The David Bowie song has taken a lifetime to decipher. When I first heard it, I though it was a groovy song tuned to the psychedelic times -this is the most common interpretation that I got on the internet. Here are the lyrics.Ground Control to Major Tom Ground Control to Major Tom Take your protein pills and put your helmet on Ground Control to Major Tom Commencing countdown, engines on Check ignition and may God’s love be with you Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff This is Ground Control to Major Tom You’ve really made the grade And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare “This is Major Tom to Ground Control I’m stepping through the door And I’m floating in a most peculiar way And the stars look very different today For here Am I sitting in a tin can Far above the world Planet Earth is blue And there’s nothing I can do Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles I’m feeling very still And I think my spaceship knows which way to go Tell my wife I love her very much she knows” Ground Control to Major Tom Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you…. “Here am I floating round my tin can Far above the Moon Planet Earth is blue And there’s nothing I can do.”
It’s after the passage of 42 years that I understand the true meaning of the song. The song has to do with transformation. The hero is an astronaut. In that era, astronauts were the straightest of straight arrows. Buzzcut illuminati of American manhood, these men were walking statues of virtue, and for Bowie, an easy group to symbolize as the American Everyman, who worked for a large corporation, drove an American car out to a suburb, with a pretty wife and cute children.
The disembodied voice of Houston is in fact the voice of society and her expectations. It is also the voice of authority. When Major Tom leaves his government-issued cocoon, he undergoes a transformation. He’s floating in a most peculiar way, and the stars look different today. It is the awakening of the man, and he understands he can’t go back to the way things were. This happens to some men after they reach the top of the hill and look back and then look forward. Some can’t help themselves and decide to go sideways. The middle-aged man is typically at the height of his powers, but is in essence impotent in the face of the inexorable passage of time, the enormity of the universe, and unbearable blueness of the Earth.