On the week before the July eclipse I finished the third of the Eclipse Suite, which went right out into far-future sci-fi. Because I realised I had three songs from about 1978 about ‘space lighthouses’, and what were the odds? And they needed a story to put them in. And it came together and I love it.
But that one was all male voices, for some reason. And so a couple months later I went looking for its female counterpart, the fourth quadrant of the wheel. It didn’t turned out as science fiction so much, but I found it.
So it started out I had Klaatu’s ‘Hope’, and then Intergalactic Touring Band with this amazing Meat Loaf ‘Keeper Keep Us’, and then, then, Tim Blake’s Lighthouse and… they demanded a story. For a while I thought it would be just those three or four songs but no, it wanted to be a full set of ten.
Space Lighthouses were just in the air in 1977! I think probably because quasars? Or was it the Wow Signal? No, that one was too late to have influenced the music of that year, but it’s just part of the weird soup of space-related synchronicity hanging around.
I’ve classed this one as a ‘Nova’ because it’s purely fictional rather than metaphorical. The far future of the Novas Trilogy perhaps? Maybe.
01. Intergalactic Touring Band – Keeper Keep Us (1977, USA)
20 billion miles away, beyond the doors of time
Watching from a lone celestial tower
There’s a man who keeps us safe..
This song spooked me so much as a kid, especially because I heard ‘a faceless being’ as ‘a faithless being’. Who was the Keeper? How did he get there? Well now I get to make up his story!!!
But seriously that’s Meat Loaf singing sci-fi rock, it’s very cool.
02. FM – One O’Clock Tomorrow (1977, Canada)
It was dawn when we left, boarded ship, and the last time we saw the sun…
Canadian prog-rock is the best prog-rock. A wonderfully shivery little song, all full of the mixed romance and terror of science fiction novels of space exploration at relativistic lightspeed. The colony ships go out into the black.
03. Tandy Morgan – Earthrise / Under The Blue / Asteroid (1986, England)
Look at me now, I’m like an asteroid, in a void
Never come close to anyone
Earthrise again, with the opening trio of songs that introduce our hero, the Astronaut. Well, protagonist. Not really a hero as yet. He doesn’t want to be here anymore. He is scouting the asteroid belt ahead of the colony ships.
04. Klaatu – So Said The Lighthouse Keeper (1977, Canada)
I am the very loneliest of creatures in the universe
Indeed I am an epitaph to Man
We meet the Lighthouse Keeper, operating the last Lighthouse on the asteroid belt. He is the last representative of his race, who destroyed themselves in a great war thousands of years ago.
05. Tim Blake – Lighthouse (1978, England)
Captain’s log, stardate 453
We are approaching craft of extraterrestrial origin on outskirts of galaxy…
The Astronaut approaches the Lighthouse.
06. Klaatu – Hope (1977, Canada)
Hope is like a lighthouse keeper’s beam…
The Astronaut meets the Keeper; with his dying breath the Keeper passes on his knowledge, the key to the Lighthouse… and the responsibility to maintain it for another million years.
Since Klaatu’s ‘Hope’ revolves around these two songs, for symmetry I wanted to have two songs from every artist. It almost works if you consider that Tandy Morgan and FM each have multi-part songs.
07. The Moody Blues – One Step Into The Light (1978, England)
All the old things are returning
Cosmic circles ever turning..
With nothing left to return to, the Astronaut steps into the Beam and becomes the new Keeper. As the ancient machinery spins up, the sun reactivates and the colony ships find their way to a new Earth.
08. Tim Blake – Generator (Laserbeam) (1978, England)
You’re Lord of all these energies
We’ll generate Thy name
Tim Blake, founding member of Hawkwind and Gong, on an album saturated in late 1970s Glastonbury Grail mysticism, William Blake and the crystal city of St John the Revelator, as well as delicious keyboards, pivots seamlessly from deep space sci-fi prog to dance.
09. Intergalactic Touring Band – First Landing (1977, England)
We’ve sailed the stars and comet moons
So long and dark and dreary tombs
Your world so warm inviting couldn’t we share?
The Intergalactics again! The colonists needed an appearance to tie off everything with a nice bow.
