Arthur C. Clarke Prog Rock

Arthur C. Clarke Prog Rock June 26, 2020

I’m not sure how I missed that Arthur C. Clarke’s story Childhood’s End had inspired Pink Floyd to write a song by the same name.

It is from one of their earlier albums, Obscured by Clouds, but I love all their eras from oldest to most recent, and so there’s really no excuse for me to have missed that. I’m sure I’ve heard the song before, but its name and source of title/inspiration wasn’t something that I’d become aware of in the process. For those who may not know it, that album is the soundtrack to a movie, The Valley, which I’ve never seen, but which is apparently about a search for a mythical paradise that is supposed to be located in a valley that is mentioned on a single map, where it is simply marked “obscured by clouds.” And so this is interesting to me for more than one reason, having quasi-religious as well as science fiction connections.

It isn’t the only song inspired not just by sci-fi, or even by Clarke’s sci-fi, but by this particular story. For example, I was already aware that the Genesis song Watcher of the Sky had taken some inspiration from Clarke’s “Childhood’s End.” This video below not only offers the song in question, but gives you a sense of the dynamic live show Genesis offered back in that era if you’ve not seen such a performance. It is well worth your time.

Clarke’s story also inspired another progressive rock band, Van Der Graff Generator, to write a song with the wonderful title “Childlike Faith in Childhood’s End”:

Phish, a band inspired by Pink Floyd among others, does its own version of music associated with another Arthur C. Clarke story, the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I blogged about the SyFy television miniseries version of Childhood’s End soon after it aired. The story is of course a classic one that is right at the intersection of religion and science fiction.

Childhood’s End

There is plenty more at the intersection of sci-fi and rock beyond that connected directly with Arthur C. Clarke. Michael Moorcock collaborated with the band Hawkwind, and of course there was a whole subgenre known as “space rock” during the 1960s and 1970s. Jefferson Airplane’s Blows Against The Empire falls into that category, for instance.

And of course, the genre is still continuing if one counts things like Devin Townsend’s Ziltoid the Omniscient.

There is of course much more (see this list of 50 key albums that fall under the heading of science fiction progressive rock). A whole academic book has been written on the subject, Science Fiction in Classic Rock. It is on my list of things to read. This article below explores some of the key early moments and influences:

The Rise of Science Fiction Rock and Roll

Amid all of this and more (including some very very famous instances of dabbling in the genre that became some of the best known examples) I remain especially interested in the three-way connections between science fiction, religion, and progressive rock. I’m actively researching two of the sets of connections. Moments when all three connect are thus especially interesting and meaningful to me.

There was recently something in Skeptic featuring Howard Bloom that touched on rock music and the search for God. And of related interest to another genre that Pink Floyd is in:

The self unlocked


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