Pink Floyd Provides the Soundtrack for the BBC’s Broadcast of the 1969 Moon Landing

Did the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca lose much of its will to explore out­er space when the Sovi­et Union’s col­lapse shut off the engine of com­pe­ti­tion? Crit­i­cal observers some­times make that point, but I have an alter­na­tive the­o­ry: maybe the decline of pro­gres­sive rock had just as much to do with it. Both that musi­cal sub­genre and Amer­i­can space explo­ration proud­ly pos­sessed their dis­tinc­tive aes­thet­ics, the poten­tial for great cul­tur­al impact, and ambi­tion bor­der­ing on the ridicu­lous. Though we did­n’t have mash-ups in the years when shut­tle launch­es and four-side con­cept albums alike cap­tured the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion, we can now use mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy to dou­ble back and direct­ly unite these two late-twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry phe­nom­e­na. Behold, above, Pink Floy­d’s jam “Moon­head” lined up with footage of Apol­lo 17, NASA’s last moon land­ing.

But giv­en the recent pass­ing of astro­naut Neil Arm­strong, none of us have been think­ing as much about the last moon land­ing as we have about the first. Pink Floyd actu­al­ly laid down “Moon­head” at a BBC TV stu­dio dur­ing the descent of Apol­lo 11, the mis­sion on which Arm­strong would take that one giant leap for mankind. The band’s impro­vi­sa­tion made it to the ears of Eng­land’s moon-land­ing view­ers: “The pro­gram­ming was a lit­tle loos­er in those days,” remem­bers gui­tarist David Gilmour, “and if a pro­duc­er of a late-night pro­gramme felt like it, they would do some­thing a bit off the wall.” British rock­’s fas­ci­na­tion with space proved fruit­ful. David Bowie put out the immor­tal “Space Odd­i­ty” mere days before Apol­lo 11’s land­ing (to say noth­ing of “Life on Mars?” two years lat­er), and the BBC played it, too, in its live cov­er­age. Even as late as the ear­ly eight­ies, no less a rock inno­va­tor than Bri­an Eno, charmed by Amer­i­can astro­nauts’ enthu­si­asm for coun­try-west­ern music, would craft the album Apol­lo: Atmos­pheres and Sound­tracks. If we want more inter­est­ing pop­u­lar music, per­haps we just need to get into space more often.

via NYTimes and Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed con­tent:

Remem­ber­ing Neil Arm­strong, the First Man on the Moon, with His­toric Footage and a BBC Bio Film

Mankind’s First Steps on the Moon: The Ultra High Res Pho­tos

Dark Side of the Moon: A Mock­u­men­tary on Stan­ley Kubrick and the Moon Land­ing Hoax

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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