Friday Five: 5 Songs with Bad Science
Friday, January 30, 2015
Ade Spink is obsessed equally by science fiction and rock and roll and believes both peaked in 1962. You can argue with him about this on twitter at @AdeSpink. (I personally would argue 1985, but to each their own.)
Since the beginning of the rock ‘n’ roll era, several artists have made predictions for the future in song. Sometimes these predictions turn out wrong, or the songwriter just misunderstands basic scientific principles.
Here are 5 songs where the science could possibly be questioned...
"It’s Hard To Believe It" - Glenda Collins
Any article on scientifically inaccurate songs should start with a Joe Meek production. My choice is Glenda Collins and the protest song “It’s Hard To Believe It” from 1966. While his social predictions, that the government would spend money on missiles rather than poverty, were dead on the money, he did also predict;
“we’re all in for a shock and soon,
when we find living creatures upon the moon”
His other records have similar problems. In 1960, he recorded the experimental “I hear a new world”, a set of instrumental themes for areas of the moon. It included “Magnetic Field: This is a stretch of the moon where there is a strange lack of gravity forcing everything to float about 3 feet above the crust”.
Meet the Moon-a-tiks – The Moon-A-Tiks
The next band are even less likely to be the actual inhabitants of our satellite. The Moon-a-tiks are balls of fluff who sing nursery rhymes in squeaky voices.
In this concept album they travel to earth, in order to meet and sing to a small girl. How do they survive in the moon’s harsh environment? How do they fly their spacecraft with no arms?
Sadly, the Moon-a-tiks never issued a follow up album to explain.
(You can listen to one of their tracks here!)
"Bottomless Hole" - Handsome Family
Nothing good ever happens to Handsome Family song protagonists. Best known for the True Detective theme, the band often draw on paranormal and occult themes to tell increasingly horrible tales, usually ending in death and/or murder.
This particular elegy tells the story of a man who finds a bottomless hole at the back of his house, and after using it for a while to successfully dispose of his waste, he decides to explore it, and jumps in. My problem with the song is that by the time of the songs recording, he has been falling for so long he has forgotten his own name. How is he getting water? It would need a series of water and food parcels to be thrown into the hole at increasing velocities to catch up.
"Great Atomic Power" – The Louvin Brothers
The power of the atom fascinated the world in the 50s. Many musical acts looked to the scientific advancement made possible by this new technology. Except for Alabama hillbilly duo, the Louvin brothers, who were a little more cautious. As they explain:
“When a terrible explosion may ring down upon our land,
Leaving horrible destruction blotting out the works of man”
They offer a solution however:
“There is one way to escape and be prepared to meet the Lord
Give your heart and soul to Jesus He will be your shield and sword
He will surely stand beside and you'll never taste of death
For your soul will fly to safety and eternal peace and rest”
So while there’s nothing in science to disprove anything in this song, personally I would recommend a lead lined fallout shelter as my plan “A”. Added to this, the Louvins don’t really give an adequate survival plan for the post-apocalypse years. They don’t detail any kind of plan to store up provisions for the nuclear winter, or on how to avoid the subsequent radioactive fallout. As an alternative approach to post-apocalyptic living, try Corb Lund’s “Getting Down On The Mountain” .
"We’re Building a ?? On the Moon" – Weldon Rogers
Rockabilly singer Rogers has a plan to build some kind of structure on the moon. While the nature of his moon base is never revealed, he does indicate it will host parties, and will have:
- Slot machines (“slot machines will be payin’ on the moon”)
- Jukeboxes (“jukeboxes will be playin’ pretty tunes”)
- A dress code (“all the girls will wear bikinis except those who wear blue jeanies”)
Now I could talk about the inability to hear country music in the vacuum of space, or the lack of protection a bikini offers against interstellar radiation. But ultimately the biggest problem for these moon parties will be the lack of atmosphere.