Hong Kong Beat Swings Sixties Hong Kong – Side 4

Side 4 Swinging Sixties Hong Kong – Yeah Baby! Featuring a number of great self-penned tracks as well as some excellent covers and rearrangements –

  • First off, ‘God of Song’ Sam Hui penned Merseybeat influenced ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ from his band, The Lotus. Strains of the Beatles’ ‘All My Loving’ along with some very nice close harmonies and Georgesque guitar licks
  • Joe Junior’s turn for a self-penned offering ‘A Letter from Susan’. The opening made me think of The Who in their Tommy era, then it bops along as a nice US bubblegum pop tune
  • Teddy Robin and the Playboys cover the Monkees huge hit ‘I’m A Believer’, with Teddy doing a fair impression of Davy Jones. This guy could really twist his voice around different styles
  • Next is a beautiful summer-of-love like beat ballad from the Sons of Han. I wish I could find out more about this band other than just that they recorded on the Diamond Label, and wish I could track down this tune. It’s an absolutely stunning effort if it was a locally penned tune. The song information credits “S. G. Tebbutt” but that draws a blank with all kinds of search combinations, as does the song title ‘Suspended Love Affair’ – the only search hit being by the Sons of Han. Deserves much more recognition
  • Michael Remedios and the Mystics offer a really good cover of soul singer Garnet Mimms’ upbeat gospel-fused 1968 Verve label hit ‘Stop and Think It Over’. Remedios really had a good voice for soul music, sounding a little like Jackie Wilson in this performance
  • Kong Ling (江玲) smashes the 1950s country ballad by Les Paul and Mary Ford ‘I Really Don’t Want to Know’ into the swinging sixties with a great swinging chacha-tinged rearrangement. Elvis also did a fine cover of this tune but doesn’t get close to the infectiousness of Kong Ling’s foot-tapping, finger-snapping and head bobbing version. Don’t forget to catch the slick piano work on this track
  • D’Topnotes go Hawaiian with ‘Love to Dance (Hala Hala)’, a lau-inspired-chacha-esque song written by their father, legendary Shanghai and Hong Kong band-leader, Lobing Samson. Guaranteed to get the aunties at the wedding dinner on the dancefloor!
  • A bluesy cover of the Rolling Stones ‘Heart of Stone’  from The Downbeats, with a decent Jagger-style vocal and nice guitar work that I reckon would make Keith Richards take a listen. Couldn’t find out much about this talented Filipino band who seemed to like to cover Stone’s tracks, perhaps because lead singer, Pepe Smith, was known as ‘Mick Jagger of the Philippines’
  • Another band with little available information about them, Mod East, offer a self-penned tune ‘Stranger to Love’ that has some rhythmic and vocal echoes with Peter and Gordon’s Lennon-McCartney penned ‘World Without Love’
  • Another self-penned track, this one from Anders Nelsson with his band The Inspirations. Some nice piano work, drum fills and use of fuzz box on this US garage-rock style tune ‘What Can You Do’
  • The Fabulous Echoes, fronted here by their Sri Lankan singer Cliff Foenander, who delivers a perfect vocal on this cover of 1961 R&B doowop classic by The Jarmels ‘A Little Bit of Soap’
  • Final offering is perhaps the cream, and one of the few Hong Kong sixties self-penned tunes in my personal all-time favourites playlist, a dreamy Beach Boys-inspired surf ballad with lush harmonies penned by Denis Yu of Joe Chen’s band The Menace, titled ‘On The Isles’. This is definitely one to put on repeat, slip on the shades and grab a cool drink or two while relaxing next to the lapping waves

Side 1 can be found here, Side 2 here and Side 3 here

When I arrived in Hong Kong in the second half of the 70s, Cantopop – with artists such as Sam Hui, George Lam, Roman Tam, Teresa Teng – was already rising as a genre of Cantonese-language western-influenced 1960s soft-pop music – think The Carpenters, Fifth Dimension and so on. Even the ‘harder’ sounding songs were softer rock from the likes of the Beatles – ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Michelle’ are probably still two of the most requested, and murdered, songs in any karaoke lounge with anybody over 40. It seemed the one sole rock band of any popularity at the time was Beyond, singing a kind of Hong Kong garage rock that took its influences from American rock and folk music – perhaps not surprising with the influence of US rock music during Hong Kong’s time as an R&R spot during the Vietnam war.

