#29 – “What Is A Shooting Star?” (2001)

TMBG Unlimited - April
L.K.: Thanks to this song, we know that it is not a star at all.
A.S.: It’s just a meteor heading for a fall. This song has a somewhat interesting history, given that it’s probably most often heard as part of Here Comes Science but was recorded and first released much earlier.
L.K.: And it’s from the same compilation of space-related songs that “Why Does The Sun Shine” originally comes from, written by the same songwriters, Hy Zaret and Lou Singer.
A.S.: Which leads me to believe that this might have been one of the many songs from the Unlimited batch that was intended for No! but never made it.
L.K.: You know, it’s not the only old track that got recycled onto Here Comes Science, which is another thing that sort of leads me to believe that they were completely burned out on the kiddie music by that point.
A.S.: True, there were, what, three songs on that album recycled from other stuff?
L.K.: Well, two recycled recordings and three recycled songs.
A.S.: Right.
L.K.: “The Bloodmobile” and “What Is A Shooting Star?” weren’t even re-recorded.
A.S.: I don’t necessarily fault them for that, since they both fit the album pretty well and certainly hadn’t gotten as wide a release prior to Science.
L.K.: You know, I do like how all the “question” songs are in a row on Here Comes Science. It’s kind of appropriate.
A.S.: Huh, never noticed that before.
L.K.: Questions about space! Though apparently “What Is A Shooting Star?”‘s science is also outdated, according to people on the internet. TMBG didn’t bother writing an answer song for this one.
A.S.: Damn ’50s children’s songwriters. Well, okay, they weren’t exclusively children’s songwriters, but you know…
L.K.: Supposedly friction has nothing to do with why shooting stars burn up. I’m a biology major though, so I know nothing about any of this.
A.S.:  I studied music so I veritably know nothing whatsoever.
L.K.: My knowledge of space stuff comes from 1990s children’s books that I kind of devoured as a child. Which are also probably outdated by now.
A.S.: Yep, same here. That and a couple of astrology courses in college, although we never really covered meteors/meteorites/meteoroids.
L.K.: I had a book that had Snoopy and Woodstock riding a spaceship on the front of it. I believe it was called Land and Space. I would consult it now if I had any idea where it was.
A.S.: This all reminds me, speaking of failed references to meteors in pop music, there was that Joanna Newsom song, “Emily”, where she allegedly boofs up the differences between all that space junk. I remember that sparked a lot of debate when people were trying to dissect those book-length lyrics.
L.K.: Musicians and science, a match made in hell.
A.S.: Not if you’re Thomas Dolby. And hey, speaking of lovely music, let’s talk about Dan Miller’s playing on this.
L.K.: Aww, Dan’s pretty guitar playing. He doesn’t get to play pretty a lot. Usually he is too busy MELTING FACES OFF WITH ROCK.
A.S.: I can almost see his guitar face in the intro.
L.K.: Oh god, the Dan Miller guitar face.
A.S.: It’s a great little part, and it’s not that difficult to play with some level of competency, and is pretty fun to boot.
L.K.: This was one of the songs the Avatars Of They used to sing in concerts before they started doing “Spoiler Alert”.
A.S.: A good song for both of them to sing and not have to do anything else.
L.K.: Yep.
A.S.: And we’d be remiss not to point out that it’s another true-to-the-original cover.
L.K.: I’ve never actually heard the original!
A.S.: I hadn’t prior to this song popping up in the mix.
L.K.: I believe the Space Songs album has been floating around for download various places online, but I never downloaded/listened to it… Oh wow, I didn’t realize Space Songs was actually just one part of a six LP set. Man, they really were concerned with trying to teach kids science back in 1959. Teach them how to beat the commies, most likely.
A.S.: Exactly.
L.K.: Oh yeah, with the except of the Dan Miller intro, this is more or less a completely straight cover.
A.S.: I wonder why exactly the Johns have had a real affinity for this particular set of music
L.K.: Well, 1959… the album’s about as old as they are. Maybe they heard it growing up.
A.S.: Perhaps, it’d be interesting to find out; obviously, we’ll be revisiting this subject again.
L.K.: Yep, which is why I’m holding off on some of my other comments about the other song they covered from this album. Speaking of this song specifically though, is it just me or is Flans’s singing kind of out of tune?
A.S.: Maybe? I never really noticed it that much.
L.K.: It just always struck me as kind of flat for some reason, which is weird because you’d think they’d be able to correct that.
A.S.: Nah dude, TMBG are all about RAW POWER
L.K.: Or maybe my ears are just out of tune, I don’t know. I’m getting old.
A.S.: Either way, this is a pleasant cover of not all that much consequence.
L.K.: A fun drinking game for those of you who play drinking games: take a shot every time you read the phrase “ram pressure” when looking up info or videos about this song.

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