Rock... IN SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!
Space rock is a subgenre of Rock & Roll with stylistic similarties to Psychedelic Rock and early Electronic Music, characterised by lengthy instrumental passages, lyrics inspired by science-fiction, astronomy and space travel, Psychedelic and Progressive influences and droning or heavily reverbed guitars (well, actually, just heavy reverb in general). In addition to the above, many other influences both on the genre and of the genre can be found in bands from subgenres such as Shoegazing, Dream Pop, Noise Rock, Noise Pop, Krautrock, Ambient, Electronic Music... pretty much anything suitably druggy.
Although the style was developed mostly in the UK underground scene in The '60s, the earliest exponent of space rock was the British independent Record Producer Joe Meek. Enamoured of the idea of space exploration and life on other planets, Meek produced the Concept Album I Hear A New World in 1959, which he explained was intended to, "Create a picture in music of what could be up there in outer space." Meek's fascination with the subject also came through on the Tornados recording "Telstar", the first British single to reach the top of the American charts.
The sound of the genre was developed by the early recordings of Pink Floyd and David Bowie's hit single "Space Oddity". Arguably the most influential space rock group was Hawkwind, who became popular in The '70s and frequently collaborated with the science-fiction writer Michael Moorcock.
The Alternative Rock contemporary version of space rock originated in the mid-late 1980s, when British bands like Spacemen 3 and Loop pioneered the sound. The droning Space Rock sound was an influence on the Shoegazing scene as well (and bands such as The Verve and Spiritualized blur the lines between the genres somewhat), and gained an underground following in the 1990s. Bands such as Radiohead (pre-Kid A, and especially on OK Computer) helped push the genre closer to the mainstream, and more recent (and heavily Radiohead-influenced) bands such as Muse and Coldplay brought a more accessible form of it into the mainstream.
There is a considerable overlap between this genre and Post-Rock (much of which is influenced by this genre), as well as between Space Rock and other related genres such Shoegazing, Dream Pop, Noise Pop, Noise Rock (another influence on Space Rock) and Psychedelic Rock. As well, a few bands combine it with Progressive Rock or Heavy Metal.
Early Space Rock bands:
- Can (also Krautrock)
- David Bowie (but only on his early records, most notably "Space Oddity")
- Flaming Youth (Phil Collins' first band)
- Manfred Mann's Earth Band
- Neu! (also Krautrock)
- The Pink Fairies
- Pink Floyd
- Sun Ra (While he was a Jazz guy, rather than a rocker, any discussion of the early history of "Space Rock" would be incomplete without mentioning him as an Ur-Example)
- Tangerine Dream (during the late 1960s and early 1970s)
Alternative Space Rock bands:
- Amplifier (albeit with an obvious Hard Rock influence)
- Asha Vida
- Auburn Lull
- Bardo Pond
- Caustic Resin
- Chapterhouse (Also a Shoegazing band)
- Double Experience (specifically, The Pilot and Oh Listener Mine)
- Earthling Society
- Failure (especially Fantastic Planet)
- Flying Saucer Attack
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor (overlaps with Post-Rock)
- Hum (You'd Prefer an Astronaut and Downward Is Heavenward)
- Les Friction
- Loop (Sometimes also classified as Shoegazing)
- Mew (also Dream Pop)
- Miss Bliss
- Mogwai (could also be considered Post-Rock)
- Muse (heavier than most, but arguably still an example)
- Ozric Tentacles (though they also head into Electronic Music, Psychedelic Rock and Progressive Rock territory a lot)
- Porcupine Tree (mainly their 1990s material, they moved more towards Progressive Metal in the new millennium)
- Radial Spangle
- Radiohead (especially on OK Computer)
- Spacemen3 (Trope Codifier at least, possibly the Trope Maker for the Alternative Rock version)
- Spectrum (Spacemen 3 offshoot led by Pete Kember)
- Spiritualized (Spacemen 3 offshoot led by Jason Pierce, much more popular)
- Underground Zero
- Starset (Alternative Metal)
- The Verve (started off Shoegazing, before changing their sound a bit. Never stopped being this though.)
- Windy & Carl (though they lean heavily toward ambient music)
- Artistic Stimulation: In cases where drugs are actually involved. Spacemen 3's infamous (taking drugs to make music to take drugs to" sums up much of the aesthetic).
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: The genre always goes for a drugged-out sound, whether or not the artists in question were actually high or not at the time of writing or recording.