In the 80s the genre exploded of course with the arrival on the scene of huge artists like Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, Leon Lai, Prudence Liew, Priscilla Chan, Sandy Lam, and others, adopting musical influences as wide as disco, folk, rock and synthpop. And so the Golden Age of Cantopop was born. I have two other blogcasts highlighting music from these eras can be found in the blogcast archives.

It came as a bit of a surprise when I started to DJ here in the 80s and began to dig more into the oldies from Hong Kong’s music past to satisfy older local clients. While cha cha and ballroom styles were still popular at that time with most people over the age of about 30 – and still are – I discovered that Hong Kong in the 60s had enjoyed a swinging and rocking scene, incorporating styles from UK beat music, US garage rock and psychedelic folk, alongside sweet Mandarin songs from the 40s and 50s and swinging jazz updated to the modern style.

The cause of this was of course influence from overseas on one side. Hong Kong had a huge Chinese diaspora all around the World – and you can still find village elders who’ve returned after decades overseas speaking with a Liverpool, Essex, or New Jersey accent – and on the other side there had been a massive influx of people from all nationalities and race decamping from post-war China. This brought to Hong Kong a number of highly accomplished Chinese ballroom singers, Macanese and Filipino band leaders and musicians, all coming together in the melting pot that was Hong Kong at the time.

While a lot of recordings from the time have been sadly lost, the sterling work of RTHK DJ Ray Cordeiro, who holds the record as the World’s longest working DJ and was a key mover in getting these artists and their music onto the radio in the 60s, and later entertainment impresario Anders Nelsson who grew up in Hong Kong, has helped keep these names and their music alive so that there’s a rich vein to tap into, so much that Hong Kong Beat’s tribute has been split into three 30ish-minute long sides.

Acknowledgement to Long Distance Voyager for fascinating insights about the Fabulous Echoes

Hong Kong Beat Swings Sixties Hong Kong – Side 1

When I arrived in Hong Kong in the second half of the 70s, Cantopop – with artists such as Sam Hui, George Lam, Roman Tam, Teresa Teng – was already rising as a genre of Cantonese-language western-influenced 1960s soft-pop music – think The Carpenters, Fifth Dimension and so on. Even the ‘harder’ sounding songs were softer rock from the likes of the Beatles – ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Michelle’ are probably still two of the most requested, and murdered, songs in any karaoke lounge with anybody over 40. It seemed the one sole rock band of any popularity at the time was Beyond, singing a kind of Hong Kong garage rock that took its influences from American rock and folk music – perhaps not surprising with the influence of US rock music during Hong Kong’s time as an R&R spot during the Vietnam war.

In the 80s the genre exploded of course with the arrival on the scene of huge artists like Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, Leon Lai, Prudence Liew, Priscilla Chan, Sandy Lam, and others, adopting musical influences as wide as disco, folk, rock and synthpop. And so the Golden Age of Cantopop was born. I have two other blogcasts highlighting music from these eras that can be found in the blog archives.

It came as a bit of a surprise when I started to DJ here in the 80s and began to dig more into the oldies from Hong Kong’s music past to satisfy older local clients. While cha cha and ballroom styles were still popular at that time with most people over the age of about 30 – and still are – I discovered that Hong Kong in the 60s had enjoyed a swinging and rocking scene, incorporating styles from UK beat music, US garage rock and psychedelic folk, alongside sweet Mandarin songs from the 40s and 50s and swinging jazz updated to the modern style.

The cause of this was of course influence from overseas on one side. Hong Kong had a huge Chinese diaspora all around the World – and you can still find village elders who’ve returned after decades overseas speaking with a Liverpool, Essex, or New Jersey accent – and on the other side there had been a massive influx of people from all nationalities and race decamping from post-war China. This brought to Hong Kong a number of highly accomplished Chinese ballroom singers, Macanese and Filipino band leaders and musicians, all coming together in the melting pot that was Hong Kong at the time.

While a lot of recordings from the time have sadly become hard to find, the sterling work of RTHK DJ Ray Cordeiro, who holds the record as the World’s longest working DJ and was a key mover in getting these artists and their music onto the radio in the 60s, and later entertainment impresario Anders Nelsson who grew up in Hong Kong, has helped keep these names and their music alive so that there’s a rich vein to tap into, so much that Hong Kong Beat’s tribute has been split into four 30ish-minute long sides.

