The Church of Scientology has a number of fascinatingly distinctive characteristics, including but not limited to its foundation by a science-fiction novelist. That novelist, a certain L. Ron Hubbard, launched his religion in the America of the 1950s, a prosperous place in a Space Age decade when all things science-fictional enjoyed a perhaps unprecedented popularity. Another big mainstream sci-fi wave would wash over the country in the late 1970s and early 80s, when, as Nathan Rabin puts it at Slate, “thanks to the popularity of E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, space was the place and science fiction was the hottest genre around. Scientology wanted in, so an ambitious plan was hatched: Hubbard’s epic 1982 Battlefield Earth novel, to be followed by Space Jazz,” an album containing a “sonic space opera” based on the novel. At the top of post, you can hear the track “Earth, My Beautiful Home,” one of the project’s few un-bombastic numbers, and one performed by a genuinely more-than-credible jazz pianist, Chick Corea.
The Church of Scientology counts Corea as a member, as it then did another of Space Jazz’s guest players, bassist (and Corea’s Return to Forever bandmate) Stanley Clarke. This puts the album into the unusual class of works both written and performed by Scientologists, a group which also includes Battlefield Earth’s much later, John Travolta-starring cinematic adaptation, now known as one of the most notable flops in film history. Rabin, in his article, also covers several other albums credited to Hubbard, including 1986’s posthumous Mission Earth, recorded by multi-instrumentalist/Scientologist Edgar Winter, which he calls the only one “that could conceivably be played on the radio without prompting confused cries of, ‘Why?’ and ‘What?’ and ‘Is this even music?’ ” Some say science fiction has undergone another boom in recent years, but alas, we still await the great Scientological concept album of the 21st century.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.