“Then the stranger spoke, he said do not fear,
I come from a planet a long way from here.
And I bring a message for mankind to hear,
and suddenly the sweetest music filled the air.”
It’s a rare songwriter who can manage to combine both Christmas and science fiction in one unforgettable song like this. And Chris De Burgh managed to do it, with this outstanding track off his awesome 1977 album Spanish Train and Other Stories (which also contains the amazing – and somewhat blaspemous – title track about a poker game between God and The Devil)
“This lovely music went trembling through the ground,
and many were wakened on hearing that sound.
And travellers on the road, the village they found,
by the light of that ship in the sky, which shone all round.”
accompanied by a beautiful arrangment of warm analog synths De Burghs vocals achieve a level of lilting emotion that was a high water mark for his early years. It retells the story of the Star of Bethlehem from a sci-fi perspective that never leaves me untouched, no matter how many time’s I’ve heard it.
“A spaceman came travelling on his ship from afar,
twas light years of time since his mission did start.”
And while, like many songwriters, he messes up the science, the rest of the lyrics are magical, and the song ends on such a hopeful and longing note that it makes up for the one gaff he commits (and to be honest, his lyrics sound good if you don’t think about them.)
“Oh the whole world is waiting, waiting to hear that song again.
There are thousands standing on the edge of the world.
And a star is moving somewhere, the time is nearly here,
this song will begin once again, to a baby’s cry.”
This is just about as perfect as a sci-fi Christmas song can be (and as a story it’s fair bit more enjoyable than, perhaps, reading Arthur C. Clarke’s own classic science fiction Christmas story, The Star.) Don’t believe me, then play the song for yourself: