Rockets – Galactica
The space travel theme was not entirely unrelated to the music of the 80s. Sure, it was a niche theme, but there were several songs that took a cue from this topic. Surely we must mention Planet Earth by Duran Duran, which did not really talk about space but referred to futuristic atmospheres and computerized writings with the data of our planet. Later we have the sad story of Clouds Across the Moon by the Rah Band, with the protagonist who manages to call her astronaut husband for a few minutes, and then she resigns herself to wait another year for the next conversation.
Certainly David Bowie had been a great pioneer in this scenario with Space Oddity, and we must not forget the great success of Peter Schilling with Major Tom. In the late 1970s great female performers had also made a contribution, I am thinking of Sheila and B. Devotion’s Spacer, or Dee D. Jackson’s Meteor Man.
But in August 1980 something incredible had happened: the aliens had indeed arrived on earth, and had entered the charts to send the earthlings their message from the “Robotic Race”.
And what aliens! They had immediately kept a low profile: born in space, probably departed from the Moon, probably died and resurrected several times due to the toxic substances in the gray paint of their skin. Robotic movements and metallic spacesuits, they spoke no terrestrial language despite having French, Breton and Corsican surnames. But they sang in English, again with a slight French inflection.
Thanks to these choreographic ideas, in the second half of the 70s Rockets had met with some success especially in the circles of French discos, and were often invited to perform, it is not clear whether for their songs or rather for their shows with smokes and laser beams. Their career took a turning point in 1978 when they interpreted in their own way a great cover of On the Road Again, which made them known also abroad, and above all in Italy, where the managers of the CGD record company actually armored them with a super contract, and since then the aliens lived and worked more in Italy than in France.
They were the band of the moment, and together with the legendary Kraftwerk (who sang The Robots at the time) they were really the future of music and perhaps of humanity.
In 1980 we see the release of their most important album, Galaxy, a concept album entirely based on space and their existence as aliens (and after all, with those costumes they would have been hardly credible in the role of ordinary terrestrial teenagers in love). The first week of August 1980, their most important song, Galactica, enters the charts.
The song is very simple, and after all Rockets did not aspire to pass for poets or philosophers: they tell of how they traveled in space to get to the earthlings the message of the Robotic Race. We will then see the decisive content of this message. Rhythm and arrangements are irresistible, of course. The most prominent characters are obviously the singer and frontman Christian Le Bartz, who moves like a goofy robot, but actually sings not so much, because the main voice of Rockets in the end is bassist Gérard L’Her, who also composed the songs. With them we must also mention guitarist Alain Maratrat, drummer Alain Groetzinger, and keyboardist Fabrice Quagliotti, the only one of the original group who still plays and carries on the history of the group, together with other musicians of course.
Galactica obviously didn’t have a real video: we are in 1980 and MTV is a concept still far beyond time. Someone had already shot futuristic videos (we mention for all Buggles and Video Killed the Radio Star), but generally the songs were meant to be performed in concerts or in a few television appearances, and from one of these we see this performance.
Galactica was an outstanding success that remained in the top ten for months. Rockets were able to capitalize on this success in the immediately following years, even if unfortunately for them something was changing in the music scene: the advent of the new wave on the one hand certainly exalted electronic music and effects (I just mention Fade to Grey by Visage), but on the other hand, it made aliens and gray-painted heads absolutely out of context, as it was time for sophisticated dandies with lacy collars and eyes with make-up.
In the end, what was this message that the Robotic Race repeats to humans several times at the end of the song? Well, it was very simple: “Hear the Rockets. Preach our case.” They traveled light years just to get some visibility!
Rockets on Wikipedia