UK Singles Chart Journey Through the Solar System

So I decided to look for song titles featuring the planets of our solar system that have charted in the UK singles chart on polyhex.com and the Official Charts Company website and watch the videos on YouTube, because, well, why the heck not?

Edit – February 2016 . This  was initially limited to songs that had charted in the top 75, and has been updated to include songs which charted from numbers 76-100.

Mercury

There have been four songs which have charted in the UK singles chart with the title of the closest planet to the sun. One is a dance track, the languid ‘Mercury and Solace’ by BT from 1999. The other three are by guitar bands. The most recent is the fairly generic ‘Mercury Summer’ by Fightstar, A.K.A that band Charlie from Busted formed after leaving Busted.

There is also Lowgold’s melancholy indie-rock track simply called ‘Mercury’, though it’s referring to the chemical element rather than the planet. The video I’ve chosen to represent Mercury in the UK chart though is Bloc Party’s ‘Mercury’, partly because of how downright bizarre the video is. Gorilla mad scientists in a jungle treehouse create a Frankenstein-like humanoid monster with a bull’s head and a giant lobster claw, which gets elected as President and then begins world domination.

Venus

There are a some Venus songs which refer to the planet, such as P.M Dawn’s catchy ‘Downtown Venus’ and punk-rock track ‘Destination Venus’ by the Rezillos. There’s also the trance track ‘Hidden Sun of Venus’ by L.S.G. Surely Venus has the same Sun as Earth otherwise it wouldn’t be in the same solar system? It is a very good track though, with beautiful production.

But most of the songs are referring to the Roman Goddess of Love and Beauty which the planet is named after. Or more specifically, they are comparing the object of their desire to her. But I guess it isn’t surprising as most pop songs are after all love songs. Frankie Avalon and Dickie Valentine both had top 20 hits in 1959 with the same very sugary song called ‘Venus’.

The 1960s saw two contrasting songs referring to Venus. Mark Wynter reached number 4 in 1962 with ‘Venus In Blue Jeans’, which goes on to say the girl also looks like “Mona Lisa with a ponytail”. In contrast, the Bad Girl Veronica to ‘Venus In Blue Jeans’ Good Girl Betty is ‘Venus In Furs’ by The Velvet Underground. The woman they are comparing to Venus is a dominatrix, with leather boots and whips. This track charted in 1994, but was from an album released in 1967.

A cover version of ‘Venus In Furs’ almost charted a decade before the original, but technically didn’t as at the time the singles chart was only a top 75. This cover was by Paul Gardiner, who had worked with Gary Numan through his early career, and was released in 1984 on Numan’s own record label.

Rock band That Petrol Emotion’s  song ‘Hey Venus’ was of the comparing a girl they fancy to Venus variety. Then there’s Bjork, who does an interesting gender-flip on that idea with her 1993 track ‘Venus As A Boy’, where she’s talking about a guy she is in love with, and states that he what the goddess of love and beauty would look like if she were male.

Jo Breezer had the sweet Natalie Imbruglia-esque guitar-pop song ‘Venus and Mars’ in 2001, likely referring to the old “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” thing. I bought this single when it came out! She never released another single though.

I’d say the ultimate Venus song though is one that has charted three times. The original ‘Venus’ was by Dutch psychedelic band Shocking Blue in 1969. What’s interesting for me about this song as opposed to others about Venus is rather than talking about someone else, the protagonist is comparing herself to Venus. The Shocking Blue version was sampled in 1990 by dance act Don Pablo’s Animals (the single cover for that apparently had a silouette of the Venus de Milo). But for the video I have just got to go with Bananarama’s cover from 1986. (As yet another bit of trivia, both the Shocking Blue and Bananarama versions of ‘Venus’ reached number 8 in the UK and number 1 in the US). The music video for Bananarama’s version features group dressed as a vampires and devils. Which is fun, albeit nothing to do with Venus really, though there is one lady on a giant clam shell, which is a nod to Botticelli’s famous The Birth Of Venus painting.

It seems pop videos have been meshing together elements of different mythologies for a long time, just like Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ video. That song mentions Aphrodite interestingly, who was the original Greek mythology version of Venus.