10. The Moody Blues – Sun Is Still Shining (1969, England)
Everything’s turning, turning around
See with your mind, leave your body behind
And a final zoom out back to our world, after the claustrophic dark reaches of space. The eclipse is over and the sun is shining.
The fan-created videos on some of these songs are one of the best features of the Youtube community.
So from male-centric science fiction to female-centric… fantasy and spirituality. I played with trying to make this one a direct sequel, a tale of the colony planet thousands of years after the new Keeper ignited the Lighthouse, and traces of that remain. But it seemed to want to be less coy and more direct in its Mary Magdalene allusions. So it is.
We start from direct sunlight and move into shadow by the centre, then back to faint traces of hope, completing the full cycle begun in ‘Cosmic’.
01. Nana Mouskouri – Turn On The Sun (1970, Greece)
Tinker, tailor man
Radiate all the love you can
Mouskouri’s hit predates ‘This Is The Day That The Lord Has Made’ by Dave and Dale Garrett, who I now assume must have ‘borrowed’ the melody line.
02. Renaissance – Carpet of the Sun (1973, England)
Come into the day
Feel the sunshine warmth around you..
A wonderful little psychedelic gem in the warmest, brightest sense.
03. The New Seekers – Meet My Lord (1969, England)
And there to sit and let the mountains hide me
Wash away my tears in a little pool
I wanted something like ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’ but not quite so on the nose, and this odd little spiritual turned up and I love it. Sometimes, the algorithms work.
04. Illusion – Man of Miracles (1978, England)
If he ever went on a journey you’d be right there
Following closely behind
Half in and half out your mind
‘Rabboni’ she cries to the gardener at the tomb, and centuries go past in a glance.
So the thing about Renaissance and Illusion is that, like the Seekers and the New Seekers, they’re the same band with different lead singers. Both musical geniuses. This might be the most spooky song of them all though.
The cover art is an illusion. Is it a mushroom cloud? It is not a mushroom cloud.
05. Constance Demby – Alleluliah (2001, USA)
One of the earlier New Age ambient/classical musicians. Constance has got something very interesting going on in her music. She bills herself as a ‘healer’ and I wouldn’t be surprised.
06. Maggie Reilly – Follow The Midnight Sun (1993, Scotland)
I wonder how long must it take
Till the sleeping awake
Much later, the brief time of sunlight has faded from the world and only a memory remains.
A remake and lyrical rewrite of a much harsher German song about the death of a friend, Maggie’s Celtic vibrations here get my esoteric antennae wiggling. To me her rework makes this a much more hopeful song about finding peace and searching for transformation in the wider tragedy of human life.
07. Lisa Gerrard – Space Weaver (2001, Australia)
My precious love can only come from above
In unity is born a kiss of dignity
The Christ came and went and yet never left. Above is within.
Like Constance, Lisa has something interesting happening in her vibrations. Does it surprise me, given how many films she’s scored? It shouldn’t, I suppose, but I am still startled by where I find the footprints of the sacred: both in off-beat and heavily commercial places.
I guess that’s what the ‘Angels’ project is about for me, really: searching for sacredness within the multiplicity of ordinary life. The threads come and go but they are distinct and traceable, and everywhere.
08. Judith Durham – The Light Is Dark Enough (1970, Australia)
The shackles loose my feet, I’m free from each handcuff
The road is clearer now, the dark is light enough
Sometime in the early 1990s, at a particularly dark time in my life, I heard this song just once on the radio and it shone like a very great light. It didn’t make nearly as big as splash for Judith’s post-Seekers career as it ought to have.
09. Anne Murray – Put Your Hand In The Hand (1971, Canada)
For the buyers and sellers were no different fellers than what I profess to me
And it causes me shame that I’m not the gal that I should be
I was surprised to find that the canonical original recording for maybe the definitive crossover country-gospel hit was by a Canadian woman. And I love how the unexpected ‘not the gal that I should be’ plays with both ‘fellers’ and ‘Galilee’ as the strongest version of the lyric.
10. Anne Murray and Dawn – Let There Be Love (1999, Canada)
It’s a long hard road to travel
Yes I know what it’s like to lose your way
When your best laid plans unravel
That’s when you’ve got to believe
So many plans have unravelled.
And yet here’s Anne and her daughter 28 years later, still shining strong.