Peter Schilling’s Major Tom: Best of New Wave Songs

Peter Schilling Major Tom

Photo: By JeanNeef (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Starting out our brand new series on the Best New Wave songs of the late 1970s to early 1980s is Peter Schilling’s classic “Major Tom.” Named after the character depicted in David Bowie’s classic “Space Oddity,” song, Shilling’s “Major Tom,” was a huge hit back in 1983. The song was released on Peter Schilling’s album entitled Error in the System. The song “Major Tom,” became a huge hit in Europe at least six months before it became a hit in the  United States. In January of 1983, The song reached the No. 1 position on the West German music charts. It then sailed to the No. 1 position in Austria and Switzerland, In September of 1983, the song peaked at No 14 on the U.S. Billboard music charts.

As with so many of the popular New Wave songs of the early 1980s, the song is very much keyboard-dominated.  In the song’s verse, Peter Schilling sings up close to the microphone in a semi-soft voice. On the song’s chorus, Shilling explodes into a full voice echoing the style of David Bowie. It is a very powerful transition that worked brilliantly. The harmonies at the end of the song were wonderfully recorded and sung by Peter Schilling.

Peter Schilling was born in Stuttgart Germany in 1956. The songwriter has released multiple albums in Germany where he has had a very successful career in the music industry. The songwriter has never been able to repeat the success he had in the United States with “Major Tom,” in America. The song had been reissued in a re-recorded techno version ten years after its initial success. In 1994 the song became popular in U.S dance clubs.

Many of the artists who had hits during the New Wave era of the early 1980s were labeled as one-hit wonders. For many of them, that label was an accurate description. Although Peter Schilling only had one hit in the United States, his long successful career in his native home of Germany defined him as far from being a one-hit wonder as one can be defined.

Updated November 1, 2023

Peter Schilling’s Major Tom: Best of New Wave Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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