stanton t. friedman

Part 148: Navigate the Seas of the Sun

RECORD STORE TALES Part 148:

Navigate the Seas of the Sun

We had a staff Halloween party in the late 1990’s.  T-Rev had this cool “alien head” — he got it back in ’97 or ’98 from a convenience store.  It had alien head suckers inside.  He asked the guy at the store, “how much for the alien head?”  The guy answered, “If you buy all the suckers in it, you can have it.”  So he did.

The candy was awful by the way.  I did my share, trying to help him consume it all.

But he got this alien head out of it, and with it, made a cool alien costume.   And for the Halloween party that year, I wore the costume.

We had one girl at the store who had a phobia of aliens.  I’d never heard of that before.  We found it amusing, so after she got to the party, I came up the stairs wearing the alien costume.  Well, she was just terrified.  We thought it would be funny, but it wasn’t funny.  If I could go back and change that, I would.  It was a dick move on our part.

I don’t know the story behind the alien phobia, but back then I didn’t believe in aliens.  I subscribed to Carl Sagan’s theories.  I was a big fan of his book The Demon Haunted World.   I simply didn’t think there was any evidence for alien visitation, nor did I think it was possible.  Speed of light and all that.

Since that time I’ve read a lot of books.  Stanton T. Friedman was the most convincing.  A nuclear physicist has credentials that are difficult to dismiss, and he makes convincing cases.  I’ve also read Whitley Strieber, Jenny Randles, and many others.  I’ve come to the undeniable conclusion that some UFO sightings are real.  Most are hoaxes.  I’m not interested in those.

But what the hell does this have to do with music?

Aliens and UFO’s have provided subject matter for numerous classic rock and metal songs.  Sammy Hagar’s a believer, and he’s incorporated that into some of his lyrics.  Mick Mars is a hardcore believer.  Blue Oyster Cult’s “Take Me Away” is a great example.  Fu Manchu’s “King of the Road”.  There’s many more.

In my years of collecting though, I have never found a better set of lyrics on the subject than side 1 of Bruce Dickinson’s excellent Tyranny of Souls album. Kevin, an employee, picked me up a copy at HMV Toronto back when they still sold Japanese imports.  That was the cool thing about working in a record store. We helped each other out.

Bruce Dickinson is clearly a believer.  I suspect he’s read his share of Von Daniken.  Witness the lyrics to “Mars Within”:

Mankind returns to the stars
But sometimes, the stars return to mankind…
Didn’t you come this way before, a million years ago?

Although there’s also a reference to Professor Bernard Quatermass in the same piece, it’s easy to associate these lines with Von Daniken’s theories on ancient aliens.

But there’s so much more on the same album.  “Abduction”:

Are you the truth to sit in judgement on my sins
Evil laser gadgets come to penetrate my skin

The next song, “Soul Intruders”, is more abstract but contains clear space references about the “solar wind” and “cosmic streams of time”.  But one really cool lyric is “Kill Devil Hill” which combines these themes with the Wright Brothers and first flight.  Everyone knows Bruce is a pilot and is interested in the history of aviation.  The Kill Devil Hills, near Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, is where the Wrights were the first to achieve heavier than air powered flight.  But the lyrics hint at more:

Blood brothers of angels, now hear us
We earthbound your offspring, don’t fear us
God willing, we’ll raise up, be near you
So open your arms now and take us

To me, Bruce is referring to the aliens as the “blood brothers of angels”, and mankind as its offspring. This too is a common theme in UFO lore.  Some believe that, at minimum, aliens have manipulated our DNA and directly interfered with our evolution.  There’s no proof of course, but that’s not my point.  I’m just looking at the lyrics and their inspirations.

The final song of these sci-fi themes on the album is “Navigate the Seas of the Sun”.  Bruce even paraphrases Albert Einstein:

If God is throwing dice,
And Einstein doesn’t mind the chance
We’ll navigate the seas of the sun

Einstein once said, “As I have said so many times, God doesn’t play dice with the world.”  Einstein was talking about quantum mechanics and its seemingly random predictions.  But what Bruce seems to be saying is, if Einstein’s wrong about the universe, then there’s a chance we can break the speed of light and journey to the stars.

Later on in the same song, Bruce changes up the wordplay:

If Einstein’s throwing dice,
and God, he doesn’t mind the chance
We’ll navigate the seas of the sun

I love this.

The song is loaded with all sorts of beautiful sci-fi wordplay.  The song is clearly about leaving Earth behind:

So we go and will not return
To navigate the seas of the sun
Our children will go on and on
To navigate the seas of the sun

This conjures up the image of multi-generational ships that may be necessary to colonize other worlds.  The song in general brings to mind the Arthur C. Clark novel The Songs of Distant Earth.  Eventually, our sun will use up all its fuel.  This is inevitable.  It’s physics.  If humanity is to survive (if we even last that long) we will have no choice but to find another world to live on.  Earth will be fried to a cinder when it goes nova and turns into a red giant.

We can’t go on tomorrow
Living death by gravity
Couldn’t stand it anymore
We’ll sail our ships to distant shores

Death by gravity is another theme that Clarke explored in his books.  He felt that we could extend our lives by leaving this cradle and living in zero gravity.  Now we know that living in zero gravity deteriorates our bones, possibly to the point of no return.  So should we go on to explore the stars, this is an obstacle that must be overcome.

I’m grateful to Kevin for supplying the Japanese version of Tyranny of Souls, but I’m really, really sorry to the girl that we scared with the alien costume!  With the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it if I knew then what I believe today.