Tuesday 29 November 2016


When George's friend, Formula One world champion Damon Hill, expressed a desire to ride a rocket into space, the musician shook his head in mock scorn: "No man. Inner space, not outer space." Ironically, scientists wanted to send one of Harrison's most beloved songs into the outermost reaches of the galaxy.

In the mid-Seventies, NASA was in the midst of constructing twin space probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, designed as the first human-made objects to travel outside the heliosphere and into interstellar space. As a message for any extraterrestrial beings that might happen upon it, both spacecraft were equipped with a 12-inch gold-plated copper photograph record. Essentially audio time capsules, they contained sounds chosen to convey a cross-section of Earth's life and culture.

"The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space," noted famed astronomer and author Carl Sagan, who oversaw the project. "But the launching of this 'bottle' into the cosmic 'ocean' says something very hopeful about life on this planet." After a grueling year-long selection process, the sounds chosen included thunder, bird songs, Morse code and even brainwaves. Musical selections were just as diverse, including compositions by J.S. Bach, Blind Willie Johnson and Bulgarian folk singer Valya Balkanska. If Sagan had his way, "Here Comes the Sun" would have been among them.

"In some ways, the Beatles were the most obvious choice to include on the music," Jon Lomberg, Sagan's chief artistic collaborator, told author Jim Bell in 2015. "They were still at the peak of heir fame, even though they'd broken up five years before. It would have been like putting on Shakespeare – who is going to seriously say that Shakespeare doesn't belong among the greatest hits of Earth's literature? The Beatles were sort of the absolute peak of Western musical achievement at the time."

All four members of the band were thrilled about the idea, but EMI Records, who held the song's copyright, vetoed the plan. In the song's place, Sagan included Chuck Berry's seminal rock staple, "Johnny B. Goode" – which likely also met with Harrison's approval.

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