Astro Launch was one of several 7" EPs Man or Astro-man? released in 1994. It was released on Estrus Records (ES751). The full-color picture sleeve was made from glossy cardstock that was machine-folded and glued into a pocket. The consistency of the printing varies greatly with this one. Some are glossier than others, and the vibrancy of the ink can also vary some. This is especially visible with the blue "O" in Astro. Here is a scan of darkest and lightest picture sleeves in my collection:
The vinyl came in three variations, or four if you're a stickler for variants. It was for sure available on clear orange vinyl and swirly gray vinyl. Here is a scan of side 1 and 2 from these first two:
Where it gets tricky is with the third, black vinyl version. It is sometimes categorized as two different variations. This happens because the black vinyl is translucent when held up to a light source. Some of these look red and others appear to be more dark brown or gray. Online seller will either pass these off as "clear root beer" vinyl or "dark ruby-red" vinyl. So what's the truth? I don't know. But here is a scan of the two variations of black. The first photo was taken with a scanner, and the second shows the same two records with light shining through them. I can totally see the argument for these being classified completely separately, but I'll let you decide how much of a completist you want to be with your own collection. Anyway, here you are:
"Transmission from Venus '94" is a re-recording of a song Man or Astro-man? recorded and released on a Roger Corman tribute compilation in 1993. The other standout tune on this one is an instrumental titled "Philip K. Dick in the Pet Section of a Wal-Mart." The back cover states that there was also a secret cassette-only vocal version of "Philip K. Dick," available to those that would take the time to send $1 to the address on the back. The story is that Birdstuff dubbed a hundred of these cassettes. Here is a scan of the cassette's j-card:
Stuart Ellis (A.K.A. "The Lounge Lizard"), a graphic artist that had his hand in several early MOAM? releases and logo designs, created the artwork for the single's j-card. The artwork was from the dust cover of a first edition of Dick's book The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Here's a scan of the book's cover for comparison:
And here is YouTube link to the audio. It is a little rough, but that's to be expected when you consider that what you're hearing here is a digitized version of a cassette recording dubbed from a master cassette that was made when Birdstuff sang along to the 7" single in his bedroom because he had lost the DAT master. Hey, it was only $1.
The cover art was designed by Art Chantry. This was another case where Chantry found inspiration in vintage space-race merchandise. The front cover was completely patterned after the packaging from a 1960s tin toy made by the Ohio Art Company (the same people behind the Etch-A-Sketch). It is amazing how little was changed to convert this to a MOAM? piece. Here is a picture of the toy and the original box, courtesy of collector Sam Cancilla:
The art used on the center labels of the records was also taken directly from the toy, but this time from the instruction sheet. You will notice that the "Inner Orbit" illustration looks strikingly like the art that ended up on the center label--the only differences being the inversion of the colors and the fact that the writing on the EP is in French. Part of the French text was cut off. This wouldn't normally be that big of a deal, but when you shorten ORBITE INTÉRIEURE to BITE INTÉRIEURE, you go from saying Inner Orbit to saying Inner Cock. Fitting, when you consider that the rooster is the French national bird. Anyway, here is a picture of the instruction sheet for the Astro Launch toy:
(For more information on the Astro Launch tin toy, and for links to other vintage toys, check out Sam Cancilla's Astro Launch page.)
As the liner notes on the back of the single point out, the photo on the back cover was from a side-show museum in Seattle called Jones's Fantastic Museum. The museum was open from 1963-1980, and was curated by a guy named Walt "Doc" Jones. The picture shows several exhibits from the museum, but the central piece was the Man From Mars Machine. Here is clear shot of that exhibit:
I'm not really sure what the machine did. It was obviously a campy space-themed gag, so it was perfect for the back of the single. The funny thing is, even after having seen a video of the machine in action, I still don't know what the hell it was supposed to do. Here's the video, with the Mars Machine no longer in the museum and in its new home in what appears to be someone's den:
Thanks to Benjamin Brinkman and to Stuart Ellis for contributing heavily to this post.