The working title for Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien's debut album under his EOB moniker was Pale Blue Dot. The name was a reference to the photograph of planet Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe from a distance of about 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kms). In the photograph, Earth's apparent size is less than a pixel; the planet appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space. Eventually, O'Brien plumped for the title of Earth, but the themes of space and the bigger picture still informed the record.
This zero-gravity reverie is a tribute to O'Brien's Radiohead-loving astronaut friend Michael Massimino, who helped fix the Hubble space telescope on the Space Shuttle's last voyage. "When you go into orbit you see Earth for what it is," the Radiohead guitarist rhapsodized to Q magazine. "Mike says it's a very spiritual thing. You feel this beauty and also this sadness."
The songs on Earth were brought to life by a diverse array of musicians, including Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and the 2018 MPG Producer of the Year Catherine Marks for this track. Singer-songwriter Laura Marling also contributed additional vocals.
"Sloop John B" is a traditional West Indian folk song, and it was a huge hit for The Beach Boys in 1966. They tweaked the lyric, "This is the worst trip since I've been born" to "...I've ever been on" as a wink to acid culture.
Mike Campbell from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers played the slide guitar on "Sixth Avenue Heartache." There is a connection here - Wallflowers lead singer Jakob's dad, Bob Dylan, played with Tom Petty in The Traveling Wilburys.