A Spaceman Came Travelling
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2011)|
|"A Spaceman Came Travelling"|
|Single by Chris de Burgh|
|from the album Spanish Train and Other Stories|
|Genre||Progressive rock, space rock, soft rock|
|Writer(s)||Chris de Burgh|
|Chris de Burgh singles chronology|
"A Spaceman Came Travelling" is a song by Chris de Burgh released on the album Spanish Train and Other Stories in 1975. It has been released numerous times as a single, become a popular Christmas song and has appeared on many festive compilation albums.
The song was not an initial success in the UK and failed to chart. After its first release in 1976 it reached the top position of the Irish single charts stayin 15 weeks in the Irish charts and climbed to number 22 in the Canadian airplay charts. However, in 1986, following de Burgh's huge success with "The Lady in Red", its reissue reached number 15 in Ireland charting for only 1 week. The song was also issued as a double A-side with the song "The Ballroom of Romance" and charted for the first time in the UK in 1986, reaching number 40 and staying on the chart for five weeks. It was also released as a single in the Netherlands in 1985.
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." 
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. The song features the line "'Twas light years of time since his mission did start"; however, a lightyear is a measure of distance, not time.
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.
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[which?] it is credited as "A Spaceman Came Travelling - 89" to distinguish it from the original 1975 version.
- 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).
- 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.
- David Roberts. British Hit Singles & Albums. Guinness World Records Limited
- "The stories of the Christmas hits" by Liam Allen, BBC News, December 25, 2010.
- "Ljósin heima – Páll Óskar og Monika Abendroth". Tónlist (in Icelandic). Retrieved 2011-12-12.