*6.08 - 2000 LIGHT YEARS FROM HOME (Rolling Stones)

Rolling Stones

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Sun turning 'round with graceful motion.
We're setting off with soft explosion
Bound for a star with fiery oceans.

     It's so very lonely,
     You're a hundred light years from home.

Freezing red deserts turn to dark.
Energy here in every part.

     It's so very lonely,
     You're six hundred light years from home.


     It's so very lonely,
     You're a thousand light years from home. (2x)


Bell flight fourteen you now can land.
See you on Aldebaran,
Safe on the green desert sand.

     It's so very lonely,
     You're two thousand light years from home. (2x)


2000 Light Years From Home begins with the tinkle and then a collapsing bang of piano chords recorded backwards so that the impact of the keys is heard after its effect. Then the bass guitar percolates and is swathed in eerie string-like chords of a mellotron. It is nearly a minute into the song before the lyrical verses begin, announced by a rush of tympani.

Mick Jagger sings about space travel. Pink Floyd (Astronomy Domine) and the Byrds (Mr. Spaceman) had sung about this topic before, but with 2000 Light Years From Home the Rolling Stones set the thematic pattern for astronaut songs which would be followed in later pop hits on the topic: Space Oddity (David Bowie 1969), Spaceman (Nilsson 1972) and Rocket Man (Elton John 1972) share with the present song the aspect of the loneliness of space. However, to varying degrees, the pop hits noted here told a story, while 2000 Light Years From Home is more gauzy and atmospheric without a specific “space man”. Like Syd Barrett in Astronomy Domine, Jagger uses the names of stars (Aldebaran) to produce an exoticism appropriate for psychedelia. Aldebaran is a giant red star in the Taurus constellation, and one of the brightest stars in the sky. It was mentioned by name in the early shows of Star Trek, though I have no way of knowing if Mick picked up the word from watching TV. He was right that it was a red star, and it’s interesting that he surmises a red star would have green shadows. It seems Jagger was a little off, however, when he specified “Bell Flight 14”, for Bell made early supersonic rockets, but had gone out of business in the early 1960s. And Aldebaran is reported to be only 65 light years away from Earth. I wonder if 2,000 Light Years from Home took an ideational cue from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

There are several breaks to 2000 Light Years From Home, featuring fuzztone guitar, radio static, mellotron “strings”, and whirring noises (that Jimi Hendrix came to have such a love for in order to communicate “flying saucers”). Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Domine also had several sound effect breaks, but the Stones managed to create a form for these random noises, and to give them some musicality. The song ends with whirring and a repeat of the tinkling piano keys (without the backwards effect) suggesting great distances.

Most writers have given (over time) both 2000 Years from Home and She’s a Rainbow their admiration as among the best of psychedelic songs, even though most writers are not kind about the remainder of Their Satanic Majesties Request. The Rolling Stones, perhaps embarrassed by the rock critics in 1967, would for decades not perform any song from this album, but revived 2000 Light Years for their 1989 Steel Wheels Tour (without the sound effects of course). George Starostin in his webside Only Solitaire wrote: “In my humble opinion, this song [2000 Light Years] still stands as proof irresistible to the fact that the Stones were the only band in the world, besides the Beatles, that could try their hand at every genre and come out with a winner.”