Side 1 brings a mix of tunes infused with rock, pop, beat, and Latin influences, featuring –

  • The Thunders, a Macanese band and winners of the 1968 Star Show organized by HK-TVB channel who were, unusually for the time, writers of much of their own music with the self-penned ‘She’s in Hong Kong’ with echoes to the style of Freddie & The Dreamers to me
  • Giancarlo & His Italian Combo was a nightclub dance band covering Mina’s 1959 Italian jive hit ‘Tintarella di luna’. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen an elegant Chinese lady in her seventies twisting to this
  • Michael Remedios & The Mystics were another mostly Macanese band, one of the few bands playing soul music at the time. First offering a great cover of Arthur Conley’s soul burner ‘Sweet Soul Music’, in a medley with shout-outs to local English pop wave artists of the time. Second offering a faithful cover of Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’
  • The Lotus was a Hong Kong band where it all kicked off for Cantopop and movie giant Sam Hui, with a dreamy cover of The Beau Brummels’ garage rock hit ‘Just a Little’
  • The Fabulous Echoes were a mainly Filipino group who later changed name to The Society of Seven and exported themselves to the USA in the late 60s. They were huge on the nightclub and recording scene often backing other artists, such as Kong Ling, in the Diamond Records studio. Here they are accompanied by English radio DJ, Tony Myatt with his self-penned song ‘Everybody Knows’
  • Teddy Robin & The Playboys, another highly influential Hong Kong group on the later music and film scene, covering The Knickerbockers’ one-hit-wonder, Beatles-inspired garage rock US hit ‘Lies’. Teddy Robin was a very versatile singer and could knock out great covers of most top singers of the time
  • The Zoundcrackers – an early success for Macanese music, TV and movie artist Joe Junior – here with a cover of Gary Lewis & The Playboys perky sunshine pop song ‘I Gotta Find Cupid’
  • Rebecca Pan Di-hua [潘迪華] one of the top Shanghainese singers and actresses who came to Hong Kong in the late 40s, and is one of those traditional ballroom singers who made the transition to a Hong Kong pop style. Here with a Latin-flavoured rendition, sung in English and Mandarin, of Cliff Richards and the Shadows ‘Theme For a Dream’ that I personally think is much smoother and inviting version than the original
  • Tony Orchez was a top Hong Kong DJ and singer who hosted a pop show on TVB in the 60s who went on to write film scores and had successful radio shows in Los Angeles and Singapore, here with a smooth cover of Dusty Springfield’s Bacharach and David penned ‘The Look of Love’. Some nice vocal phrasing and vibrato in his voice in this version
  • D’Topnotes was a family group consisting mainly of the children of former Shanghai-based Filipino band leader Lobing Samson, who had all moved to Hong Kong after the war. The non-Samson family group members would later form the successful Cantopop band The New Topnotes. Offering a catchily-tempoed cover of James & Bobby Purify’s 1966 soul hit ‘I’m Your Puppet’ here
  • Mona Fong (Li Menglan [李夢蘭]) who later became the wife of film mogul Sir Run Run Shaw and also known as ‘Lady Shaw’, was another top Shanghainese singer who came to Hong Kong post-war and was another of the ballroom singers to make the transition to pop style, later becoming a highly successful TV and film producer. To me, I think she had one of the best voices of the time and reminds me a lot of Sarah Vaughan. Here offering a lush big band cha cha version sung in English and Mandarin of ‘Bengawan Solo’, originally an Indonesian language penned song about the Solo River that became a hugely popular song with Mandarin lyrics among Chinese singers around Asia in the 50s and 60s.

With thanks for much information from Hong Kong English Pop Music Blogspot

Hong Kong Beat Raising Awareness About Our Home On Earth Day 2022

Many artists have written songs about how wonderful our planet is, many have written about the dangers it faces from human action and conflicts.

Again this year, Hong Kong Beat presents a collection of songs about our home hoping that these messages will reach out.

RIP Taylor Hawkins, a tribute by Hong Kong Beat

Sadly the World has said farewell to another leading musician at a too early age, Taylor Hawkins of the band Foo Fighters. As the band’s drummer since 1997, Hawkins was more than just the man driving the rhythm, he was as much the spirit and soul of the band as its founder and former Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl.

Among the post-grunge parody of itself that a lot of rock music had become during the latter half of the 90s, the Foos were one of the handful of bands that stood out and shaped a sound that was both new and fresh as well as a throwback to the hard rockers of the 70s and 80s, Hawkins being a key component to that sound offering backing vocals and of course meaty beaty big and bouncy fills that challenge you to jump out of your seat and kick out the jams.

