Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ground Control To Major Tom

"Standing there alone, the ship is waiting
All systems are go, "Are you sure?"
Control is not convinced but the computer
Has the evidence, no need to abort
The countdown starts
Watching in a trance, the crew is certain
Nothing left to chance, all is working
Trying to relax up in the capsule
"Send me up a drink", jokes Major Tom
The count goes on
Four, three, two, one
Earth below us drifting, falling
Floating weightless, calling, calling home
Second stage is cut, we're now in orbit
Stabilizers up, running perfect
Starting to collect, requested data
"What will it affect when all is done?""

-"Major Tom" by Peter Schilling (1983)

Returning back to our regularly scheduled decade, the '80s, and continuing my efforts to provide tributes to the closing of the space shuttle era, heres another space-related toast to the last shuttle . . .

"Major Tom" was a 1983 hit by German musicial Peter Schilling. It was a song in the synth-pop New Wave style so popular in that year, and it became an international hit.  There is also, according to Wikipedia, a connection to the space shuttle:

        Its release, coincidentally, occurred in the same year that West
       Germany sent its first astronaut, Ulf Merbold, into space on
        American NASA Space Shuttle mission STS-9, as part of the
        European Space Agency's Spacelab program.

As a nerdy, space-loving early teen in 1983, I immediately loved the song upon hearing it. I was then, as still am, an afficionado of all things related to the space program, and exploration of space. (Yeah, I love sci-fi too.)

The character of Major Tom, however dates back to 1969, with its first appearance in the song "Space Oddity" by David Bowie. The title of the song, of course, is a play on the title of the 1968 Stanley Kubrick movie classic "2001: A Space Odyssey." The Bowie song was released the same year as the first moon landing by the crew of Appollo 11, in July 11, 1969. It became the first big hit for Bowie on a long and creative career.

Bowie, as usual, was an innovator, and produced a video-clip for the song. Heres the original 1969 clip, actually part of a promotional short film called "Love You Till Tuesday":

"This is ground control to major Tom, you've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare

This is major Tom to ground control, I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
Here am I floatin' 'round my tin can far above the world
Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do"
"Space Oddity" by David Bowie (1969)