I completely improvised this semi-educational astronomy revue on 7 December 1994. This recording is not safe for kids and work!

I grew up in Ithaca, NY, home of the late, great astronomer Carl Sagan. If you know Carl's work, you know a part of what makes me excited to be alive on our little planet, just a tiny part of everyone and everything. He promoted a perspective inspired by looking at photographs of our Earth from space, such as this shot of our Earth from the moon from 20 July 1969, or the one below of Earth from Saturn from 15 September 2006 (click the pics for more info and credits):

Here's a short quote about that perspective (from a super list of Sagan quotes on wikiquote):

"A tiny blue dot set in a sunbeam. Here it is. That's where we live. That's home. We humans are one species and this is our world. It is our responsibility to cherish it. Of all the worlds in our solar system, the only one so far as we know, graced by life."

And here's more on that perspective:

"Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

So, my love of astronomy, planetary science, and Carl Sagan's work came out when I sat down just over 20 years ago to record something and came up with the two chords and opening line that started this song. I didn't attempt to get deep about the "pale blue dot" perspective at all -- I just described some things about our little solar system. It was recorded live, with one mic on my improvised vocals and another mic on my acoustic guitar but run through my old MXR Distortion+ pedal. And then it was done, and a year or so later ended up on one of my all-improv albums, liquid planet, to wither in obscurity.

Fast forward to 16 November 2011, at the Skunk Hollow Tavern, where I'd been hanging out and playing their open mic since April (and this continues...). Some nights at the Skunk get a little wacky, and this was one of those nights. I'd already spewed out a 'funk of the skunk' improv song on my third tune, and on my fifth I tried to improvise another version of this improvised song. It went over really well, and I've played it dozens of times again since then and it's never the same twice. (I make a point to not drop f-bombs, though.) My friend Woody calls it "the solar system song", and really raves about it. Somewhere along the line Woody had me refer to the asteroid belt as the "asteroid suspenders", and there's often talk about whether or not we should mention poor, demoted Pluto. It's usually a lot of fun. But I hope you read Carl's quotes above thoughtfully (and read more of his wise words), because I think our little world needs more of Carl's perspective.

Thanks for listening!


many planets around the sun

many planets around the sun
but ours is the only one with life
as far as we know

there's little Mercury right up next to the sun
just a ball of rock like our moon
it never has life begun
it's a hot rock

and Venus is a little further away
looks a little like the earth
but it's covered in carbon dioxide
and carbonous, sulpherous awful stuff
and it's fucking hot as hell under the clouds
they got the greenhouse effect big time

and outside of us is the planet Mars
red sand like a desert
except it's fucking cold as hell
a rocky cold desert
there's these moons around Mars
called Phobos and something else
they look pretty fucking wierd 
cause they're just a wierd little lump of rock

like the asteroid belt is outside of Mars' orbit
just a huge ring of rocks
I've seen a software game that
lets you fly through all the asteroids

then comes Jupiter
it's almost a sun itself
except it never got to be one
cause it's such a puny gaseous body
that's millions of times bigger than Earth
it's just this giant gaseous thing
surrounded by it's own solar system
many moons
bright shiny moons in the sky
if you were
floating around in Jupiter
chilling around in the clouds of Jupiter
I can myself floating in the red spot
just floating amidst these gaseous light
air balloon kinda creatures
floating around

Saturn is the most beautiful 
with it's big luscious rings
another gaseous ball that
could've maybe have been a sun
but it's just way too small
to even have begun
but it all beautiful rings
floating around in those clouds
would be really nice
if you could only survive methane
helium and whatever all those gases are
that float around the stars out there
these planets in the outer rings
or our solar system

the next two are 
Uranus and Neptune
and we think they look like 
a smaller version of Jupiter and Saturn
just kinda green or blue or something
there's these rings around Uranus
I didn't mean that personally babe
and Pluto 
just zooming around out there
sometimes dipping in for a bite
maybe someday colliding with Neptune
maybe never
are there any more out there

and just think about it
it takes years and years and years
just to get out of our solar system
and it's just this tiny little teeny speck
in the scheme of the galaxy
now the cat wants outside
I gotta go
big and small

7 December 1994  (improvised as the tape rolled)
©1994 by Andy Wyatt