Mr. Spaceman

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"Mr. Spaceman"

1966 German picture sleeve
Single by The Byrds
from the album Fifth Dimension
B-side "What's Happening?!?!"
Released September 6, 1966
Format 7" single
Recorded April 28, April 29, May 3 – May 6, 1966, Columbia Studios, Hollywood, CA
Genre Psychedelic rock, country rock
Length 2:09
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Jim McGuinn
Producer(s) Allen Stanton
The Byrds singles chronology
"5D (Fifth Dimension)"
(1966)
"Mr. Spaceman"
(1966)
"So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star"
(1967)

"Mr. Spaceman" is a song by the American rock band The Byrds and was the third track on their 1966 album Fifth Dimension.[1] The song was initially written by band member Jim McGuinn as a "melodramatic screenplay" but it soon evolved into a whimsical meditation on the existence of extraterrestrial life.[2] After its appearance on Fifth Dimension, "Mr. Spaceman" was released as the third single taken from that album in September 1966 (see 1966 in music).[3] The single reached #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 but failed to chart in the United Kingdom.[4][5]

Written in early 1966 by McGuinn, the song was—along with "5D (Fifth Dimension)"—one of two science fiction-themed songs on the Fifth Dimension album.[6] Upon its release as a single, the music press coined the term "space-rock" to describe the song, although since then, the term has come to refer to a genre of rock music originating from 1970s progressive and psychedelic music.[6][7] Musically, "Mr. Spaceman" has a country-style backing, albeit with touches of psychedelia, and can clearly be seen as a precursor to the band's later exploration of country music on Sweetheart of the Rodeo.[8][1][9] As such, the song is often cited as being one of the earliest examples of the country rock genre.[10] The title also recalled that of The Byrds' earlier worldwide smash hit and debut single, "Mr. Tambourine Man".

The single release of the song was accompanied by a spoof press announcement from The Byrds' co-manager, Eddie Tickner, stating that he had taken out a $1,000,000 insurance policy with Lloyd's of London against his clients being kidnapped by extraterrestrial visitors.[11] Despite Tickner's statement being an obvious publicity stunt and the deliberately tongue-in-cheek nature of the song's lyrics, both McGuinn and fellow band member David Crosby felt hopeful about communicating with alien life forms through the medium of AM radio broadcast.[2] In a later interview with Pete Frame for ZigZag magazine, McGuinn explained how he believed that this would have been possible: "I was interested in astronomy and the possibility of connecting with extraterrestrial life and I thought that it might work the other way round, if we tried to contact them. I thought that the song being played on the air might be a way of getting through to them. But even if there had been anybody up there listening, they wouldn't have heard because I found out later that AM airwaves diffuse in space too rapidly."[6]

During the 1960s and early 1970s, the band performed the song on the television programs The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Where the Girls Are and The David Frost Show.[12] Additionally, the song would go on to become a staple of The Byrds' live concert repertoire, until their final disbandment in 1973.[13] The song was also performed live by a reformed line-up of The Byrds featuring Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and Chris Hillman in January 1989.[13]

In addition to its appearance on the Fifth Dimension album, "Mr. Spaceman" also appears on several Byrds' compilations, including The Byrds' Greatest Hits, History of The Byrds, The Original Singles: 1965–1967, Volume 1, The Byrds, The Very Best of The Byrds, The Essential Byrds and There Is a Season. Live performances of the song are included on the live portion of The Byrds' (Untitled) album as well as on Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971.[14]

The song "Mr. Spaceman" written by Jim McGuinn (aka Roger McGuinn) should not be confused with the Steve Weber song "Mister Spaceman", found on The Holy Modal Rounders' self-titled debut album.[15]

Cover versions[edit]

"Mr. Spaceman" has been covered by artists including Jimmy Buffett and Gonzo, on The Muppets' album Kermit Unpigged,[16] and Alvin and the Chipmunks on the album The A-Files: Alien Songs. The song has also been covered by The Flying Burrito Brothers on their 1985 live album, Cabin Fever,[17] and by Miracle Legion on The Byrds' tribute album, Time Between – A Tribute to The Byrds.[18] In addition, Velvet Crush covered the song and their version is included on the band's 2001 compilation album, A Single Odessey.[19] Limbeck also released a version of the song on their 2006 Tour EP.

"Mr. Spaceman" is one of the songs featured in the Jukebox musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Fifth Dimension review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  2. ^ a b Rogan, Johnny. (1996). Fifth Dimension (1996 CD liner notes). 
  3. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 544. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel. (2008). Top Pop Singles 1955-2006. Record Research Inc. p. 130. ISBN 0-89820-172-1. 
  5. ^ Brown, Tony. (2000). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. p. 130. ISBN 0-7119-7670-8. 
  6. ^ a b c Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 181–182. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  7. ^ "Space Rock". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  8. ^ "Fifth Dimension". ByrdWatcher: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  9. ^ "The Complete Guide to Country Rock - Part 3". Musictoob. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  10. ^ "American Band: The Byrds, from folk rock to country rock". Crazed Fanboy. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  11. ^ Hjort, Christopher. (2008). So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star: The Byrds Day-By-Day (1965-1973). Jawbone Press. p. 107. ISBN 1-906002-15-0. 
  12. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 616–617. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  13. ^ a b Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 591–615. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  14. ^ "Mr. Spaceman album appearances". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  15. ^ "Mister Spaceman - The Holy Modal Rounders' song". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  16. ^ "Mr. Spaceman cover versions". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  17. ^ "Cabin Fever album review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  18. ^ "Time Between - A Tribute to The Byrds review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  19. ^ "Velvet Crush - A Single Odessey". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  20. ^ "Return to the Forbidden Planet song list". Return to the Forbidden Planet official website. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 

External links[edit]