Always one to acknowledge his influences both in drumming and performance style, he pointed to a handful of drumming greats in various interviews. From 60s icon Ringo Starr to punk and new wave giant Budgie (Pete Clarke), there were many notable influences including Alex Van Halen who he covered at a school concert performing ‘Panama’; the late Neal Peart of Rush who Hawkins acknowledged had ‘provided’ him with some of his favourite ‘borrowed’ beats; Steve Perkins of Jane’s Addiction who, along with the stage intensity of Police’s Stewart Copeland and inventiveness of Phil Collins, had greatly influenced his performance style; and last, but not least, Roger Taylor of Queen who he described as “so visual, the ultimate in cool and collected”. After watching Queen at the age of 10, Hawkins realised that this was exactly what he wanted to do with his life. In one interview he recounted how the Foos were listening to Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’ on the car radio when Dave Grohl just turned around and said with a laugh, “Why are we even trying?“ While the final version of ‘Under Pressure’ was an organic collaboration between the band members and Bowie, it was based on a Roger Taylor composition ‘Feel Like’.

So, as tribute to Taylor Hawkins, Hong Kong Beat offers this collection of tunes by his influences alongside some of his own best.

RIP Taylor Hawkins, you will be missed.

Arrr! Talk Like a Pirate! Hong Kong Beat shivers the timbers for International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Avast landlubbers! Gather’round n lissen ee t’tales n’ shanties o derrin do, treasure n mutiny, as ye swig yer ale n’ rum, dreamin’ o’ sailin’ t’riches with Cap’n Morgan or the dreaded Blackbeard.

Started as an in-joke back in 1995, Talk Like a Pirate Day has become an international parody celebration, one that hasn’t been shanghaid by Hallmark, where adherents growl arrr at people they call matey and threaten to keelhaul any scurvy dog who dares to cross them, like pinching their parking space.

There’s a curious romance and escapism about the days of piracy – though the reality of a pirate’s life, fortunes and comeuppance was very different to the dreams of treasure, grog and a wench in every port. It’s like wanting to run away to the circus, but for jack-the-lads (and lasses) with a more adventurous and maybe blacker heart.

One thing everybody knows about life at sea are the shanties that were devised by sailors to help them through their backbreaking work or escape the hardships of life for a while in the tavern, so it’s no surprise that from a wealth of traditional music about life at sea there’s a lot of contemporary music and, given the nature of pirates, much of it adopts the a rakish and rebellious strains of heavy metal and punk.

N be warrrnd. ‘Tis not an Arrr-rated set o’ shanties!

Hong Kong Beat mobile disco Towel Day tribute to Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams was a genius as a writer and as an articulator of human absurdity.

His trilogy of 6 books in the HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy series started out as a BBC radio show, and spawned TV series, stage plays, vinyl releases, a movie, games, comics, and a fan base of tens of millions around the World. His writing gave us catchphrases like ‘Don’t Panic’, popular culture memes and characters, as well as the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything… 42.

He even wrote for Doctor Who and Monty Python, as well as appearing in a Python sketch.

A lover of progressive rock, especially Pink Floyd, he was also an accomplished guitarist and on his 42nd birthday, his friend David Gilmour got him to perform on stage with them, perhaps the only known performance of HHGG band Disaster Area! Adams did release a single in the name of the band as a B side to the HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy TV theme. Adams said that Pink Floyd’s lavish stage productions were the inspiration for Disaster Area – “claimed to be the loudest band in the universe, and in fact the loudest sound of any kind, anywhere. So loud is this band that the audience usually listens from the safe distance of thirty seven miles away in a well-built concrete bunker. Disaster Area’s lavish performances went so far as to crash a space ship into the sun to create a solar flare.

Disaster Area star and keyboardist – Hotblack Desiato – was spending a year dead for tax reasons in the book, no doubt a spoof on many tax exile musicians and actors in UK at the time, including members of Pink Floyd.

Sadly, Adams died from a heart attack aged 49 in 2001, but his legacy has inspired many bands in name and music style,just as he was inspired by bands of his time.

Finally, always know where your towel is.

Hong Kong Beat ends the year with a Retro Swing party!

Ever since people began going to Prohibition-era speakeasies and dance halls, a tune with a swinging beat has never failed to get the feet moving and the fingers snapping.

Since the revival of swing in the 1980s by big bands like Royal Crown Revue, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Cherry-Poppin’ Daddies, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, younger musicians, DJs and producers have been inspired to dive into the vast catalogue of music from the past 90 years, combining it with hip hop, house and EDM, even Eastern European folk and klezmer music as electro-swing.

