11 ‘Weird’ Songs Heard on the Dark Side of the Moon

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dark-side-of-the-moon-pink-floydA news item called attention to how the Apollo 10 astronauts heard strange music as their capsule circled around to the dark side of the moon, where radio contact with earth was cut off. (This 1969 mission was the “dress rehearsal” for Apollo 11’s successful July 20 lunar landing and subsequent first walk by Neil Armstrong.) As the story relates:

“The crew – Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan – was taking one of its 31 turns around the moon when whizzing and whistling sounds unlike anything they had ever heard filled the spacecraft.

“‘You hear that? That whistling sound?” one of the men is heard asking before mimicking the eerie noise: ‘Whooooooooo!’

“‘That music even sounds outer-spacey, doesn’t it?’ he says.

“‘That sure is weird music,’ another says.”

And that got us to thinking. What music might we hear on the dark side of the moon? Or maybe like to hear? What songs suggest they should be heard on the far side of the moon? Here’s a list of possibilities.

11) “2000 Light Years From Home” by The Rolling Stones

When most of us think about The Rolling Stones it’s usually more Hades than the heavens. And if you wanna get literal about it, the moon is only about eight-and-a-half minutes in light years from our home planet Earth. So 2000 light years is some distance beyond the dark side of the moon, But if you want weird as far as veering from the usual Stones fare, this 1967 recording from Their Satanic Majesties Request, their attempt to go Sgt. Pepper’s, is pretty damn strange. But as you travel out of sunlight on the far side of the moon, the eerie vibe of this Mellotron-driven track might feel right in place.

10) “Under the Milky Way” by The Church

Have you ever seen the Milky Way from the mountains (where the atmosphere is thin) or the desert (where there’s little light pollution) here on Earth? Once you do, you know why it deserves its name – a glittering white spray of stars across the sky, like someone splashed milk across the heavens. So imagine how brilliantly it would shine when seen from the dark side of the moon. This 1988 song by the now veteran Australian band The Church, which hit #24 on the Hot 100 and soared to #2 on Billboard‘s mainstream rock tracks chart, would provide an ideal soundtrack for that viewing.

9) “Kiko and the Lavender Moon” by Los Lobos

This utterly delectable song sounds to me like some stray radio wave that was beamed from some East Los Angeles Chicano nightclub in the 1940s, escaped from Earth, and has been drifting in the cosmos ever since. You circle ’round to the dark side of the moon and it begins to play. And you feel inspired to trip the light fantastic in a weightless environment.

8) “Spacelab” by Kraftwerk

Back in 1978, when the German electronic music band Kraftwerk released this tune, this was the sound of the future. And by the title’s implication, what a space station exploring outer space would sound like… if it could sing “Space… lab” over and over through a vocoder, backed by pulsing and swirling synthesizers. And you gotta hand it to Kraftwerk – they did forge a substantial bit of music’s future that we live today. I also imagine that this is music that aliens would dig.

7) “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” by The Carpenters

So maybe you thought that Karen and Richard Carpenter were simply bland white-bread soft rockers? Little did you know that they were sending a message to aliens asking for contact. And as far as weird music goes, this 1977 song that went to #32 on the U.S. singles charts and #1 in Ireland (go figure) is downright bizarre for pop music… in a rather delightful way.

6) “Andromeda” by Paul Weller

Andromeda is the closest next galaxy to our own Milky Way and a constellation named for the daughter of Cassiopeia in Greek mythology, who was chained to a rock to be eaten by the sea monster Cetus. It’s also the title of a delightfully mesmeric and rather compact (at 1:54) song on Weller’s 2010 (and IMO best) album Wake Up The Nation. Inspired in part by David Bowie, “It’s about someone leaving a dying planet.” says Weller. “I love the image of the last verse: ‘My mood gets lifted with the gravity’s pull/Looks like I’m smiling but I’m dying too.” It’d sound great passing by the dark side of the moon as one leaves Earth for places unknown.

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5) “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis

There’s a state of weightlessness to traveling in outer space somewhere between floating and soaring (as I imagine it), and this song by Noel Gallagher off the band’s phenomenally popular 1995 album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory (20 million sold worldwide) seems like an ideal soundtrack number for gliding past the side of the moon almost all of us have never directly seen. Bonus points for having an actual celestial event – SN 2003fg, discovered in 2003 – named after it.

4) “Across The Universe” by The Beatles

Now here’s a song you actually might tune into on the dark side of the moon, as it was the first Earth music to be transmitted into outer space by NASA in 2008, aimed towards Polaris aka the North Star. John Lennon felt it was one of his finest set of lyrics and they came to him in a flash of inspiration – perhaps a message he received from out in the cosmos? – but was unhappy with the song’s recording. (Read our On This Day story on how two Fab Four fans sang on it.) Paul McCartney declared its space transmission an “amazing feat,” adding “Send my love to the aliens!” – a whole new potential audience for repackaged Beatles music.

3) “Space Oddity” by David Bowie

“Ground control to Major Tom….” Bowie always felt like he might truly have been the man who fell to Earth (but alas we recently learned how earthbound and human he is with his passing). This song was released a mere five days before Apollo 11 lifted off for the first landing on the moon. Maybe the weird music the astronauts on the previous Apollo mission heard on the dark side of the moon also seeped into Bowie’s creative consciousness? We do know that Bowie was influenced while writing this song by… (read next entry).

2) “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”

The first five notes of the fanfare (titled “Sunrise”) to this piece written in 1896 by composer Richard Strauss – most commonly titled “Also sprach Zarathustra” – is among the best-known snippets of music on the planet. Certainly in good part due to its use in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Think dark side of the moon and this begins to play. Or imagine Elvis about to hit the stage…. (it was the start of his concert intro from 1971 on.)

1) “Brain Damage” by Pink Floyd

Could you expect anything else here? This track from the phenomenally best-selling album titled Dark Side of the Moon also first bore that name when bassist, singer and songwriter Roger Waters first presented it to the band (it also had been called “Lunatic” before the LP was completed). It contains the line “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” which Waters wrote in empathy with the disintegrating mental state of former Floyd frontman Syd Barrett. This song and the whole album might make as ideal a soundtrack for visiting the dark side of the moon as it does The Wizard of Oz.

Rob Patterson

Rob Patterson began writing about music in 1976. Since his first published record review in Crawdaddy he has contributed to numerous national popular music magazines such as Creem, Musician, Circus, Spin, Request, Tower Pulse!, CD Review, Acoustic Guitar, Harp and many others along with major country music, consumer audio, musical instrument and studio recording magazines plus international publications New Musical Express and Country Music People in the U.K. From 1977 to '84 he wrote a nationally syndicated music column as well as stories for Newspaper Enterprises Association/United Feature Syndicate that ran in more than 400 daily newspapers across the nation. His work has also appeared in many weekly newspapers, onlinepublications like Salon.com and The Huffington Post, such books as the Rolling Stone Record Guide & Revised Record Guide, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History and The Year In Rock, 1980-81, plus liner notes for 20 album releases.
Rob Patterson
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  1. Josh
    #1 Josh 17 September, 2018, 08:20

    Brain Damage isn’t about outer space, and the ‘I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon’ bit is a metaphor. If you were going to do Pink Floyd, you could have done songs actually about it like ‘Set the Controls…’ or ‘Astronomy Domine’.

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