Ask anyone who was the first man on the moon. Most of them will tell you straight out: Louis Armstrong. They might have to think a little bit harder to tell you who was second, but there will be plenty who say Buzz Lightyear. The thing is that nobody seems to remember the poor bloke who went up there with them but had to stay in the command module in orbit whilst the other two went down to the surface of the moon to take their place in the history books. No one bothers about Phil Collins. It was certainly “No Jacket Required” for him on that mission, because he was staying in while the other two got all the fun and attention. A bit like Cinderella, only there was no fairy godmother and no Prince Charming to bring in a slipper for him to try on. Just a lonely space capsule and a pair of moon boots that would never get used.
We were all glued to the telly watching his two mates bouncing around on the surface. It was really exciting, because the pictures were live, and we seriously thought that the moon aliens might pop up at any minute and capture them. The Lord alone knows what we thought they might do. Maybe hypnotise them and make them kiss one another, or slaughter them in cold blood and feast on their bones, or take over their minds and send them back to earth to weaken our resistance somehow, so that the moon people could invade us kill all who resisted, and use the survivors as slaves. None of that stuff happened though. They just bounced around a bit, stuck up a plastic flag, and came back home. A bit like me and Raymond taking our Michael to Withernsea, and me staying in the car while them two mucked about on the beach.
Our Michael loved the astronauts though. He said he wanted to be a spaceman when he grew up. He might have managed it too, only I think NASA expect you to get out of bed at a reasonable time in the morning and leave the ruddy booze alone, so when he got a bit older, he gave it up as a bad job.
Phil Collins left NASA a broken man. He couldn’t bear living in the shadow of Armstrong and Lightyear. He turned to drink and hard drugs. In the seventies he joined a progressive rock band, but he couldn’t form relationships with the others, and eventually left to record a few obscure songs of his own, and make a film about one of the great train robbers. Few who met him to day would recognise him as the man who once orbited the moon in a space pod while his pals frolicked on the surface.
Auntie Doris’s top pop pick of 1969: “Ruby – Don’t Take Your Love To Town” by Kenny Rogers. It’s a lovely story in that song. Listening to it is just like reading something in the “People’s Friend” in fact I wrote a story based on it once and sent it to them. I changed the war to World War Two, and the woman’s name to Maureen. I also had him with the tip of his thing shot off, because I thought that it was too upsetting to write about people being crippled. Any road, they never printed it.
Talking about music and men on the moon though. I would recommend that you have a listen to “Whitey on the Moon” by Gill Scott Heron. I couldn’t make it my pop pick of 69 because it didn’t come out till 1970 and it’s not really the kind of music I normally enjoy listening too. But the words are very good. I might adapt them and send them to the “People’s Friend” You never know…
Space fever was upon us. Everywhere you turned people were talking about space, singing about space, reading about space, writing about space. We were all space mad. The reason being that the United Federation of Planets had managed to boldy send a galaxy class cruiser where no man had gone before. On a five year mission. To seek out new worlds and new civilisations in the final frontier… Space! And it was on the television too.
Me and my Raymond used to watch it without fail every ruddy week. And so did Cyril and April May, and my nephew Michael if they would let him stay up long enough, but he was only six in 68, so that wasn’t very often.
Of course, Star Trek had been on the go for a few years by then. In fact it was in its third series. But it was in that year that something happened in it that shocked the good people of America. Captain Kirk gave Leutenant Uhura a kiss. On the lips! And the reason that they got their knickers in a twist over it? Because Kirk was a white man and Uhura a black woman.
They might have ended segregation with the Civil Rights bill of 1964, but that sort of thing didn’t happen in a popular television programme. Alright, Sammy Davis Junior might have given Nancy Sinatra a peck on the cheek, but this was a bit different. There were many people in the Deep South who thought it was more likely that flying saucers would zip across space at several times the speed of light, and people could be dissolved in a machine and re assembled in a different place than that a white man would kiss a black woman. It didn’t matter that he was hypnotised at the time and that he spent most of his time in space snogging alien lasses with snails horns on their heads or three eyes or whatever. It didn’t matter that Nurse Chapel had just kissed Mister Spock in the same episode and he wasn’t even properly human. They thought it was disgusting.
Of course, today we all know why they thought it was disgusting. It was because they were tiny minded bigots with shite for brains. But there were a lot of tiny minded bigots with shite for brains in America in those days, and some of them had a lot of clout. In fact the people who made that programme were taking a bit of a risk, because the tiny minded bigots could have caused them a great deal of trouble. That’s why they made it so that the captain probably wouldn’t have kissed her if he hadn’t been hypnotised.
They got away with it though, and I would like to think that afterwards a craze for multiracial kissing swept America, and interplanetary kissing an all. He was a bit of alright, that mister Spock. A bit serious mind, but I bet when you got him going, he was at it like a sewing machine!
Funnily enough, we didn’t get to see that episode in England till years after. In those days, the BBC was funny about showing programmes that featured hypnotism.
Auntie Doris’s top pop pick of 1968: “Lilly the Pink” by the Scaffold. A lovely song, about the saviour of the human race! The best song about quack medication since George Formby did “Auntie Maggie’s Remedy”