Tunes as diverse as charlsteson and ragtime classics, Latin mambos and tangoes, jazz staples, lindy hop, boogie woogie, and even 60s gogo, have been reworked, remixed, refreshed, and had electronic tricks and ballsy bass tracks added, to excite new generations of discos and nightclubs goers.

Hong Kong Beat presents an hour of electro-swing from a recent retro swing party.

Jazz… Nice.

 

50 years on, at the closing of Woodstock, Hong Kong Beat offers ‘Woodstock 69 – Missing In Action’

It’s said that Woodstock was remarkable, not for what happened but for what didn’t happen, the expected mayhem. As the festival closed to Hendrix’s never- to-be-equalled free jam of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, nobody was thinking of what else didn’t happen, such as the huge bands that didn’t make it.

So, for your pleasure, Hong Kong Beat offers the Woodstock 69 MIA Festival of bands who were invited (or might or might not have been invited, some of the memories of organizers are a little fuzzy from back then) but either turned it down or didn’t make it. The song choices are of course mine, but as these were all songs in their catalogues from before Woodstock, it’s a good bet they would have been played, if they had been there. Continue reading to the end and click on Max Yasgur’s farm to go to the mix-tape.

The Young Rascals – They were big at the time and ‘Grooving’ was a summer of love anthem, but turned it down to work on their new album.

Tommy James & The Shondells – Another big summer of love band with ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’, but turned it down when they were told “Yeah, listen, there’s this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.”

Chicago Transit Authority – Were billed to play but their promoter pulled them out for a gig at Filmore West the same weekend, and substituted new act Santana instead. I loved CTA in those days, but thank you Bill Graham for pushing Santana’s breakout that weekend. I’ve seen Chicago twice, and Santana three times since then 😀

Blues Image – Another big band of the summer of love, but their manager convinced them not to play because of the rain and chaotic roads.

Jeff Beck Group – Booked but broke up week before apparently because he didn’t want Woodstock to be a memorial for the band.

The Byrds – Felt burned out by festivals already that summer and didn’t think it was going to be a big issue, together with concerns over payment. Later said they regretted their decision.

Jethro Tull – Ian Anderson had an aversion to “drugged out hippies” and was “put off by naked women, unless the time is right”, also saying he didn’t want to “spend the weekend in a field full of unwashed hippies.” Played Isle of Wight two weeks later though…

The Moody Blues – Were originally billed to play but had a clash with a gig in Paris.

James Taylor – Was considered but was under contract to the Beatles label, Apple, and his appearance didn’t pan out when the Beatles hoped for appearance fell through.

Joni Mitchell – Wanted to be there and was originally planned to play but her manager advised against it in case she missed the Dick Cavett TV show a few days after.

Simon & Garfunkel – Were invited but turned it down as they were too busy. Art was in the middle of filming Catch-22 and the duo were busy getting songs together for Bridge Over Trouble Water. They can be forgiven for missing Woodstock on both counts.

The Doors – Jim Morrison was reported to have agoraphobia and a fear of being shot. Later the band said that it was because they thought it would be a second class Monterey Pop Festival.

Spirit – They were an influential West Coast band of the 60s, who were headlining supported by Led Zep just a few months before (and who may have been the “inspiration” for ‘Stairway to Heaven’). Were invited but declined to instead launch a promotional tour.

Rolling Stones – Some reports say they weren’t invited because, when first approached, Mick said he was too busy filming ‘Ned Kelly’ in Australia. A huge mistake, on both counts.

Iron Butterfly – Billed and were on the way, but got stranded at the airport because of the roads to Woodstock being closed. Asked for a helicopter but the organizers didn’t want to pay for it, probably in case every other band wanted one (and by day one, they reportedly already knew they were in the hole for about US$1m!)

Frank Zappa – “A lot of mud at Woodstock…We were invited to play there, we turned it down.” Zappa later said he never regretted it as he loathed hippies. My selection of ‘Willie The Pimp’ was only recorded some time in July or August of 69 and wasn’t released until October that year, but it’s my bet that a raw free jam of the 9+ minutes song would have been one of the highlights of the festival, if Frank had taken the Mothers there.

Free – Turned it down for no known reason, but played Isle of Wight two weeks later instead. My theory is it might have been because they almost needed parental permission, as bass player Andy Fraser had only just turned 17 at the time!

Procul Harem – Were invited but were tired out after their own long tour, plus the impending birth of Robin Trower’s first child.

