Sunday, February 03, 2008

Across the Universe

NASA will send the Beatles song “Across the Universe” across the universe on Monday, the agency said. At precisely 7 p.m., E.S.T. the song will be beamed by the agency’s Deep Space Network of antennas at the North Star, Polaris, which is 431 light years away.

The transmission is to mark the 40th anniversary of the recording of the song, as well as the 50th anniversary of both NASA and its first satellite, Explorer I, and the 45th anniversary of the Deep Space Network, which carries out communications between NASA and its far-flung fleet of spacecraft.

In a message to the space agency, Paul McCartney, one of the two remaining Beatles, said, “Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul.”

From: "Across the Universe, Literally." Dennis Overbye. New York Times. February 1, 2008.
The song will travel across the universe at a speed of 186,000 miles per second.

NASA goes on to say:
Feb. 4 has been declared "Across The Universe Day" by Beatles fans to commemorate the anniversaries. As part of the celebration, the public around the world has been invited to participate in the event by simultaneously playing the song at the same time it is transmitted by NASA.
That's great. But which version are we supposed to play?!

Of all the Beatles' songs' "Across the Universe" has the most convoluted recording history, resulting in several different versions.

The "40th anniversary of the recording of the song" refers to the original recording session on February 4, 1968. But that mono version (at 3:37) was never released as far as I know.

Later that year, George Martin mixed it to stereo, sped up the track, and added 20 seconds of bird-sound effects to the start and finish of the song, which clocked in at 3:49. That version was finally released in December 1969 on a charity album for the World Wildlife Fund called No One's Gonna Change Our World, and it later appeared on the Beatles compilation Past Masters, Volume Two.

There's also:
3) The slowed-down (3:47) Phil Spector version, with orchestra and choir, for the Let It Be album released in 1970
4) A Glyn Johns acoustic production at the correct speed for the earlier version of Let It Be that was eventually scrapped - that version's never been officially released
5) A February 4, 1968 alternative take with sitar and tanpura that eventually appeared on Anthology II
6) A full group recording, with John and Paul doing harmonies, that was recorded in 1969 during the filming of the Get Back/Let It Be and can be found on various bootlegs
7) A re-mix of the February 4, 1968 master that was stripped of much of its instrumentation and added to the Let It Be, Naked CD that Paul brought out in 2003

So which of these recordings are they beaming into space?! Discriminating Beatles fans want to know!

Or at least obsessed, anal retentive Beatles sessionologists want to know.

I'm sure someone will straighten this out for us soon. I'll get the news to you as soon as I possibly can.

UPDATE: You thought I was kidding about finding out, but I emailed Martin Lewis, organizer of the event, and he very graciously (and quickly) responded.

There is actually a vote being taken on which version to use. The choices are between the four officially released versions (read about them above):

1. The World Wildlife Fund version.
2. The "Let It Be" version.
3. The "Anthology 2" version.
4. The "Let It Be ... Naked" version.

You can vote HERE. The exclusive announcement of which version will be used will be made tonight (Sunday) by 11 p.m. Pacific time at the Abbeyrd Beatles Blog.

UPDATE II: The World Wildlife Fund version, available on Past Masters, Volume Two, was chosen as the one to beam into space. It has been confirmed that this is the version NASA is using.

NASA TV will televise the launch of "Across The Universe" into deep space LIVE from Mission Control at the JPL Laboratories in Pasadena, California. You can watch on NASA's cable channel, if it's available in your area, or on their web site.

There's also an official Across the Universe Day web site.

Also from NASA press release:
It is not the first time Beatles music has been used by NASA; in November 2005, McCartney performed the song "Good Day Sunshine" during a concert that was transmitted to the International Space Station. "Here Comes the Sun," "Ticket to Ride" and "A Hard Day's Night" are among other Beatles' songs that have been played to wake astronaut crews in orbit.

Many of the senior NASA scientists and engineers involved in the effort are among the group's biggest fans.

"I've been a Beatles fan for 45 years – as long as the Deep Space Network has been around," said Dr. Barry Geldzahler, the network's program executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "What a joy, especially considering that 'Across the Universe' is my personal favorite Beatles song."
If you need inspiration to participate tomorrow, here's the Spector version from Let It Be, along with some cool footage from outer space and of Motherhship Earth.


Liam said...

The question is whether or not the aliens would have greater appreciation for "Revolution number nine."

Liam said...

As matter of fact, beam the whole damn white album into space. See what they think of that. If they dig it, send them "Sandinista!"

cowboyangel said...

If the aliens hear Yoko on Rev #9, they might destroy our planet.

cowboyangel said...

And if we beam the entire White Album, the aliens might get the wrong message from Harrison's "Piggies" and join the Manson family.

Sandinista wouldn't be bad, though, personally, I think discriminating aliens would prefer London Calling.

cowboyangel said...

My one concern: What happens if aliens actually hear the song? What if it sounds to them like the cry of a lost baby deer to a pack of hungry wolves?

And while we may think the Beatles singing "Across the Universe" is groovy and peaceful, what if it offends them? I think of the scene in Mars Attacks when the Deadheads release the peace dove and the Martians freak out and kill everyone.

frankenslade said...

My friend, I saw in a post at another site that you dug deeper into these key questions. Thanks for getting to the bottom of this. We'll post your good news at Rock Town Hall:

cowboyangel said...


Thanks for dropping by. Will take a look at your site.


Jeff said...

Why don't we d-do it in the Canis Major Dwarf?

Why don't we do it in the Canis Major Dwarf?

The Hubble will be watching us...

Why don't we do it in the Canis Major Dwarf?

Garpu the Fork said...

Now watch. Aliens will invade us because of that because they're Stones fans.

cowboyangel said...


Good job. "The Hubble will be watching us." I can hear Paul singing it on his next album.


Unless they've seen images of Mick jumping around on stage in leotards at age 65. That's only slightly less awful than having to watch Ian Anderson on that damn PBS concert they keep repeating over and over again. "Hope I die before I get old." Yeah, right.