British astronaut Tim Peake is going back into space, it’s been announced. On his last mission, as well as doing loads of really impressive science, he played Muse’s 2006 track ‘Starlight’. “Sounded great on Earth, but even better in orbit!” he tweeted to the band from actual space. So Tim, here’s hoping your wifi connection doesn’t conk out, because we’ve got some more cosmic sounds for you, from Babylon Zoo to Feist.
Babylon Zoo – ‘Spaceman’
Babylon Zoo ruled 1996 with ‘Spaceman’, a kind of interplanetary Marilyn Manson stomper that was the essentially the sound that clothes from Cyberdog make when you put them on a boiling hot wash. Despite that, it sold almost half a million copies in its first week and became the UK’s fastest-selling single since The Beatles’ ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’.
Danny Brown – ‘Outer Space’
Lifted from Danny’s second album ‘XXX’, lyrically ‘Outer Space’ isn’t exactly a hip-hop spin on Buzz Aldrin’s autobiography. Aside from some interstellar sonics, this tune has little to do with astronomy and more to do with Danny’s sexual exploits.
The Only Ones – ‘Another Girl Another Planet’
One of the finest songs of the new wave era, this glorious 1978 track compares the feeling of meeting the mate of your dreams to an other-worldy experience. Sadly, Blink-182 once covered it. We still haven’t forgiven them.
David Bowie – ‘Space Oddity’
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t Bowie’s only appearance in this list. ‘Space Oddity’ is his very own sci-fi epic, telling the story of an astronaut by the name of Major Tom, who also pops up in his later track ‘Ashes to Ashes’. In 2013 it was covered by real life astronaut Chris Hadfield and became the first song to be recorded in space.
The Prodigy – ‘Out Of Space’
Hinged around a sample from Max Romeo’s reggae classic ‘Chase The Devil’ – which was produced by possible interplanetary life-form Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – ‘Out Of Space’ is where rave meets rudeboy somewhere on the outskirts of the second ring of Saturn. Still the band’s best track by lightyears.
Hawkwind – ‘Silver Machine’
Featuring the vocals of Lemmy in his pre-Motörhead days, Hawkwind’s signature track is a psychedelic voyage into the acid-doused days of the early 1970s. A biker-freak-funk take on space travel, if this isn’t what they play in dive bars on Mars we’ll be severely disappointed.
Ash – ‘Girl From Mars’
Not only a contender for the title of ‘indie-est indie song ever’, ‘Girl From Mars’ is Tim Wheeler’s ode to a mystery megababe who he spent a summer smoking fags and cigars with. But that was the 1990s – a contemporary version would probably have them puffing on e-cigs.
The Killers – ‘Spaceman’
Brandon Flowers’ lyrics are out of this world at the best of times, but ‘Spaceman’ takes things into a totally different universe, seeing our protagonist plucked from his bed before being experimented on by aliens.
Kate Tempest – ‘Hot Night Cold Spaceship’
Mercury Prize nominated performer and poetry goddess Kate Tempest manages to slip the bonus track from her debut album ‘Everybody Down’ into the space songs list. ‘Hot Night Cold Spaceship’ is set in the classrooms and streets of south London rather than the dark side of the moon, however.
Sun Ra – ‘Space Is The Place’
All all-mighty jazz jam, ‘Space Is The Place’ is a 20 minute epic, which opened Sun Ra’s 1973 album of the same name. An experimental, free-rolling offering, it’s utterly hypnotic, and quite possibly, what aliens would play to your during their ‘experiments’. In which case, sign us up.
David Bowie – ‘Starman’
Another space-tastic hit from the pen of David Bowie, ‘Starman’ was the first single from 1972’s modestly titled ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’, a concept album about Bowie’s alterego – superstar space freak Ziggy.
Beastie Boys – ‘Intergalactic’
One of rap’s finest expeditions into space, ‘Intergalactic’ saw Mike D, Ad-Rock and the late, great MCA bringing some squelchy electro vibes to their fast-flowing rhymes. We’ll even let them get away with the “Coming from Uranus to check my style”, such is the legendary nature of this tune.
Pixies – ‘Motorway to Roswell’
A tune for all the conspiracy theorists out there, the chugging ‘Motorway to Roswell’ sees Black Francis telling the tale of an alien who ends up accidentally holidaying in Roswell, New Mexico. At least, that’s what we think it’s about – feel free to get in touch to set the record straight, Frank.
Outkast – ‘ET (Extraterrestrial)’
A selection of songs about space wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from the ATLiens themselves. ‘ET’ is a prime offering of wacked-out galactic-rap from Andre and Big Boi, the star-spangled duo from Atlanta by way of Andromeda.
