Mr. Spaceman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Mr. Spaceman"
1966 German picture sleeve
Single by The Byrds
from the album Fifth Dimension
B-side"What's Happening?!?!"
ReleasedSeptember 6, 1966
Format7" single
RecordedApril 28–29; May 3–6, 1966
StudioColumbia Studios, Hollywood, CA
GenrePsychedelic rock, country rock
Songwriter(s)Jim McGuinn
Producer(s)Allen Stanton
The Byrds singles chronology
"5D (Fifth Dimension)"
"Mr. Spaceman"
"So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star"
"5D (Fifth Dimension)"
"Mr. Spaceman"
"So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star"

"Mr. Spaceman" is a song by the American rock band the Byrds and was the third track on their 1966 album, Fifth Dimension.[1] It was released as the third single from the album in September 1966,[2] reaching number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, but failing to chart in the United Kingdom.[3][4] Upon its release as a single, the music press coined the term "space-rock" to describe it, although since then, this term has come to refer to a genre of rock music originating from 1970s progressive and psychedelic music.[5][6]

Composition and release[edit]

Written in early 1966 by Byrds member Jim McGuinn, the song was—along with "5D (Fifth Dimension)"—one of two science fiction-themed songs on the Fifth Dimension album.[5] Initially conceived as a "melodramatic screenplay", the song soon evolved into a whimsical meditation on the existence of extraterrestrial life.[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 has been cited by critics as one of the earliest examples of country rock.[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.[7] 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."[5]


During the 1960s and early 1970s, the Byrds performed the song on the television programs The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Where the Girls Are, and The David Frost Show among others.[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 McGuinn, 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]

"Mr. Spaceman" was broadcast as a wake-up call to the astronauts aboard the NASA space shuttle mission STS-41-D (the first mission of Space Shuttle Discovery) on September 2, 1984.[15]

The song "Mr. Spaceman" written by Jim McGuinn (a.k.a. Roger McGuinn) should not be confused with the Steve Weber song "Mister Spaceman", found on the Holy Modal Rounders' self-titled debut album.[16]

Cover versions[edit]

"Mr. Spaceman" has been covered by a number of artists, including the Flying Burrito Brothers on their 1985 live album, Cabin Fever,[17] Velvet Crush on their 2001 compilation album, A Single Odessey,[18] Limbeck on their 2006 Tour EP, and Miracle Legion on the Byrds' tribute album, Time Between – A Tribute to The Byrds,[19] In addition, Jimmy Buffett, Gonzo, and Rizzo the Rat covered "Mr. Spaceman" on The Muppets' album, Kermit Unpigged,[20] while Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song on the album The A-Files: Alien Songs.

"Mr. Spaceman" is also one of the songs featured in the Jukebox musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet.[21]


  1. ^ a b "Fifth Dimension review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  2. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 544. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel. (2008). Top Pop Singles 1955–2006. Record Research Inc. p. 130. ISBN 0-89820-172-1.
  4. ^ Brown, Tony. (2000). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. p. 130. ISBN 0-7119-7670-8.
  5. ^ a b c Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 181–182. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  6. ^ "Space Rock". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  7. ^ a b Rogan, Johnny. (1996). Fifth Dimension (1996 CD liner notes).
  8. ^ "Fifth Dimension". ByrdWatcher: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 2009-05-04. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  9. ^ "The Complete Guide to Country Rock – Part 3". Musictoob. Archived from the original on 2009-03-24. 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. ^ Fries, Colin (25 June 2007). "Chronology of Wakeup Calls" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
  16. ^ "Mister Spaceman – The Holy Modal Rounders' song". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-31.
  17. ^ "Cabin Fever album review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  18. ^ "Velvet Crush – A Single Odessey". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
  19. ^ "Time Between – A Tribute to The Byrds review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  20. ^ "Mr. Spaceman cover versions". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  21. ^ "Return to the Forbidden Planet song list". Return to the Forbidden Planet official website. Retrieved 2009-07-31.

External links[edit]