On the first Christmas, the bright Star of Bethlehem guided travellers and wise men to the stable where Jesus Christ was born, or so the Nativity tale states. Precisely what the Star of Bethlehem was is unclear: a supernova, a comet, a “great conjunction,” or an alien spaceship burning as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
The latter is the theory posited by Chris de Burgh in “A Spaceman Came Travelling.” It is a Christmas song of epic scale and ambition, and restraint. While telling the story of the spaceman coming down and meeting Jesus and his mother, de Burgh’s tone is light and wondrous. We are hooked immediately as de Burgh near whispers his explanation:
And over a village, he halted his craft,
And it hung in the sky like a star. Just like a star.
We are still left questioning. De Burgh never truly explains why this spaceman has chosen to stop and deliver his message to mankind to this particular mother and child. But that doesn’t matter because it is beautiful. Keyboard arpeggios rise to a crescendo on the backdrop of a flowing drum fill, as de Burgh unleashes the message: “la la la la la la la la la la.”
With this conclusion to his tale, I fall in love with “A Spaceman came Travelling” as an oddball in the world of Christmas songs. Most are translucent, hiding nothing from us. While Roy Wood of Wizzard tells us that he wishes it was Christmas every day, de Burgh shows us why we should wish it was Christmas every day. Because the “sweetest music” of something otherworldly would fill the air.