#1: Major Tom by Peter Schilling
Pierre Michael Schilling was born in 1956 in Stuttgart, West Germany. As a teen, Schilling couldn’t decide on whether to be a soccer player or a singer. But at the age of twenty, in 1976, Schilling released his first single in West Germany titled “Träume sind mehr als nur Illusionen”. A second single was released in West Germany in 1979 titled “Gib her das Ding/Frei sein ist schön”. A third single in 1980 was released as well in West Germany titled “Heut ist was los auf der Autobahn”. A fifth German language release was in late 1982 titled “Major Tom (völlig losgelöst)”. The German-language version climbed to #1 in West Germany on January 31, 1983. It remained in the number-one spot for eight weeks through March 21st. The German-language version by Schilling also topped the pop charts in both Austria and Switzerland in February 1983.
The English version was first released in the United States on 24 September 1983.
“Major Tom (Coming Home)” is a song written by Peter Schilling. The English lyrics were provided by David Lodge. The song is a sequel to David Bowie’s 1969 song “Space Oddity”, which was a hit that year in the UK, and in North America in 1973. “Space Oddity” depicts an astronaut who casually steps out of the space capsule and starts to float in outer space. Major Tom keeps on traveling in his “tin can” space capsule over one hundred thousand miles from planet Earth. But, Ground Control loses connection with Major Tom because “the circuit’s dead.” After Ground Control loses connection with Major Tom, Bowie has the Major observing: “Here am I floating ’round my tin can, far above the moon. Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.”
Peter Schilling picks up from where David Bowie left off. After Ground Control loses connection, Schilling describes how:
Far beneath the ship the world is mourning.
They don’t realize he’s alive
No one understands but Major Tom sees
“Now the light commands: This is my home”
I’m coming home.
Here in “Major Tom (Coming Home)” Major Tom is drifting, floating weightless and indeed coming back home to Earth.
In Vancouver, “Major Tom (Coming Home)” entered the number-one spot on November 23, 1983. It remained in the number-one spot for an eight-week stretch until January 12, 1984.
“Major Tom” peaked at #1 in Vancouver, Montreal, Racine (WI), Milwaukee (WI), and Yellowknife (NWT), #2 in Dallas, Winnipeg (MB), Saskatoon (SK), and Philadelphia, #3 in Ottawa (ON), Seattle, Sherbrooke (PQ), Cleveland, Regina (SK), and Tacoma (WA), #4 in Toronto, Hamilton (ON), Chicago, and Providence (RI), #5 in St. Cloud (MN), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and Denver, #6 in San Bernardino (CA), Newton (MA), and Oshawa (ON), #7 in San Jose (CA), Kansas City (M), and St. Louis, #8 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Presque Isle (ME), and Atlanta, #9 in Portland (OR), and Washington D.C., #10 in Buffalo, Houston, and Youngstown (OH).
Internationally, “Major Tom (Coming Home)” peaked at #1 in Austria, Canada, Switzerland, and West Germany, #2 in France, and the Netherlands, #3 in Belgium, #4 in South Africa, #13 in New Zealand, and #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA.
Following his original German-language recording of “Major Tom”, Peter Schilling released “Die Wüste Lebt”. In 1983, the single climbed to #5 in Austria, #7 in West Germany and #10 in Switzerland. Schilling also cracked the Top 30 in West Germany in 1984 with a German-language single titled “Terra Titanic”. Later in 1984 Schilling had a Top 50 hit with “Hitze Der Nacht”. And in 1986 he climbed to #32 on the West German pop chart with “Ich Vermisse Dich”/”Für immer jung”.
In 1988 Peter Schilling recorded “The Different Story (World Of Lust And Crime)”. It climbed to #10 in Sweden and in 1989 peaked at #21 in Montreal and #61 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. In 1994, Schilling released “Major Tom 94” which cracked the Top 30 in Germany at #29. This was a recording with the same lyrics, but with a mid-90’s instrumental trance-track. Schilling re-mixed the song again for the millennium with his “Major Tom 2000”. The single charted to #83 on the German pop charts. He released another remix of “Major Tom” in 2003, but this time out the single didn’t chart in Germany. “Major Tom (Coming Home)” has been featured in a number of films and TV shows, including the 2017 spy thriller Atomic Blonde. starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy.
In the late ’90s, Schilling formed a side project called Space Pilots who recorded “Trip to Orion”. Peter Schilling also re-released “Terra Titanic” with new remixes in 1995 and 2003. His most recent single release was in 2006 with “Es Gibt Keine Sehnsucht”. At the beginning of the 2000s he formed a new band and currently plays live concerts with his band, touring Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Schilling has also published three books in German, in 2005, 2007 and 2013.
July 21, 2023
Oliver Plunkett, “New release: Peter Schilling – Best Of (1982 – 2023),” With Guitars, November 24, 2022.
Peter Schilling, “Terra Titanic“, WEA Records, 1984.
“Peter Schilling Interview,” American Bandstand, December 17, 1983.
“CKLG Top 30,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, November 23, 1983.
“CKLG Top 30,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, January 12, 1984.
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