Then there’s Lady Gaga’s track ‘Venus’, which references the goddess, love, beauty, Aphrodite, the Botticelli painting, the planet, all the other planets in the solar system, outer space in general and probably a lot more besides.

Earth

Earth, being the planet we live on, has the most songs about it. You could even do a top 40 of songs that have made the UK chart that have Earth in the title! Some are quite straightforward love songs. ‘I’ll Give You The Earth’ by Keith Michell is quite nice. It is a reworking of a French song called ‘Tous Les Bateau, Tous Les Oiseaux’, which roughly translates as ‘All The Boats, All The Birds’. ‘I Feel The Earth Move’ has had two versions, one by Carole King in 1971 and one by Martika in 1989.

A lot of them are trying to show a message of world peace, such as David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s medley of ‘Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy’. What’s quite interesting about the world peace ones is that they tend to change over the decades. The 1970s tracks seems to be hopeful. In 1973 both George Harrison’s ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth’) and Michael Ward with a version of ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth’ charted.

In the 1980s, those sort of tracks are more despondent, with a fear of nuclear war, such as ‘The Earth Dies Screaming’ by UB40 in 1980, and Duran Duran’s first ever charting single ‘Planet Earth’ in 1981. ‘Peace On Earth’ by Snowy White in 1984 talks of fear for future generations if people don’t aim for peace.  In the 1990s the “save planet Earth” songs are more to do with environmentalism, such as ‘Earth Song’, a number one hit for Michael Jackson in 1995. ‘You Come From Earth’ by Lena Figabe from 1993 talked of unity, that bigoty and prejudice is foolish when we’re all from the same planet and that we should help each other.

Jamiroquai has two charting songs with Earth the title, the first is of the environmental world peace variety, ‘Emergency Planet Earth’ from 1993. The second is ‘Corner Of The Earth’ was that whole “designer hippie” thing that was a trend in the late ’90s/early 2000s, with rather trite lines about humming birds and bumble bees, and about how we don’t have to pay for sunlight.

There are four different songs called ‘Down To Earth’, all quite different genres too. Curiosity Killed The Cat (soul-pop), Monie Love (rap), Grace (dance), and Puresscence (rock). (Though to be pedantic, the Puresscence track is called ‘Drop Down To Earth’).

Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’ is a great pop song, and was a UK and US number one hit in 1987. While it’s the most successful song with Heaven and Earth in the title, it’s not the only one. The others are all electro-dance. There’s Soda Club’s karaoke bar cover version, but there are four that are different songs. ‘Heaven on Earth’ by Spellbound from 1997 is another world peace song. There’s the dream-like ‘Heaven and Earth’ by Delerium from 2000 . Another dance track is ‘Heaven and Earth’ by Red in 2001, and according to a comment by former member Ian Bland on the track’s YouTube video, the singer is a pre-Popstars/Hear’Say/Coronation Street Kym Marsh! Finally, there’s ‘Heaven and Earth’ by the ill-fated Pop!, a teenybopper act by Pete Waterman, who seemed to be launched at precisely the time the bubblegum pop bubble had burst.

There aren’t that many that go with an outer space theme, but two that do are rave tracks. One is ’14 Hours To Save The Earth’ by Comander Tomski, a rave dance track with spacey bleeps and speech synthesiser vocals. The other is ‘We Are Observing The Earth’ by Dyewitness, which samples the aliens making contact lines from ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’ by The Carpenters.  The album covers from the Dyewitness album have some very good and very interesting artwork, with aliens which look like goblin-lizards. One alien is some sort of businessman with multiple arms and a head shaped like a rugby ball. A green alien is holding some tiny green aliens in his hand, and another green alien is looking on a computer monitor on his spaceship. The monitor first shows Earth and in another picture shows a purple and orange planet that resembles a demonic face.

Rock band Swervedriver released a track called ‘The Last Day On Earth’ in 1995, but ‘The Last Night On Earth’ wouldn’t come until two years later when U2 released a song titled that in 1997.

