Major Tom (I'm Coming Home)

Album: Error In The System (1983)
Charted: 42 14
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This is a sequel to a song by another artist. It's a follow-up to David Bowie's 1969 song "Space Oddity," and continues the story of Major Tom, an astronaut who cuts off communication with Earth and floats into space.

    >Musically, it is nothing like the David Bowie song it is based on, as Schilling used a techno beat.
  • In this song, having determined that Major Tom is, in fact, sober, Earth decides to bring Tom home. However, just as he is about to turn on the thrusters and jet down to Earth, he cuts off communication with the line "give my wife my love" and turns off the power to the ship. It is assumed that, sadly, Tom died in the process of re-entry, but in fact he has faked his death so he can return to the depths of space, which he now considers his home. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada
  • Bowie released his own sequel to "Space Oddity" in 1980 called "Ashes To Ashes," where Major Tom reestablishes communication with Earth.
  • Schilling is from Germany, where his German-language version of this song ("Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst)") was a huge hit, going to #1. His German version was used in the 2017 movie Atomic Blonde in a scene set in Berlin in 1989.

    In America, "Major Tom" was Schilling's only hit.
  • The song got a big lift when MTV put the video in rotation. This was thanks to a woman named Robin Sloane, who was working at Elektra Records as head of video promotion - a job title that existed for that short time when MTV could be pitched videos.
  • During a commercial for the 2010 Lincoln MKZ a cover of this song by the synth rock band Shiny Toy Guns was played. This was a follow-up to an advert featuring a cover by Cat Power of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
  • In a memorable scene on the US television show Breaking Bad (episode: "Bullet Points"), the character Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) is shown in a video singing karaoke to this song. The entire song was filmed, but only a few seconds were shown on the actual show. In the German language dub, he instead sings along to "Völlig Lösgelost." The song also appears in episodes of The Americans ("The Day After" - 2016) and The Blacklist ("T. Earl King VI" - 2015). >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Matt - Warminster, PA
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 23

