Saturday, 18 July 2009

We Still Like the Moon

There's lots of space stuff going on to mark the 40th anniversary of the first moon landings and as an avowed lunar-lover I felt it was only right that I cobble together a bit of a list of moon-related things that make me smile, as a kind of poor man's tribute....

We Choose the Moon: Ever with a finger somewhere near where the pulse might be I only found out about this yesterday but it's had me hooked ever since. We Choose the Moon is a real time replaying of all the audio from the Apollo 11 mission, from lift-off through to splashdown. Every exchange between Mission Control and Aldrin, Collins and Armstrong is rebroadcast in a 'as it happened' stylee and both parties transmissions have also been recreated as Tweets on Tw*tter - making it perhaps the first and only time that Tw*tter has been vaguely useful - if only for hard-of-hearing space geeks.

Apollo - Atmospheres and Soundtracks: sublime 1983 ambient album from Brian Eno originally created as the soundtrack to moon landing documentary For All Mankind. I've never seen the movie but the music is superb in its own right. There are noises in amongst the warm synths that recall the engine noises from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Other songs give a genuine sense of weightlessness, a fact not lost on Danny Boyle who memorably used the track Deep Blue Day to soundtrack Ewan McGregor's unlikely toilet swim in Trainspotting. Eno is introducing a live performance of music from the album on 20/21 July at the Science Museum in South Kensington, London. Click here for more details.

We Like the Moon: the spongmonkeys singing their pean to the genius of the moon is still one of my favourite things on the internet six years after it was first posted. We Like the Moon is pre-You Tube genius from Joel Veitch who turns everything he touches into weird, creepy, hilarious gold. His site, is blocked by the firewall at my work as 'Fun and Games' - I feel like writing to IT and saying 'yes, but they're the best goddam fun and games on the internet. Pray, let us play...'

Planet Houston: I love the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies - an affection I'll articulate in more depth at some later date if you're lucky. However take a moment to enjoy some pure camp comic joy from Superman II as Kryptonian villains Ursa, Non and General Zod run riot on the lunar surface. Oh Terence, what were you thinking...

Audrey singing Moon River: one woman, one guitar, lots of tears from Mint Custard over the years. And all before breakfast.

Others Know Me As Clive... it seems strange to think there was a time when Vince Noir and Howard Moon weren't famous in every student household across the land or their Mighty Boosh logo plastered on t-shirts, mugs or the neatly tattooed wrist of the girl who works in a coffee shop near my old work. That said, let not their current ubiquity nor decreasing returns shade their early glory. Here's a nice compilation of Noel as the Moon, and another showcasing the incomparable jazz funk spirit that is Mr Howard Moon.

In the Shadow of the Moon: beautiful and remarkably poignant 2006 documentary retelling the full story of all the Apollo missions. Told using archive footage and retrospective interviews from all the surviving moonwalkers (apart from the ever reclusive Armstrong) it humanises images that have long since become iconic. Some of the footage of lone astronauts walking across the lunar surface is both breathtaking and awe inspiring and shows just how strange it must have been to look back across the heavens and see the Earth so far away. It also salutes the lives lost throughout the race to the moon including the crew of Apollo 1 who died in a training mission in January 1967. Worth a watch and the bigger the screen the better.

Moon the Loon: fireworks in toilets, cars in swimming pools, televisions out of hotel windows, week long benders with Oliver Reed, smashing up his equipment, ever ready to play the village idiot alone or with friends, a premature drug related death and one of the most attention grabbing drummers in rock history. If it's a rock and roll cliche Keith Moon probably invented it.

Moonlighting: oh what a strange little televisual beast this was. There was far more going on within the doors of the Blue Moon detective agency, workplace of unlikely comrades David Addison (Bruce Willis) and Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) than my ten year old brain could take in. To me it was funny and quirky and I liked Bruce, but it's only with rewatching that I got to appreciate just how far out there Moonlighting could be. A great show for breaking through the televisual 'fourth wall' in a manner commonly seen in British comedy shows like Monty Python (and latterly A Bit of Fry and Laurie and That Mitchell and Web Look) Moonlighting was smartly written and knowingly acted in a way that allowed it to get away with murder. Check out the Moonlighting entry on Wikipedia for the story behind how even the show's cancellation was turned into a plot line in which Maddie and David were turfed out of the studio lot as their set was dismantled around them. It's hard to imagine a show like this being as popular nowadays. It's even harder to imagine that Bruce Willis ever had that much hair.

Fate up against your will: there are of course approximately two and a half billion songs about the moon, so picking one to accompany Audrey Hepburn's moment of beauty is a tough call. I've always had a soft spot for the fifties versions of Blue Moon and whilst I'm not a big fan of the song I like Michael Stipe's Elvis impression when he sings "hey baby" in REM's Man on the Moon. Tides of the Moon by Mercury Rev and Marquee Moon by Television are both ace, whilst there's whole albums worth in Air's Moon Safari, Cat Power's Moon Pix and (lest we forget) Pink Floyd's magnum opus. And yet above them all there is the moment where Echo and the Bunnymen's brilliance straddled both the underground and overground in epic never to be repeated fashion. It may be one of their most famous songs, but whether you hear it on a jukebox, in the background of a movie soundtrack, on a walkman on your way home in the rain or nestled alongside the other gems from Ocean Rain, the Killing Moon is still a work of great beauty.

Ali G interviews Buzz Aldrin: "what do you say to all those conspiracy theorists who ask you 'does the moon really exist?'" Sacha Baron Cohen does his best to wind up an unflappable Buzz Aldrin and both end up winners.

Now must get back to Apollo 11... the crew have just woken up...

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