(Disclaimer – This list represents the opinions of the author only.)
The inspiration for this top ten came from Iron Maiden’s latest album The Book of Souls. With the final track having been titled Empire of the clouds, sharing its title with James Hamilton-Paterson’s book on the jet age, the song looks back on the golden age of British airships. The following list comprises ten of those songs, selected for their lyrical content, overall theme or popular association with aviation.
In at one…
1. Empire of the Clouds (The Book Of Souls) – Iron Maiden
It’s only right that the song that provided the inspiration for this list is where we start. Empire of the clouds recalls the story of the R101 airship’s last voyage and subsequent crash in October 1930. Make room in your day to listen to this one, at 18 minutes long this truly is an endurance event.
2. Come Fly With Me (Come Fly with me) – Frank Sinatra
This iconic song has been used almost on repeat commission by various holiday and airline companies in advertisements. Sinatra somewhat pre-empted this very situation remarking that the album cover looked like an advert for TWA .
3. Learn To Fly (There’s nothing Left to Lose) – Foo Fighters
The music video for this Foo Fighters track parodies both the movies Aeroplane and Airport77’, a must watch for anyone that hasn’t enjoyed it. The connotations of flying to your home were recently picked up by 1,000 Italian musicians who recorded a YouTube video playing the song to get the Foo Fighters to perform in Italy.
4. The Zephyr Song (By The Way) – Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Easy listening from the American Funk-Rock group. In aviation terms, Zephyr may refer to a number of aircraft; ranging from the RAE Zephyr pusher bi-plane to the French Fouga Zephyr jet, but the most reasonable assertion is that Zephyr is being used as a popular colloquialism for Zeppelin. Whatever the case, the true meaning behind the lyrics has been left up to you.
5. Leaving On a Jet Plane (Album 1700) – Peter, Paul and Mary
Every time you pass through an airport nowadays there always seems to be a group staggering out of the bar towards their departure gate, attempting their very best to sing this multi-covered hit.
6. Eight Miles High (Eight Miles High) – The Byrds
This 1965 Byrds single was written about the American bands flight to London and subsequent tour of the UK in 1965. The title refers to the altitude reached on their trans-Atlantic flight.
7. Danger Zone (Top Gun) – Kenny Loggins
From the soundtrack to the movie Top Gun, this 1986 hit has become a staple of YouTube aircraft video backing tracks. Whether it’s to footage of pocket sized action man Tom Cruise whizzing about in an F-14 being passed off as a Chinese training exercise, that actually happened, or a video knocked up by Air Force pilots in their down time, this song will always have a strong link to aviation. “I feel the need- the need for speed!”
8. Me262 (Secret Treaties) – Blue Oyster Cult
Blue Oyster Cult’s third studio album includes this song, recounting the exploits of a Me262 pilot flying off into battle. The album cover even features the band standing besides the German jet aircraft.
9. Aces High (Powerslave) – Iron Maiden
In our second visit to Ed’s airfield (they really like aviation) and continuing our WW2 theme, this song explores the experience of an RAF pilot flying into battle. Written by Steve Harris the track tells the story of presumably a Spitfire pilot battling bombers and Me109s. The chaos of aerial combat is captured by the fast paced rhythm and erratic lyrical structure.
10.Jet Airliner (Book of Dreams) – Stevie Miller BandOriginally written and recorded by Paul Pena, this was a hit for Stevie miller in 1977. By listening to the lyrics it’s revealed the aircraft in question is a Boeing 707, and a big ol’ one at that.
This is just a snapshot of the variety of songs that touch upon the theme of aviation. Some of those missed off the list may have been your favourites. But perhaps they are just destined for another list. There are, after all, plenty of bands and groups named after aircraft…
What are your top ten aviation themed songs?