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 17th 1983, Peter Schilling performed "Major Tom" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #15 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and the very next day it peaked at #14 {for 2 weeks} and spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on January 8th, 1984 it reached #1 {for 1 week} on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles chart...
    He had one other Top 100 record, "The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime)"; it peaked at #61 in 1988...
    Peter Schilling, born Pierre Michael Schilling, will celebrate his 59th birthday in forty-two days on January 28th {2015}.
  • Michael from Santa Cruz, CaI would consider Bowie's song "Ashes To Ashes" a sequel to his own "Space Oddity",but Schilling's song despite the name of the protagonist,is not.Personally I think of Charlton Heston's character Taylor from "Planet Of The Apes (1968)",a loner who just wanted out."Terra Titanic"is my favorite song from Schilling.
  • Jim from Peatchtree City, GaSuprisingly Peter Schilling has disavowed any relation between this song and Bowie's. At least he did when it first came out. I've never heard of or read any subsequent interviews to see if he's ever changed his mind. My thought has always been that he did so to keep the lawyers off his back and protect his royalties.
  • Ronda from Ashland, KyI agree with Alex from Lima, Peru. I thought that myself.
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiI remember this song from when I went to the planetarium[Cranbrook Institute of Science] I loved this song.
  • Claude from Kingston, MaI was in 10th grade when this song came out. I never thought of it as a sequel to Bowie's song. I always thought it was a total rip off.
  • Chase from Miami, FlI heard that if you play the drifting falling part backwards it says we run, (something unidentifiable but two syllables) Sarah will get pissed off
  • Roxann from Christmas, FlVIDEO WAS NOT FOUND ON THIS SITE!!
  • Lia from Somewhere, AntarticaI personally like the German version a lot better than the English one.
  • Mike from Santa Barbara, CaR.H. from Pauls Valley, OK- I just checked it on YouTube.com. It's a good video for its time and has interesting lyrics. The vocals didn't do much for me, however.
  • R.h. from Pauls Valley, OkMike from Santa Barbara, CA- If you like songs about astronauts you should check out an obscure song from the early 80s called "Why Me?" by Planet P Project. It's a great song about an astronaut with second thoughts about what he's doing.
  • David from Deerfield Beach, FlPosted 3/17/2008. "4..3..2..1.. Earth below us, drifting falling, floating weightless, coming coming home..." This "sequel" to David Bowie's "Space Oddity" was one very good 80's song! I always liked it and it was fun to sing along with out loud. I always thought sci-fi in rock was a cool idea. Just fun & imaginative stuff. Some other good examples of sci-fi in pop music include "Rocket Man" (Elton John), "Come Sail Away" (Styx) [and though I think it's kind of a dopier song, Styx also had "Mr. Roboto"], "Godzilla" (Blue Oyster Cult), "Twilight Zone" (Golden Earing), "Silent Lucidity" (Queensryche), "Dream Weaver" (Gary Wright), and this one awesome Zeppelin-esque song by Zebra called "Who's Behind The Door?". Check that one out if you can! A lot of 1980's New-wave / Euro-techno groups & songs had that sci-fi vibe as well like "I Ran - So Far Away" & "Space Age Love Song" (A Flock Of Seagulls), or "Red Skies" & "Saved By Zero" (The Fixx) for example, and how about "She Blinded Me With Science" (Thomas Dolby), "Video Killed The Radio Star (The Buggles), or "Under The Milky Way" (The Church), among many others. There were a lot of bands that were sort of sci-fi by nature. E.L.O. was a little like that especially with their sci-fi concept album "Time" among others, and with there flying saucer-like symbol on several album covers like "Out Of The Blue", etc. Yes had a lot of imaginative album covers & songs like "Starship Trooper", etc. Asia maybe. Rush had their "2112" album & other songs like "Subdivisions", etc. Pink Floyd was always pretty cosmic. Boston had that flying guitar on their album covers that looked like a U.F.O. Alan Parsons Project had "Eye In The Sky", "I Robot", "Pyramid" with that sci-fi feel. The Moody Blues had the Voyager probes on their "Long Distance Voyager" & "The Present" album covers. Journey had many imaginative sci-fi album covers. Though not sci-fi musically, C S & N had these cool-looking blue flying saucers on their "Daylight Again" album cover. The Police had "Walking On The Moon", "Invisible Sun", "Synchronicity II", "Walking In Your Footsteps", etc. Genesis was kind of sci-fi sounding. The Cars had some space-age sounding songs like "Moving In Stereo", "Heartbeat City", "Drive", etc. Queen did soundtracks for "Flash Gordon" & "Highlander", etc. Steve Miller was the "Space Cowboy". "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" soundtrack was sci-fi in a schlocky horror-comic sort of way. David Bowie had "Starman" in addition to "Space Oddity", etc. There are still other examples I could cite. Sorry if I went on too long. I just wanted to pay homage to sci-fi in rock music. Cool stuff. Thanks for letting me indulge.
  • Eddie from Ba, ArgentinaIn Europe, the first 1982 12" release featured the original German version, 'Major Tom (Vollig Losgelost)'. In 1983 the song was re-recorded in English, 'Major Tom (Coming Home)', and re-issued in the UK under a limited edition double-pack 12" format that included a new Dance Mix. Nevertheless, the song never made it to the British Top 40. In the US, however, the single was released as a 4-track 12", including the Special Extended Version, the original German version, the English single version and an instrumental version, reaching #15 that same year.
  • Mike from Santa Barbara, CaSongs about astronauts are among the most interesting in Rock. "Rocket Man" by Elton John is another example.
  • Echooes from Atlanta, Ga"Major Tom" is probably one of the best tracks from the 80s New Wave genre! After listening to this song I decided to pick up Peter's cd and I think almost 80% of the stuff is very good. Unlike the commercial shiet that comes out now days where the musicians only target to make 1 or maybe 2 songs a hit and not care for the rest...
  • Duane from Wheatfield, InGreat song from the '80s continuing a great 70s Bowie song.
  • Jameson from Lexington, KyHas anyone seen the station identification blurb on Animal Planet that uses this song? It has this playing behind slo-mo footage of tiny tree frogs jumping off leaves. If you haven't seen this, you may not want to; it's hilarious, but now I can't break the association between the song and the commercial. Damned attack memes...
  • Thomas from Suisun City, CaI always though the song was him leaving for a routine mission to space, and once he got there the thrusters wouldn't turn on. He was "going home", or dying and going home to Heaven or whatever you refer to the afterlife. He knew he was dying and wanted to use his last chance to communicate to "send my wife my love". He drifts off into space and dies due to lack of oxygen, food, and the deep cold of space.
  • Alex from Lima, PeruHow can't you people realise? It's not too difficult to think of May '68 in Paris, Neil Armstrong and Woodstock, and you'll easily understand this song is an apologetic for LSD. Other interpretations will be precarious and/or shallow.
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InThis is a great tune, but Peter has other songs out there as well. I feel he should've got more credit for what he's done. In 1985 he put out "Things to Come" which had a song called "Chill of the Night" that got radio play. I enjoy all his songs,but "Major Tom" gets everyones attention. I highly recommend checking out his other songs, if you can find them.
  • Neuphoria from Toronto, Canada"Mrs. Major Tom" by K.I.A. continues the Major Tom story, now told from the perspective of the wife left at home. Beautiful and sad. (You can hear it/get it at iTunes, etc.)

    Lyric sample:
    "It was light years long, My Major Tom
    At last back you've come, Yet stil, you're gone...
    You never burned up, my Major Tom
    You just burned out, you just burned out."
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandMajor Tom is a reference to Drugs
  • Keith from Slc, UtActually, the lyrics describe a failure in the spacecraft systems, suspected prior to launch. Major Tom is lost in space until, incredibly, he comes back on the air to report that he is on course for return to Earth.
see more comments

Mike Love of The Beach BoysSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer/lyricist of The Beach Boys talks about coming up with the words for "Good Vibrations," "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Kokomo" and other classic songs.

Hawksley WorkmanSongwriter Interviews

One of Canada's most popular and eclectic performers, Hawksley tells stories about his oldest songs, his plentiful side projects, and the ways that he keeps his songwriting fresh.

Reverend Horton HeatSongwriter Interviews

The Reverend rants on psychobilly and the egghead academics he bashes in one of his more popular songs.

Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Damn YankeesSongwriter Interviews

Revisit the awesome glory of Night Ranger and Damn Yankees: cheesily-acted videos, catchy guitar licks, long hair, and lyrics that are just plain relatable.

Goodbye, Hello: Ten Farewell Tour Fake-OutsSong Writing

The 10 biggest "retirement tours" that didn't take.

We Will Rock You (To Sleep): Pop Stars Who Recorded Kids' AlbumsSong Writing

With the rise of Kindie rock, more musicians are embracing their inner child with tunes for tots - here, we look at pop stars who recorded kids' albums.