When I was in 11th grade, the unthinkable happened: I received two Fs in the same semester! One of the Fs was in Physics class, an absolute nightmare. Thankfully, Paul Guinnessy of the American Institute of Physics has helped me deprogram from this hellish experience, thus empowering this historian-in-training to gather up the courage to take on new musical challenges — in this case, showcasing 45 single releases that celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of the Apollo moon landing program:
45 Single Releases from 1969
Note: Click on the three images below to view in Hyperspace mode
“Audio highlights of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission”
Note: Narrated by Peter Thomas.Note: “Record comes with 2, 3 page wrap round sleeves and with a 4 page insert. Pressed exclusively for News of the World readers.”
Eternal debt of gratitude to Larry Appelbaum of WPFW’s Sounds of Surprise program for pointing listeners (including myself) to a fascinating moment in our nation’s history about which not enough seems to have been written.
“Moon Maiden” Duke Ellington Quartet @ ABC in NYC July 21, 1969
A rather surreal television moment, as the Apollo 11 rocket lifts off in a video montage behind Duke Ellington that then dissolves into a shot of the moon. “Moon Maiden” would be the regal bandleader’s debut vocal performance, amazingly enough, thus exquisitely underscoring the theme of Appelbaum’s program: vocal performances from otherwise staunch instrumentalists.
Jazz Lives reports (via his “expert friends“) that Duke Ellington’s televised performance – with Al Chernet on guitar, Paul Kondziela on bass, and Rufus Jones on drums – had been “pre-recorded for the telecast.”
Duke Ellington, composer-bandleader-pianist par excellence who has taken The A Train through the Air Conditioned Jungle to his Satin Doll, climbed musically aboard Apollo 11 with his specially composed song, Moon Maiden, for the Moon-bound astronauts. The veteran musician, 70, whose musical composition is an accompaniment to man’s first steps on the moon, permitted himself a public first: he sang as well as played the Moon Maiden tune. The 10-minute composition for piano, bass, and drums, commissioned by ABC-TV for the network’s day-long broadcast of man’s first walk on the moon, says:
Moon Maiden. Way out there in the blue … / Moon Maiden. Got to be with you / I made my approach and then revolved / But my big problem is still not solved / Coming in loud and clear / I’m just a fly-by-night guy, but for you … / I might be quite the right–so right guy / Moon Maiden. Moon Maiden. Maiden, you’re for me.
Asked why he composed a song about a “maiden” when the astronauts going to the moon are men, the veteran jazzman, surrounded by a set the simulated the lunar landing site, replied: “For those cats to want to be there, there must be a chick around someplace.” Onlookers and studio buffs who witnessed the musical taping said Duke didn’t “sound bad” as a singer. Duke said this first vocal effort is his last. A studio spokesman declared: “It seemed appropriate–as man first sets foot upon the moon–that we should celebrate with music.”
Ken Vail’s invaluable reference, Duke’s Diary, points to September 4, 1969 as the day that “Duke Ellington and his Orchestra again record for Reader’s Digest in New York City” with the following musical personnel to record “Moon Maiden” — twice, including a version that features vocals from Duke himself — along with four other songs:
Richard Jurek, in the February 15, 2017 edition of Smithsonian’s Air & Space, writes about this fascinating musical footnote in American aeronautical history, when an emerging TV network – with a reputation for “counterprogramming” against its competitors – commissioned a 10-minute vocal paean to our planet’s lone satellite to be broadcast to the entire nation. Jurek also notes with amusement that our good friends at Pickwick did their level best to capitalize on the national sentiment in 1969 by churning out a covers album of ten popular “moon” songs.
Seasons in Your Mind would go one step further and compile an annotated listing of other “moon-sploitation” albums from the year 1969 (although shamefully neglect to include the Journey to the Moon album released that same year by Cincinnati’s King Records).
Zero to 180 is reminded of a time when television news had a modicum of dignity — although hard to say with a straight face as one spies the prominent product placement for Tang on the newscasters’ rostrum.
Tang: Proud NASA Sponsor
Big tip of the hat to Aeolus 13 Umbra, who posted the above television clip from his own video archives and noted the striking juxtaposition of Duke Ellington with full-sized replicas of the Apollo 11 Command Module and Eagle Lunar Lander in ABC’s television studios. Thank you also to Brent Hayes Edwards, who gets very specific about Ellington’s “Moon Maiden” (as well as “Spaceman“) in Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination:
“Ellington’s manuscript for ‘Moon Maiden’ is located in the Duke Ellington Collection, Subseries 1A: Manuscripts, Box 229, Folder 8, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Duke Ellington, ‘Spaceman,’ Duke Ellington Collection, Series 5: Correspondence, Box 6, notes, undated, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.”