Chris Hadfield, “Space Oddity” Lyrics Breakdown: The Man Who Fell to Earth

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 12.09.47 PM

Posted by on 05/13/2013 at 2:42 PM Lyrics

The Popdust Files: Chris Hadfield, david bowie, space, Space Oddity, viral

In many ways, “Space Oddity” makes a fine choice for astronaut Chris Hadfield’s final installment of his amazing series of videos shot at the International Space Station. Not only is it the most famous pop song about space, it’s also full of the kind of otherwordly grandeur we like to imagine an astronaut’s life is filled with. There’s just one problem: It’s a song about dying in outer space. Kind of depressing for a viral video.

What’s a self-respecting singing astronaut to do? Change the words, of course! Besides being a top-notch pilot and a master of aviation systems, Hadfield turns out to be a pretty good lyricist. Let’s run down his changes, to see:

Bowie’s version:

Ground control to major Tom
Ground control to major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

Changed to:

Ground control to Major Tom
Ground control to Major Tom
Lock your Soyuz hatch and put your helmet on.

Hadfield’s first change is a minor one, swapping out the sci-fi “protein pills” with the more mundane “Soyuz hatch”. The Soyuz is Russian spacecraft that takes astronauts back to Earth; Hadfield is returning home in one after a five-month stint as ISS commander.

Bowie’s version:

Ground control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown engines on
Detach from station and may God’s love be with you.

Changed to:

Ground control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown engines on
Detach from station and may God’s love be with you

Another change for accuracy. Bowie’s astronaut is lifting off, Hadfield is coming back to Earth.

Bowie’s version:

This is major Tom to ground control, I’m stepping through the door

Changed to:

This is Major Tom to ground control, I’ve left forevermore

The first of Hadfield’s more poetic changes. Ironically, it’s the person who’s actually been to space is more romantic about the experience than the man who only dreamed of it.

Bowie’s version:

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

Changed to:

Though I’ve flown one hundred thousand miles, I’m feeling very still
And before too long I know it’s time to go
Our commander comes down back to earth, and knows

But while Bowie’s Major Tom was a first-time space traveler and thus allowed to be somewhat nervous, Hadfield is a seasoned astronaut with countless hours of spaceflight under his belt. Like an airline pilot, there are certain base level of confidence and competence we expect from him.

Bowie’s version:

Ground control to Major Tom, your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?

Changed to:

Ground control to Major Tom, the time is near, there’s not too long
Can you hear me Major Tom?

But yeah, you can’t end a video like this with your charismatic hero dying in the cold emptiness of space. Changes must be made, and now, instead of departing this mortal coil, Hadfield is just departing the space station. It’s an elegant change that lends the song a valedictory air while still leaving much of Bowie’s original lyrics intact.

Bowie’s version:

Here am I sitting in my tin can far above the Moon
Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do

Changed to:

Here am I floating in my tin can, a last glimpse of the world
Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing left to do

Despite the change in circumstance, Hadfield ends his song on the same contemplative note as Bowie did, both astronauts transfixed in wonder by the majesty of outer space. The only difference is, Hadfield’s survives to tell us all about it.

The full lyrics are below. You can listen to the song at the bottom of the post!

Ground control to Major Tom
Ground control to Major Tom
Lock your Soyuz hatch and put your helmet on.

Ground control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown engines on
Detach from station and may God’s love be with you

This is ground control to Major Tom
You’ve really made the grade
and the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
But it’s time to guide the capsule if you dare

This is Major Tom to ground control
I’ve left forevermore
And I’m floating in most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

For here am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
The planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing left to do

Though I’ve flown one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And before too long I know it’s time to go
Our commander comes down back to earth, and knows

Ground control to Major Tom
The time is near, there’s not too long
Can you hear me Major Tom?
Can you hear me Major Tom?
Can you hear me Major Tom?
Can you hear…

Here am I floating in my tin can
A last glimpse of the world
The planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing left to do

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE



YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Email Us Tips!

Send Us the Tips!