Steve Miller Band – ‘Space Cowboy’
The space cowboy is a very particular kind of cowboy. He is not Jamiroquai, whatever Jay Kay might try and tell you. The space cowboy is a boot-scootin’ space-freak, who in NME’s mind looks like a Ryan Gosling crossed with Clint Eastwood. For more points of reference, see also Steve Miller Band’s ‘The Joker’.
Radiohead – ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’
With a respectful doff of their caps to Bob Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, Radiohead pushed the original song’s narrative and accompanying sonics into a spookier realm altogether. Sounding like Spacemen 3 on a particularly impressive trip, this ‘OK Computer’ cut is one of their most compelling moments.
The Carpenters – ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft’
Essentially Karen Carpenter’s extended flirtation with some aliens, ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft’ is an ever so slightly bonkers prog-ballad about “the vast unknown”. It comes complete with a sweeping string section and a convivial offer to hang out with the aliens.
The Tornandos – ‘Telstar’
Boasting the dubious honour of being one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite pop hits, swirling 1960s synth classic ‘Telstar’ was written and produced by Joe Meek in his modest Holloway Road studio. It scored an Ivor Novello gong and sold a whopping five million copies.
Belle & Sebastian – ‘A Space Boy Dream’
A hushed, spoken word interlude on ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’, ‘A Space Boy Dream’ is basically the sound of that weirdo at work telling you about a dream he had where he goes into space. Except, it’s by Belle & Sebastian, so it also involves some saucy French porno-jazz.
The Firm – ‘Star Trekkin”
An utterly terrifying novelty hit single based on the Star Trek theme, which somehow spent two weeks at Number One in 1987. Actors do dodgy impressions of Captain Kirk and Dr McCoy over increasingly manic fairground Wurlitzer loops. Listen at your peril.
Chris Bell – ‘I Am The Cosmos’
A sumptuous slice of jangling Americana from former Big Star member, the late Chris Bell, ‘I Am The Cosmos’ is an overlooked alt.rock classic. A shimmering 1970s love song, it’s as sad as it is expansive.
David Bowie – ‘Loving The Alien’
Taken from Bowie’s 1984 album ‘Tonight’, ‘Loving The Alien’ sees him back where he feels most at home – in a totally different universe entirely. Check out the video for some sharp-suited eighties weirdness.
REM – ‘Man On The Moon’
This 1992 track isn’t actually about Neil Armstrong’s historical skip on the moon, but comedian Andy Kaufman and conspiracy theories. Kaufman is often thought to have faked his own death – just like the moon landings have also been considered made up.
The Kinks – ‘Supersonic Rocket Ship’
Otherwise known as the track in which Ray Davies goes reggae, ‘Supersonic Rocket Ship’ is a calypso flavoured track from 1972, which rallies against inequality and hipsters. “On my supersonic rocket ship/Nobody has to be hip,” he sings.
Kool Keith/Dr Octagon– ‘Aliens’
Kool Keith revived his Dr Octagon pseudonym for the 2006 album ‘The Return of Dr Octagon’. ‘Aliens’ is its best track, a bonkers gypsy-funk driven tale of flying saucers and alien abduction.
The Beatles – ‘Across The Universe’
Fully hippy-ed up, ‘Across The Universe’ is the sound of John Lennon waving an incense stick in Paul McCartney’s face before the pair end up skipping off into the cosmos together, their robes fluttering in the breeze. A classic, obviously.
Ian Brown – ‘My Star’
The first single from the Stone Roses frontman’s debut solo album, 1998’s ‘Unfinished Monkey Business’, ‘My Star’ was Brown’s tale of “Space exploration for nuclear stations/NASA corrupters, jewelled abductors”. Whatever that means.
Kanye West – ‘Spaceship’
One of the most underrated tracks on debut ‘The College Dropout’, ‘Spaceship’ sees a grumpy Kanye at his day job at The Gap, day-dreaming about getting the hell out of there and flying off in a spaceship. He can probably afford one now, right?
Elton John – ‘Rocket Man’
Inspired by a short story from sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, ‘Rocket Man’ is the ultimate space song, despite stripping the profession of being an astronaut of all it’s glamour. “I miss the earth so much/I miss my wife/It’s lonely out in space,” he sings, failing to mention all the dehydrated space ice cream he’s allowed to eat.
Feist – ‘My Moon My Man’
Mixing jazz and folk with her typical flair, Feist’s ‘My Moon My Man’ is an off-kilter love song in which the Canadian singer asks the moon to shed some light onto what exactly is going on with her fella.