Sunday, April 22, 2007


Major Tom

Last night, we were watching TV (the movie "Dodgeball," if you must know), and my husband was on the computer. I'm not sure what led to this, but he started singing, "Four . . . three . . . two . . . one," and then something else that I didn't quite catch, but I it pushed a memory button for me and I said, "What was that? Sing it again." The hubby did one better - he pulled the song up on YouTube. He was singing "Major Tom" by Peter Schilling. I loved this song as a young adult, but if you had put a gun to my head and said, "Name the singer," I would never have come up with Peter Schilling in a million years. The video was familiar, though.

Our kids wondered about this song and the Major Tom story. For those who don't know, Major Tom was a character in at least two songs by David Bowie - "Space Oddity" and "Ashes to Ashes". Major Tom is an astronaut who leaves his space craft and floats into space. Listeners are left to wonder what happens to him and what has to be going through his mind as he realizes he's a goner. (I'm admittedly not an expert on Bowie's music, so if Major Tom showed up in any of his other songs, let me know.)

In my opinion, Peter Schilling's Major Tom song is more melodic than Bowie's songs, although Bowie's leave me feeling infinitely more unsettled, which I think was the point. If Schilling had written his song in today's copyright climate, Bowie's music industry representatives would have slapped him with a cease-and-desist order or sued him. Thankfully, Bowie didn't get his undies in a twist and one of his characters led to further creative exploration. Does anyone know whether Major Tom has shown up in anyone else's creative work?

The only other song I can think of with this strange astronaut imagery is Peter Mayer's "Astronaut Dreams." (Sorry, I can't find a recording of this for you to listen to online.)

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