In the United State, Peter Schilling is considered a one-hit wonder for “Major Tom (Coming Home).” Originally recorded in German, “Major Tom (Völlig losgelöst)” was released on January 3, 1983 in West Germany, where it reached #1. The English version of the song was released in the U.S. on September 24 of that year and peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and #2 on the dance chart. It was Schilling’s only Top 40 hit in the U.S., although his collaboration with Michael Cretu of later Enigma fame, “Different Story (World of Lust and Crime)” peaked at 61 in 1989.
“Major Tom (Coming Home)” is considered to be a reinterpretation of David Bowie’s “Major Tom” from his Space Oddity album. Schilling’s work is known for featuring science fiction influences and dystopian themes of technology taking over or breaking down, as well as abandoning the planet.
The song was remixed and rereleased in 1994, 2000, and 2004.
Major Tom (Coming Home) [German Version] 3’57
Major Tom (Coming Home) [English Version] 3’57
Major Tom (Coming Home) [Special Extended Version] 7’58
Major Tom (Coming Home) [Special Instrumental Version] 4’53
The music video for “Major Tom (Coming Home)” was a staple of early MTV. It still exudes an early 80s charm. Scenes of Schilling and what I assume is his band sitting in classic cars stacked on top of one another in a junk yard while homeless men drink around a fire below are intercut with footage of various of astronauts and space missions from what appears to be the 60s. When Ground Control loses contact with Major Tom, Schilling vanishes from the car. His wife gives an emotional good-bye on television while a shirtless bodybuilder irons behind her. Major Tom seems to ascend to an afterlife inhabited by car hops on rollerskates.
This is one of my favorite songs from the early 80s. I don’t remember ever hearing this song during the daytime; I always seemed to listen to it in the glow of my stereo at night. I was a big science fiction fan as a kid, so the astronaut theme appealed to me. The local radio stations would alternate between playing the English and German versions of the song. Because MTV wasn’t available in our area until 1987, I didn’t see this video until years later. Neither Peter Schilling nor the video looked anything like I imagined them.
What are your memories of “Major Tom (Coming Home)” and Peter Schilling?