expanded Purple Rain CD – the title song of which is also about nuclear rain!
George Harrison follows up ‘Here Comes the Sun’ ten years later with the beautiful jangly ‘Here Comes the Moon’ on his self-titled 1979 album.
I love this fabulous song by my dear friend and Warhol superstar Cherry Vanilla. ‘Moonlight’ is from her second album Venus D’ Vinyl in 1979.
‘Rock on the Moon’ – the true meaning of Moon Rock – is on Songs The Lord Taught Us (1980) by The Cramps. You didn’t think I could go without mentioning The Cramps, did you?!
ELO’s lovely ‘Ticket to the Moon’ appears on their 1981 album Time.
Michael Jackson revealed his Moonwalk dance move while performing ‘Billie Jean’ on TV in May 1983. More interesting was his anti-gravity lean in the music video for ‘Smooth Criminal’. The seemingly impossible move was possible with the use of wires and a harness. For live performances of the lean, Michael invented and patented a shoe which hooked onto pegs on the stage from which he could lean forward. However, he probably won’t need these contraptions or dance moves on the actual moon which is devoid of gravity.
Moonwalk – Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6pomaq30Gg
‘Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)’ is on The Ramones album Too Tough To Die (1984). This album was supposedly harder-edged with new drummer Richie Ramone, but it still sounds like lots of lawless fun to me. Dee Dee prophetically wrote this about legalizing marijuana.
Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7DykTWuVKE
Live with Lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPzZlzfb85U
David Bowie – ‘Fall Dog Bombs the Moon’ – is a political song disguised as pop on his 2003 album Reality.
Brian Eno was commissioned to record the soundtrack for the film about the Apollo moon mission, For All Mankind. He made the recordings called Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks in collaboration with his brother Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois in 1983. The film was released in 1989. When Eno heard that the astronauts each brought a cassette of music with them – and that all except one brought country music – he included a space-western with a steel guitar, ‘Silver Morning’. This month for the 50th anniversary celebration of the first moon landing, the album gets the deluxe remaster treatment with 11 new tracks. I can’t wait to hear it!
Listen: ‘Silver Morning’
Listen: ‘Deep Blue Day’
“The interesting thing about space is that it’s a vacuum.
You can’t hear anything out there…
The astronauts must have heard their own breath inside their helmets…
There is no reverberation in space.
If you’re really gonna make space music, you would present silence
– because that’s what it is.
– Brian Eno, BBC6 radio interview, July 19, 2019
‘The Moon’s Lament’ is played during the closing credits of the 2009 film The Lovely Bones. Most of the soundtrack is comprised of Brian Eno tracks. This one sounds like it could be Eno, but it is credited to Cindy D’lequez Sage (and sung by a male who sounds like Eno)! There is absolutely no information about this artist anywhere, but it is a beautifully ethereal song with some eerie wolf howling in the background. The lyrics lift a line from Oscar Wilde (feeding with panthers) which he wrote in this excerpt from prison after being convicted for homosexuality with young boys:
“They, from the point of view through which I, as an artist in life approached them, were delightfully suggestive and stimulating. It was like feasting with panthers. The danger was half the excitement…
Listen to “The Moon’s Lament” here:
Yoko Ono’s 2013 album Take Me to the Land of Hell opens with the track ‘Moonbeams’. It starts with a birdcall. Not the pleasant chirping of a sparrow, but a warning from nature to us all. Yoko speaks the first verses backed by twittering birds. Our duality of good and evil is examined in this wild dance in a ‘cosmic club’ sound-tracking the changing seasons from winter to spring.
People are planets
Their souls are suns
Orbiting the dance floor
Of our cosmic club
Listen to Moonbeams here
Read my story all about the song ‘Moonbeams’:
The Moonlandingz collaborated with Yoko Ono on a song in 2017. ‘This Cities (sic) Undone’ features a wonderful screaming vocal performance by Yoko in 2017 assisting the British band on their debut album, Interplanetary Class Classics. Her son Sean Lennon (who produced the album) is on drums – reminiscent of RINGO, & also plays bass. What a great groove!!! The track is a funky whirlwind propelled by Yoko’s otherworldly vocals, layered with a spacey echo. As Yoko wails, ‘It’s just a dream!’ her voice rises into the stratosphere like the moans of the melting wicked witch of Oz – ascending via cyclone up to the sky. It end with a whisper of, ‘ahhhhhhhhhh’.
Read more and listen: https://madelinex.com/2017/03/23/yoko-songs-this-cities-undone-with-moonlandingz/
Marianne Faithfull’s 2018 release (her 21st album) Negative Capability is a stunningly fragile and beautiful record about love, terror and loneliness. (‘The Loneliest Person’ is a cover of a Pretty Things song from S.F. Sorrow – 1968). Marianne also covers a few of her older songs. ‘No Moon in Paris’ is a new work of beauty.
I’ve seen the moon in Morocco / And I’ve seen the moon in Brazil
Oh, I’ve seen it in the darkest times / Coming over the hill
In Martinique it shines on the sea / But in Paris it usually shines on me
Also on Faithfull’s album is the gorgeous ‘Gypsy Faerie Queen’ co-written by and featuring Nick Cave. It was inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Watch the official video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndseNmYb4s0
After these mellow songs by Marianne,
let’s continue to relax under the moon with a symphony and a sonata
celebrating our lunar orb.
Debussey’s calming Claire De Lune (‘Moonlight’) was published in 1905 and named after a poem by Verlaine. Tomita (another pioneer of electronic/space music) made a beautiful spacey version on his Debussey tribute album Snowflakes Are Dancing. It appeared in the film Oceans 13 in 2007.
Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ (a.k.a. Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor “Quasi una fantasia”, Op. 27, No. 2) was given its lunar name by a music critic’s reaction to the music, years after the composer’s passing. For all we know, Beethoven could have ‘rolled over” in his grave upon hearing the new name of his composition (as he was decomposing), but I think it’s really nice.
Here is the piece performed by the great Liberace, thanks to whom job uniforms can be written off as a tax deduction! I visited the fabulous Liberace museum in Las Vegas (since closed). It housed his rhinestone encrusted cars and pianos, and his costumes weighing up to 200 pounds each!!! The IRS wouldn’t hear of Liberace’s idea at first, but when he returned and sauntered into the IRS office in all his finery, they asked what on earth he was wearing. He replied, “You see – the ONLY place I can wear this is at WORK, so therefore it is my uniform and should be tax deductible.” Thus, he paved the way for everyone to get their ‘work’ clothes deducted!!
Moonlight Sonata – Liberace: https://youtu.be/mUZmxLSZBLI
‘I Met An Astronaut’ by Ann Magnuson (2006) had just been paired with a wonderful new video. Absolutely beautiful in every way!
‘I Met An Astronaut’ by Ann Magnuson [Official Music Video]
Watch & Listen: https://youtu.be/Xpr-OrgjV_I
Now you can go to Denny’s a for a Moons Over My Hammy sandwich!
See my ‘Playlists’ category
for more themed playlists.
Also see ‘About a Song’
(My stories about specific songs)
Eat to the Beat
A Chain of Songs