It’s 2.11.2016 (despite what WordPress might be telling you), a month since I learned of the sad passing of David Bowie, and the day I started this bloggy thing here. Hope you’re enjoying it as much as I enjoy bringing each post to you. David Bowie may be in another galaxy right now, but he’s been in my presence ever since the heartbreaking news of his death a month ago.
This song appeared on my iPod yesterday (namely the amazing 8-minute English/German extended version), and with Mr. Bowie still fresh on my mind, it didn’t take long to get from this song to Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” even if both songs weren’t technically related.
Peter Schilling, a native of Stuttgart, Germany, had been releasing German singles as early as 1976 under his real name, Pierre Schilling, but it was “Major Tom,” from the album, ERROR IN THE SYSTEM, that made him a success in many places outside of Germany.
“Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst)” (translated – “Major Tom (Totally Disconnected)”) was first released as a German-language version just days into 1983, and it didn’t take long for it to blast off into the European pop music stratosphere, spending 8 weeks at No. 1 in Peter Schilling’s homeland, 5 weeks at No. 1 in Switzerland, and also hit No. 1 in neighboring Austria.
The space trip for the excellent New Wave/Synthpop single to catch on in America and the rest of the world did not take light years. An English-language version, “Major Tom (Coming Home),” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late September 1983, and spent 3 weeks at No. 14 over the 1983/1984 holiday season. In other parts of the globe, “Major Tom” spent a week at No. 1 in Canada, No. 2 in France and Holland, and No. 4 in South Africa.
Over the past 30 years and change, there have been a number of “Major Tom” cover songs released, including versions by California punk rockers Face To Face, California rockers Shiny Toy Guns, a French version by Plastic Bertrand, and even Captain Kirk, er, William Shatner, himself recorded a version on an album titled, SEEKING MAJOR TOM. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES seek out this version of “Major Tom” (sorry Bill – it was terrible and is banned from the show). If you want to seek out a William Shatner album, seek out his brilliant 2004 collaboration with Ben Folds, HAS BEEN. It was my favorite album of that year, and with help from Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann, Brad Paisley, Lemon Jelly, Adrian Belew and Henry Rollins, HAS BEEN remains a favorite.
Peter Schilling did have one more minor hit here in America – “The Different Story (World Of Lust And Crime)” reached No. 61 on the Hot 100 in 1989, but to most folks and fans on the planet, they were not “totally disconnected” from “Major Tom.” If anything, “Major Tom” did come home – home to many record collections, mine included…