The Rentals Release New Single 'Forgotten Astronaut'
50 years ago, in the summer of 1969, the only group in pop-culture that could claim to be bigger than John, Paul, George and Ringo were Neil, Buzz and Michael. But 50 years down the line, in 2019, only ONE of those SEVEN names is actually in danger of going extinct in the collective imagination of the public at large.
Inspired by the writing of NASA Astronaut Michael Collins, Matt Sharp's lyrics for The Rentals new single "Forgotten Astronaut" - out today - read like an imaginary, inner-conversation the Command Module Pilot of Apollo 11 may have had with himself during the 21 hours Collins spent alone waiting for Aldrin and Armstrong to return to safely to, their home away from home, the spacecraft Columbia.
"I started writing 'Forgotten Astronaut', while I was reading 'Flying To The Moon' (1976, MacMillan). When friends would ask if I had read anything good recently, I would tell them I was reading about Michael's extraordinary life and whomever I was talking with would simply ask, Who is Michael Collins?. And then again, when I was previewing early arrangements of the song for friends, I would tell them that lyrics were being sung from Michael's perspective and they would, without exception, hit me with that exact same question, Who the hell is Michael Collins!?.
That, all too, familiar response left Sharp to ask what, might be an even more interesting set of questions. How could you be a central figure in, what is largely considered, one of the greatest achievements in the history of all humanity and yet, nearly no one knows your name?
How does that happen? What does that say about Michael? And in turn, what does that say about us?
"What gave me great joy was imagining where Michael's more trivial thoughts might have drifted to, in the solitary confinement of Columbia, just Michael and a small colony of NASA's laboratory mice, alone with his sillier, lighter ruminations juxtaposed against the moment where he started to grasp the weight, significance and gravity of this monumental chapter of mankind's story."
Sharp continues, "I'm not sure if this is from 'Flying To The Moon' or 'Carrying The Fire' (1974, MacMillan) or if it was from watching one his guest appearances at M.I.T. on YouTube, but I believe, I remember Michael saying something to the effect of, If I didn't do my job correctly Armstrong and Aldrin would have been stranded, my two friends, powerless, with 530 million viewers watching them slowly run out of oxygen to eventually die on live TV. Then I would have to return home, alone, with the knowledge that, because I failed at my job, for the rest of time, the people of earth would look up to the moon and never see it the same way again. The image of 2 dead astronauts, seared into the public's imagination, 2 All American corpses snug in their space capsule coffin, forever caught in the deadly grip of the Moon's orbit, 200 miles above the lunar surface; looping eternally.
Just make just one mistake and I could actually ruin the Moon... for all Mankind."
"I could ruin the moon," what an extraordinary thought.
But, Mr. Collins didn't make a mistake, or at least, not one that could ruin the Moon for all future generations.
Every single pilot that trained for the Apollo program shared one common, singular dream. Each of them, individually, including Michael, were laser focused on the goal of being one of the first 2 men to ever walk on the celestial floor of a foreign heavenly body. But, a funny thing happened on the way back from the moon. When the 3 intergalactic rock stars returned to Earth, the two men that actually fulfilled that singular dream found them returning to a whole new reality. Mr. Aldrin and Mr. Armstrong could hardly go to the store for quart of milk without being suffocated by a relentless, fawning adoration. In the years and decades to follow, it is well documented how all that attention negatively and adversely affected their lives.
Whether it has been Mr. Collins choice to gracefully shy away from the spotlight or if he just had the good luck of being gifted one of the most forgettable, common-sounding, combination of surname and given name, Michael seemed to have dodged the claustrophobic inconvenience that comes with global superstardom. His story tells us, like the old aphorism says, "Be careful what you wish for; because you just might get it."