David Bowie came to fame in 1969 with the hit single “Space Oddity.” It combined fascination with the Apollo moon missions with the science fiction wonders of 2001: A Space Odyssey with a little criticism of the media’s celebrity-worship (“The papers want to know whose shirts you wear”). Astronaut Major Tom is launched into space, loses contact with ground control, and is presumably lost in space. Did he fall into a black monolith and re-emerge as a Star Child?
Well, no. Turns out Major Tom is a drug addict.
Eleven years after Oddity, Bowie released a sequel called “Ashes To Ashes,” on the album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).
Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom’s a junkie
Strung out in Heaven’s high
Hitting an all-time low
Time and again I tell myself
I’ll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh no, not again
Makes you wonder if Tom was ever an astronaut at all, or if his failed moon launch was just a bad — but earthbound — trip.
But tonight’s video isn’t from David Bowie, although it is about Major Tom. It almost unheard-of for a musical artist to revisit a character the way Bowie did, but then in 1984 Peter Schilling did the totally unheard-of: He produced a sequel to the sequel of somebody else’s song.
In Schilling’s “Major Tom,” our hero is once again a fearless astronaut sitting in his capsule during a failed mission.
far beneath the ship
the world is mourning
they don’t realize
no one understands
but Major Tom sees
now the life commands
this is my home
I’m coming home
Or is he? I always thought Schilling’s version was a pretty straight-forward retelling of Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 tale, but these days I’m not so sure.
Anyway, it’s just a bit of German-to-English New Wave-y fun that probably never should have happened. But I’m glad it did.