SciFi SongFest, Songs 19-21

Three songs today instead of two! Well, it’s hard to separate these three; and you know I’m not fanatical about rules. (As my friend Josef Šíma likes to say, “We are not Prussians.”)

Elton John’s song “Rocket Man” is well known (in fact an Elton John biopic with that title is in theatres now), but another, less famous “Rocket Man” song preceded it by two years:

19. Pearls Before Swine, “Rocket Man” (1970):

This “Rocket Man” song is heavily inspired by the Ray Bradbury story of the same name. As in the Bradbury story, this song’s rocket man is a kind of addict (like Major Tom), but addicted to outer space rather than to a drug:

20. Elton John, “Rocket Man” (1972):

Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” while echoing the Bradbury story and/or Pearls song to some extent, seems to owe more to Bowie’s “Space Oddity” than to Bradbury.

The line about being as “high as a kite” has also been read as yet another space-travel-or-drug-use ambiguity.

The 2017 music video, by Iranian dissident and refugee Majid Adin, adds yet another layer of meaning, by turning space flight into a metaphor for Adin’s own experience smuggling himself from Iran into London:

21. David Bowie, “Like a Rocket Man” (2013):

If “Ashes to Ashes” left it ambiguous whether space flight was being used as a metaphor for drug addiction or vice versa, there’s no such ambiguity here.

The title references Elton John’s “Rocket Man” obviously, and Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” a bit less obviously:


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