There are a few songs with eerie sounds by creative artists. One is ‘Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth’ by Sparks from 1974. A couple have arty videos. Mike Oldfield had ‘Earth Moving’, the title track from his 1989 album, and the video featured a spinning globe, sometimes whole sometimes half burnt. It also has images of pollution from factories, sewers, landfills and litter, so he was ahead of the game with the environment theme. The video for ‘Earth Intruders’ by Bjork features a swirly sky that looks like liquid, like a whirlpool of paint. with silouettes of tribal warriors dancing.

There are so many videos to choose from, so I’ve gone for Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’, as I adore that song.

There’s also one I discovered from looking up for this blog post which I really liked, ‘The Day The Earth Caught Fire’ by City Boy from 1979. It’s about people caught in an apocalypse, with the video featuring burning cars. I don’t know for sure if it was inspired by the famous apocalyptic science fiction film of the same name from 1961, but it would make sense if it was.

Mars

Mars is one of the most popular planets in media. It’s fairly close to Earth, it has a pretty cool name, a distinctive red look and, outside of Earth, it is the planet in the solar system with the closest thing to liveable conditions. This is probably why when writers have created aliens, Mars is most often used as the planet aliens come from. It’s very popular as a band name, with dance act M/A/R/R/S, and rock bands such as The Mars Volta and 30 Seconds To Mars using it. It’s also often referenced in songs, ‘E.T’ by Katy Perry feat. Kanye West is a recent example.

With all that in mind, you might think there have been a lot of charting songs with Mars in the title, but there have in fact been only five… and one of them is sharing with Venus!

The most famous one is ‘Life On Mars?’ by David Bowie, which is a masterful all-time classic song and a number three hit in 1973. Then there’s ‘Girl From Mars’ by Ash, one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands, which reached number 11 in 1995. I can’t believe that song is 20 years old! Then there’s ‘Venus and Mars’ by Jo Breezer which I mentioned in the Venus entry. What the hell, all three of these songs are good, I’m just going to go ahead and include all three videos.

Two which didn’t make the top 40 or even the top 75 were house track ‘Reach Up To Mars’ by Earth People, which has a “Martian mix”, and DJs Brockie and Ed Solo who had a track called ‘Mars’ as a double A-side single (something which is a bit redundant nowadays in the download/streaming era). Oddly enough, the other side ‘Echo Box’ sounded a lot more spacey.

Jupiter

We move on to the outer planets, and the largest planet in the solar system, but there have only been three charting songs with the same title. One is Earth, Wind and Fire – ‘Jupiter’ a ’70s funk track where the protagonist calls himself Jupiter and claims he’s from the galaxy. Another is ‘Hey Jupiter’ by Tori Amos from 1996, which was a double A-sided single. The other side was ‘Professional Widow’. The double-A side reached number 20, but ‘Professional Widow’ would become a number one hit in 1997 when it was remixed by Armand Van Helden.

The video I went with though was ‘Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)’ by Train, for me the only good song Train have ever done!

Saturn

There is no need to make a choice for the track to represent Saturn, as there has only ever been one! ‘Saturn 5’ by Inspiral Carpets made number 20 in 1994, with an astronaut and UFO themed video. It isn’t referring to the planet though, but NASA’s Saturn V rocket.

Uranus

To date, no song has ever entered the UK singles chart named after ‘Uranus’.  Can’t think why. You have to have feel sorry for this planet really. Forever destined to be a punchline. So, purely for the purposes of and in the context of this blog post, I’m going to upgrade Pluto to being a planet again.

Neptune

Only one track has charted named ‘Neptune’ too, in 2003 by InMe. They were quite big when I was in Sixth Form College, I liked them and they had a lot of fans, so this track, and whenever anything from their Overgrown Eden album comes up on my iPod shuffle always reminds me of that time.

Pluto

While not officially a planet any longer, Pluto has a song which charted in the UK called ‘Breakfast On Pluto’ by one-man-band Don Partridge. Breakfast On Pluto apparently is also a novel which has been adapted into a Neil Jordan film set in the 1970s and is about a transgender woman trying to find her mother. As far as I’m aware, the titles are just a coincidence, but an interesting coincidence nonetheless. In any case the track was released in 1969, reaching number 26. It’s an upbeat, cheerful optimistic pop song which says the world is a merry-go-round and being able to visit the Moon, Mars and have breakfast on Pluto.

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