May 12, 2013: Space Oddity in Space
Chris Hadfield and me in 2005. My brother's mullet also preserved in the background.
In 2004 someone asked me to write a song to commemorate astronaut Chris Hadfield's first free-float into space. I never write songs like that (on demand) but I've always adored space and the forays humans have made into space exploration. Even as a young kid I'd lay on the floor with the Rand McNally space atlas and just read in amazement about our universe and the world beyond earth. Chris is also from my hometown. So I gave it a shot and wrote the ballad, "Christopher" which I recorded for my Juno-losing album "Asianblue". I was so thrilled when I found out not only Chris had heard the song but that he took my album into space with him. Suddenly, losing the Juno Award didn't seem so bad!
Fast forward almost ten years later and Chris as we all know is the commander of the International Space Station. He's now on the back of the 5 dollar bill. He dropped a hockey puck in space and showed the world how it floats. He, during his time in orbit, has tweeted the most breathtaking views of our world from space. I would go as far to say that some of these photos could easily put into perspective the madness of humanity and bring some beauty back to the way we see our confused, fast-paced planet.
Chris is a musician and a pretty damn good one at that. Over the years we've dueted at my shows - everything from Lightfoot to Blue Rodeo. Hell, he even stole the show one night when I mistakenly allowed him to play his own song. Never, ever again. Like, ever.
When Chris brought up collaborating while he was on this current mission I of course said YES with a capital Y E S and we went back and forth for a while figuring out what our collaboration might entail. When he told me he wanted to cover Space Oddity I was over the moon - pardon the pun.
About 10 years ago, I had sung with David Bowie in his band. I was so young David used to say i was "pure as the driven snow" and he'd have to explain song lyrics to me very patiently like a Dad. He'd put up with me roller-sneakering all over the place and I'd adoringly listen to him tell wacky stories about the 70's. Mick Jagger would come to our shows and dance like a crazy drunk relative. Pete Townsend would pop into rehearsal. It was a magic time but we never did play "Space Oddity". It has always been one of my all-time favourite songs.
The task was in front of me. I came up with a piano part. i then enlisted my friend, producer and fellow Canadian Joe Corcoran to take my piano idea and Chris' vocal and blow it up into a fully produced song. Drums! mellotrons! fuzz bass! We also incorporated into the track ambient space station noises which Chris had put on his Soundcloud. I was mostly blown away by how pure and earnest Chris' singing is on this track. Like weightlessness and his voice agreed to agree.
And voila! An astronaut sings Space Oddity in space! I was so honoured to be asked to be a part of this. You wouldn't get too many chances to make a recording like this and not only that, to make music with someone who - through his vibrant communications with kids in schools to his breathtaking photos to his always patient and good-humoured demeanour - has done more for science and space than anyone else this generation. Planet earth IS blue, and there's nothing left for Chris Hadfield to do. Right.
Safe travels home Commander!