“A Spaceman Came Travelling” by Chris de Burgh
As the story goes Chris De Burgh, who was in his late 20s when he wrote this piece (“A Spaceman Came Travelling”), was going through a trying time in his life during that particular juncture of his earthly existence.
At the time he also came across a book entitled Chariots of the Gods?. The said text, which was written by a Swiss author named Erich von Däniken, played a huge role in the formation of the conspiracy theory, if you will, that extraterrestrials visited and influenced ancient civilizations.
And the fundamental aspect of that idea, that extraterrestrials have in fact directly interacted with human beings in days past, serves as the framework upon which “A Spaceman Came Travelling” is based – well that and the story of Christmas.
Or put more simply, you heard of the Three Wise Men, right? Well according to the account of these individuals as recorded in the Book of Matthew, they were led to Baby Jesus by “his star”.
Said star is commonly referred to as the Star of Bethlehem (since that’s the town where Jesus was born). Furthermore, it has been concluded that it was not a standard celestial body, i.e. one that regularly and predictably appears in the night sky. As such there has long been efforts to identify what exactly the Star of Bethlehem was or is.
Well according to Chris de Burgh, it was a spaceship that “hung in the sky like a star”. Thus the “spaceman (that) came travelling” would be the pilot of that craft.
And it isn’t that the vocalist is trying to put forth that this is what happened literally per se. Or if anything the titular “spaceman” would actually be what in the Bible is referred to as an angel. And in visiting Mary, Baby Jesus, etc., he not only instructs them not to shake but also prophesizes, in musical form, the child’s idealized effect on the world.
So the end of the first verse going into the second is a creative retelling of the first few passages from Luke 2.
The spaceman’s final message to those he visits is that he must bounce but will return in “2,000 years”. This is likely an allusion to what is called, in religious circles, the Second Coming. Put simply, the messiah’s re-arrival on Earth to firmly establish the Kingdom of God. And it can be deemed that Chris himself is a Christian, taking to account that he closes the story by noting a desire, amongst many, to welcome “the child”, i.e. Jesus, back when he returns.
Conclusively, “A Spaceman Came Travelling” has been adopted by many as a Christmas song. However, to some other listeners, it may not lyrically read as such. But it does effectively and creatively take us back to story upon which the holiday is based, i.e. why, symbolically speaking, stars are placed on top of Christmas trees in the first place.
Chris de Burgh and “A Spaceman Came Travelling”
Chris is a tenured musician who actually began dropping tracks professionally in 1974. And this particular tune is from his second studio album, 1975’s “Spanish Train and Other Stories”.
However, “A Spaceman Came Traveling” is officially listed as being released, through A&M Records, in 1976. And this tune proved to be the first de Burgh ever came out with.
Chris, who is also noted as being an instrumentalist, wrote this song himself, though the track was produced by one Robin Geoffrey Cable.
Upon its initial release, “A Spaceman Came Travelling” topped the Irish Single Chart, with Chris himself being primarily associated with Ireland. However, it didn’t get around to appearing on the UK Singles Chart until 1986, in the aftermath of de Burgh dropping “The Lady in Red“, i.e. his signature song, that same year.