Pink Floyd – A bit of a mystery, were they invited or were they not? Accounts differ, even from reliable sources. Several reasons for not being there, first they weren’t invited (as they weren’t yet known in the USA); they were invited but were touring Europe at the time (true); they were invited but turned it down because as a band they were suffering issues, like Syd Barrett’s mental condition (also true); not invited because their kind of music didn’t seem to fit the billing, but I reckon 9+ minutes of  ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ would have made some of the “bad brown acid” pretty unnecessary.

Led Zeppelin – Were invited but were also headlining at a nearby festival that same weekend, and it’s said that their manager didn’t want them to share the line up with other bands. Rock stars? Egos? Nah…

Bob Dylan – Lots of reasons given, sick son, hated the chaos near his home near the actual Woodstock, originally intended festival site, but actually he set sail for UK on Aug 15th to play the Isle of Wight festival two weeks later.

The Beatles – Were supposedly asked (through John Lennon it seems), but as they had all but broken up and hadn’t performed in concert together for 3 years, it’s unlikely in the acrimony between them, that they would have reformed just for this. Other suggestions say Lennon was invited but thought his drug convictions would get in the way, whereas another theory suggests it was because his request for Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band to perform was turned down. As Lennon might have said “Imagine nearly half a million people singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’” What a missed opportunity.

Hong Kong Beat tripping with the Summer of Love at Woodstock 50 years on!

1969, The Summer of Love and Woodstock, 50 years on. Wow!

In this blogcast, Hong Kong Beat brings you a selection of tracks from the band set lists, in appearance order, from the three days of music and a dawning of a new age that, even though it wasn’t the biggest, best, or even the first music festival of its kind, it set down a marker in modern history of music and human culture.

At 14, it marked something in my life too, when on 15 August 1969 in UK, a friend of mine said he wanted to hitchhike there and I asked him how he hoped to get there in time and over the ocean. “Don’t be daft” he said, or something similar, “it’s at Woodstock, over near Oxford” (about 20 miles away from where we lived) – so, I learned that some people are dimmer than a burned out light bulb!

While it was all a bit mysterious to me at the time, it sent messages about music and its power to move people, something that struck a note with me as I had just had my first DJing experience a few months before, which led to my first kiss!

Peace out ✌️

To the Moon and Back – Hong Kong Beat’s musical tribute to the Apollo 11 moon landing

Whether you believe what was broadcast around the World to billions of people fifty years ago today, or believe it was just a huge hoax, what can not be disagreed upon, mankind changed this day, July 20th 1969.

The human race had stepped away from its home and planted feet on an extraterrestrial body (okay, I’m with the it happened crowd, but even if we didn’t, mankind has the belief that we did, a belief that has forever changed us).

In selecting music to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, it was tempting to do what many others are no doubt doing, going for catchy tunes about space and the moon, but which owe nothing to the extraordinary exploits of the men, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, who went there. So while it hurts to leave out ‘Space Oddity’ (it was inspired by Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey, not Apollo), ‘Rocket Man’ (inspired by a 1950s science fiction story), Police ‘Walking on the Moon’ (a drunken night in a room in Munich), and REM’s ‘Man on the Moon’ (about comedian Andy Kaufman, not Armstrong), I’ve selected some of the actual songs that they suggested to a music producer friend to put together for a small pre-Walkman type cassette player, intended for them to make spoken notes, and which they played while on the journey, or on the moon itself.

Okay, I’ve allowed myself some artistic license with the opening selection, Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’, because there is no evidence that I’m aware of that they took it on their playlist, nor that it was actually written about the moon, but instead to me, the song has all the right gravitas one might expect of the situation in those final moments before launch. Also, The Byrds selection and John Stewart’s tribute ‘Armstrong’ were released after the epic journey, but have direct relevance; and Zager & Evans apocalyptic song spent most of July and beyond, at the top of the charts, no doubt receiving considerable boost from the events being relayed from Houston.

All of the other songs were choices made by the three astronauts, as suggestions to their friend for what else to include. They reflect emotions of the time such as patriotism, equality, and war; thoughts of humbleness, as well as a good deal of romance and fun, including the oddest of all, Armstrong’s personal choice of the 1940s jazz-exotica piece ‘Music Out Of The Moon’ that, if some accounts are to be believed, he played over the radio as they returned to Earth, eliciting an ironic ‘thanks for ending that’ comment from Houston. His sense of humour, or really his taste in music? We don’t know, but it was just an example of how these men undertook the greatest leap of exploratory faith that man has made since the development of the sail, with a dash of flair, a touch of humour, and a huge helping of humility.