I saw a very slim crescent moon last night which means you can now watch the moon and literally count days until it passes right smack in the way of the sun on the August 21 total eclipse.
I’ve got about a 5 1/2 hour drive to Columbia, Missouri, where I’ll be watching the eclipse, and when I have a drive, I need a playlist. It’s unfortunately old and uncool, but long time readers know I quit caring.
Let ‘s get THIS over with first:
Bonnie Tyler’s overwrought camp classic as very little if anything to do with astronomy, even if you really stretch and count “your love is like a shadow on me all of the time.” Eclipses do involve shadows but they don’t happen All Of The Time. In fact, on average any given place on Earth only sees a total eclipse every 375 years. (Carbondale, Illinois is above average and double dipping; they get another one in just seven years on April 8, 2024.)
“Total Eclipse Of The Heart” is just a turn of a phrase by Jim Steinman, the man who gave us Meat Loaf. And if either the moon or sun were heart shaped there would be serious issues with gravity. But because it’s the only song most people can think of that actually has “Total Eclipse” right there in the name, we’ll be hearing it all of eclipse week, just like we heard “1999” all over again that one New Years.
Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon is a better listen, and concludes with astronomical accuracy: “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.” The closing song is even called “Eclipse” and it runs just over two minutes, the approximate duration of totality.
As the narrator notes, “dark side of the moon” is often used incorrectly to refer to the FAR side of the moon that perpetually faces away from Earth. The far side of the moon will be the LIGHT side of the moon during the eclipse, and the near side will be the dark side as it blocks the sun. You may be able to glimpse the surface features of the moon, lit by “earthshine,” during totality.
Despite claims by Tori Amos on her 2007 American Doll Posse album, there is absolutely no “Dark Side Of The Sun.” Tori clearly flunked Astronomy 101 and needs to listen to They Might Be Giants:
Nice beret. They also offer classes in Turkish geography.
Let’s see what more we can learn about eclipses from our playlist.
“Moon Shadow” by Cat Stevens – because an eclipse is the moon’s shadow on the earth. If you’re being followed by a moon shadow, it’ll catch up to you very, very quickly since it’s traveling at about 1500 MPH.
I always found this song’s imagery of losing parts of your body kind of disturbing when I was a kid. And if I ever lose my eyes… well, then, I guess I won’t see the eclipse, will I?
Planet Earth is still mourning the loss of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell but you can sing “black hole sun, won’t you come” as you wait for totality, because that’s what it looks like. His later effort with Audioslave, “Shadow On The Sun,” is astronomically inaccurate. Honorable mention: “Under The Big Black Sun” by X.
“Blinded By The Light” – You can choose the Springsteen original (the eclipse is only 78% total in Asbury Park, New Jersey) or the Manfred Mann hit version, but you’ll be Blinded by The Light if you look at the partial phases of the eclipse without proper eye protection. For this reason, “Cheap Sunglasses” by ZZ Top should not be on the playlist.
My eclipse glasses are Stevie Wonder/Ray Charles dark, but looking at the sun through them looks like a rising orange full moon. Honorable mention: U2’s “Staring At The Sun.”
“Total Eclipse,” Iron Maiden: From the classic The Number Of The Beast album, which you know is totally kick-ass because the cover looks like Tipper Gore’s nightmare. This one captures the superstition and fear ancient societies felt about eclipses:
Cold as steel the darkness waits, it’s hour will come
A cry of fear for the chosen worshipping the sun
Mother natures black revenge on those who waste her life
War babies in the garden of Eden shall turn our ashes to ice
They could have just cranked this one to 11 and it would have scared the shit out of the sun-eating dragon. Speaking of goes to 11, you do NOT want to hear Spinal Tap’s “Rainy Day Sun” on August 21.
“New Moon On Monday,” Duran Duran: Because the eclipse is on a Monday and a total eclipse only occurs at new moon. No word on whether a lonely satellite will be visible during totality, but it may be a cold day; there will be a noticeable temperature drop even in places with a significant partial eclipse. The loss of light is enough that it’ll affect solar power generation.
“Earth And Sun and Moon,” Midnight Oil: Actually that should be “Earth and Moon And Sun.” The lineup of Earth, sun, moon would be Bad.
And while the end of totality may be bittersweet, the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” is an easy choice.
If you want less music and more actual information, nationaleclipse.com is a great resource. You’re probably too late for a day off work or booking a hotel, and traffic may be challenging on E-Day. (Normally when I say “E-Day” I mean Election Day.) But I’ve seen a heavy partial eclipse, in 1979, and even that is pretty cool.
A total eclipse, though, has been on my list since the March 7, 1970 eclipse that Carly Simon so famously sang about. Pro tip: If you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia, you’d be in one of the worst places to watch with just 57% totality.
Not on the list: “It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding,” Bob Dylan. Opening line “Darkness at the break of noon” should make it an automatic. But he loses points for the astronomically impossible “eclipses both the sun and moon,” and gets crossed off entirely for “even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.” Not even Melania wants to see that.