Sure, I could be like the rest of the blogosphere and comment upon Microsoft’s attempted slurping up of Yahoo! If it goes through, it no doubt has ramifications for every single man, woman and child with a computer that accesses the internets.
But that’s not important right now. What is important is that NASA has decided — for the first time ever — to beam a song into space.
And even more important: they’ve chosen the wrong song. Whatever will the aliens think?
So here’s the deal:
On Monday, NASA will beam The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” into the heavens, using its Deep Space Network of antennas, which is ordinarily dedicated to functions such as radioastronomy observations, or communicating with distant interplanetary probes.
There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin. So let’s start with the song. Not only is “Across The Universe,” like, the 352nd best Beatles song, it’s not even about outer space! If you want to be charitable, you can say that it’s about the calming effects of mediation, but I know John Lennon acid lyrics when I hear them.
Nope, this is like the widespread appropriation of songs like “The One I Love” as love songs just because of the title. I guess that it makes sense for folks to use songs like that at weddings, but NASA is supposed to be smarter. Especially when they can google the lyrics just like I did. Hey NASA, there is this technology called the “internets” — use it to read the goddamn lyrics of the songs you are using to make your big gestures!!
What really sucks about this is that there is a song which is a contemporary of “Across The Universe” which is absolutely perfect for being beamed via NASAs Deep Space Nine (or whatever its called). That song is, of course, the transplendent “C.T.A.-102” by The Byrds.
C.T.A. 102 year over year receiving you
Signals tell us that you’re there
We can hear them loud and clear
We just want to let you know
That we’re ready for to go
Out into the universe, we don’t care who’s been there first
On a radio telescope
Science tells us that there’s hope
Life on other planets might exist
PERFECT! And not only is it all done up with the jangly guitar and block harmonies that made The Byrds the best band to come from 1960’s California (oh yes they were), but the end of the song actually has the aliens listening to that exact song!! And liking it, of course. That’s right: all of the jokes and scenarios that people are imagining for this were already thought of and recorded over four decades ago.
This is just the latest in a long series of indignities that The Byrds have suffered at the hands of the Beatles, which began with George Harrison stealing their guitar sound for “A Hard Days Night” and obviously continues to this day.
I will concede, of course, that The Beatles were in every way the superior band, and obviously one of the major cultural forces of the 20th Century — and therefore a perfect choice for a publicity stunt like this — while The Byrds — well, The Byrds wrote “Eight Miles High,” which is better than any single Beatles song. Even “She Said, She Said” (though just barely.)
In the end, it comes down to a single question — the one that Roger McGuinn answered when he wrote “CTA-102”: will the aliens like the song we beam to them? In the case of “Across The Universe,” that answer is an emphatic hell no!! They’ll be laughing at it. They’ll realize that it’s just a metaphor in a situation when specifics are very much called for.
My guess is that the aliens will wonder what the frack we were thinking using an obvious drug song. Maybe they’ll think that we’re all on drugs and therefore easier to conquer! Not because we’re all on drugs, but we used such a wussy-assed drug song for first contact! I mean, if we are going to use a drug song from a 60s band (because anything later would be right out, of course, since nothing musically good every happened after the 1960s), why not something like “Tomorrow Never Knows,” or “White Light/White Heat?” At least those songs might scare the aliens off.
All of that is why “Across The Universe” is in every way a sucky choice for the first song to be beamed into outer space, and I call upon NASA to reconsider and use “CTA-102” instead.
Either that, or “Hey, Mr. Spaceman.”