Space Oddity, released in 1969, the same year human animals landed on the moon. It is one of the greatest ballad in music history. Eerily serene and catastrophic. Depicting love, and human animal's spac aspiration, vuneralbility, and the beauty of the earth (in a anthropic perspective). A vernacular record of human's space program. “check inignition and may God's love be with you”. God, this can put tears in my eyes.
Space Oddity, words and music by David Bowie.
Ground Control to Major Tom Ground Control to Major Tom Take your protein pills and put your helmet on Ground Control to Major Tom Commencing countdown, engines on Check ignition and may God's love be with you (Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff) 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 For here, Am I sitting in a tin can Far above the world Planet Earth is blue And there's nothing I can do Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles I'm feeling very still And I think my spaceship knows which way to go Tell my wife I love her very much she knows Ground Control to Major Tom Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you…. Here am I floating round my tin can Far above the Moon Planet Earth is blue And there's nothing I can do.
This song is a humanistic view of going into space. It elicits the weakness of human animals, the love in us, and the yearning and aspirations, in the backdrop of the vast expanse and mysteries of the universe.
Let's look at some of the words. The opening verse sets up the feeling of a historical undertaking, of going into far away in the sky, the distance involved, the danger.
Ground Control to Major Tom
This line notes the distance involved. Human communication, in lieu of talking face to face, now takes the unnatural form of “Ground Control to Major Tom”.
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Helmet's primary function is protection. The “protein pill” elicits food, a fundamental human need, in a advanced sci-fi form.
Commencing countdown, engines on Check ignition and may God's love be with you
The line on “checking” ignition, reinforces the idea of danger. You wouldn't check it unless it is critical. And ignition means starting, a initiation. God is a conception tied to birth and function of the universe. In between these lines lies the clear message of the possibilities of never return, and our fundamental quest for the mysteries of the universe.
(Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff)
Then, the lyrics starts a explicit counting down. Count down is a activity done usually for events that's critical and or of major importance, sometimes with heavy emotional ties. Actually counting down makes you feel it. In new years we have count down. If you have seen NASA space shuttle liftoff, the counting down and liftoff is a emotional moment, making many involved teary, especially if for the first time. When you see something that weights tons hover and moves upwards by sheer human's work, in front of your eyes, it makes you feel nature, and our achievements.
You've really made the grade
Here, it uses the phrase “made the grade” to describe success. Quite funny. Making the grade refers to children's success in grade school. So now, going into space successfully, with regards to the universe, is “made the grade”.
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
A aspect of human animals, is gossip, and fawn around the successful, and hear and follow what the successful have to say. This is captured by the funny line of wanting to know whose shirt you wear. Note that T-shirts advertising a company is typical in modern capitalism states.
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare
In space missions, it's not a matter of spontaneous daring. It's all carefully pre-planned and calculated moves. By using “Now it's time” and “if you dare”, it describes space mission in the most simple way thru children's concept of challenge.
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
For here, Am I sitting in a tin can Far above the world Planet Earth is blue And there's nothing I can do
The space capsule, a device that took human animals thousands of years to be able to build, is now described as a tin can. Tin is one of the cheapest and weakest metal. Calling it a tin can shows our vulnerability, and pettiness, with respect to the expansive universe.
The “Planet Earth is blue, And there's nothing I can do” shows our helplessness with regards to nature.
Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles I'm feeling very still And I think my spaceship knows which way to go Tell my wife I love her very much she knows
Here the lyrics takes a tragic turn. When spaceship is dead, drifting in space, like a ship, it doesn't go anywhere meaningfully. When death is approaching, it is not uncommon to make ironic remarks.
Human animals have a binding love, that even one is to die, it is critical to communicate this mental state to beloved ones, even if the target already deeply aware of the fact, and even no behavior or action whatsoever of this mental state of the sender will take place henceforth. However, such message will have significant impact on the receiver, a high-powered mental boost, that usually results in behaviors that increase the receiver's prosperity.
The ending reminds me of the ending of H G Wells's final chapter of Time Machine. That even with a tragic ending, one greatest element of humanity, is instilled in our minds. Quote:
And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers— shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle—to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man.