A Spaceman Came Travelling

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"A Spaceman Came Travelling"
Single by Chris de Burgh
from the album Spanish Train and Other Stories
Released 1976 (1976)
Format Vinyl
Genre Progressive rock, space rock, soft rock
Length 5:10
Label A&M
Writer(s) Chris de Burgh
Chris de Burgh singles chronology
"Turning Around"
(1975)
"A Spaceman Came Travelling"
(1975)
"Just Another Poor Boy"
(1975)

"A Spaceman Came Travelling" is a song by Chris de Burgh released on the album Spanish Train and Other Stories in 1975. It became a popular Christmas song in the UK, and has been released numerous times as a single, first in 1976, then 1981, 1984 and 1986. The re-release in 1976 reached #1 in Ireland, its reissue making #15 in that country in 1986. The 1986 release, which was a double A-side with the song "The Ballroom of Romance", reached #40 on the UK singles chart. It was also released as a single in the Netherlands in 1985. It has appeared on many festive compilation albums.

Song history[edit]

De Burgh, who had just signed his first recording contract with A&M Records, was broke and "staying at a friend's flat" when he read Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Däniken. The book made him think "what if the star of Bethlehem was a space craft and what if there is a benevolent being or entity in the universe keeping an eye on the world and our foolish things that we do to each other?" A fan of Irish poet William Butler Yeats, whose work "The Second Coming" avers that every 2,000 years or so there would be a major cataclysmic event happening, de Burgh saw the birth of Christ as "such an event and then 2,000 years later there would be a similar" one. He imagined "the nativity scene, the thing hovering over and I could see the shepherds in the fields and this weird, ethereal music was drifting into the air and they were 'what the heck is that'?" But he "had no ideas about trying to write a hit record." The song failed to chart when it was first released as a single, but De Burgh says it's been "much better to have a regular recurring song than a hit for three weeks." [1]

Narrative[edit]

The song is a narrative of a UFO religion tale. It is a retelling of how the angel Gabriel came to give a message to the shepherds, but with a spaceship and a spaceman instead.

De Burgh seems to make a prophecy of the Second Coming in this song:

"The stranger returned and said 'now I must fly. When two thousand years of your time has gone by. This song will begin once again, to a baby's cry..."

The baby represents the purity with which the Christ will be returning.

1989 version[edit]

A reworked version of the song was released on de Burgh's 1989 compilation album Spark to a Flame. This version features a re-recorded vocal track (highlighting de Burgh's more mature voice, thus matching the style of his 1980s work) overlaid with a remix of the original backing, and has a slightly different rendition of the final chorus. On subsequent compilation albums it is credited as "A Spaceman Came Travelling - 89" to distinguish it from the original 1975 version.

Cover versions[edit]

  • Austrian band Eela Craig covered the song on Hats of Glass in 1976.
  • Taiwanese singer Chyi Chin released "直到世界末日" (Until the end of the world) on his 1994 album 邊界.
  • English rock band Smokie released a cover of the song on Light a Candle – The Christmas Album in 1996.
  • Icelandic singer Paul Oscar and harpist Monika Abendroth covered the song on their 2003 Christmas album Ljósin Heima (Lights at home).[2]
  • Polish dance singer Mandaryna released her version of the song on her 2005 album Mandarynkowy sen and as a Christmas radio single.
  • Gregorian released a cover of the song on their Christmas Chants album in 2006.
  • The song features on the 2009 album So this is Christmas by St. Peter's Male Voice Choir.
  • Celtic Woman released the song as a bonus track on the German release of their 2010 album Songs from the Heart. It also featured on their 2011 DVD, Believe, performed by Lisa Lambe, as well as the soundtrack released in 2012.
  • An abridged version of the song was performed near the end of the Mrs Brown's Boys 2012 Christmas special.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The stories of the Christmas hits" by Liam Allen, BBC News, December 25, 2010.
  2. ^ "Ljósin heima – Páll Óskar og Monika Abendroth". Tónlist (in Icelandic). Retrieved 2011-12-12. 

External links[edit]