Odd, the things you remember… early on in high school I recall being gathered with a group of students in the library in the evening- waiting for something… what it was I don’t remember. What I think I remember was that a guy named Peter (son of the local United Church minister) was spinning a few ’45s as we waited. At one point he turned one of the ’45s over to the B side (I believe it was a Donovan single… perhaps Mellow Yellow) and insisted, “Listen to this!”  Now I don’t remember what the song sounded like… I only remember that he was mightily impressed and felt that it deserved higher status than its “B side” suggested.

There’s no reason why I should recall this event and I may be faulty in my recollection of the details.  But it does make my point (for purposes of this series of posts).  And that point is that we all, from time to time, come across pieces of music (genre not important) which we like but which do not seem to achieve the popularity we would have anticipated (based upon our expert evaluation!)  And… that will be the binding element… the selections I mention in these upcoming posts caught my attention for some reason… even though they did not become “big hits”.  And I’ll try to explain why they did (catch my attention, that is).  Now we begin…

Spaceship Orion

The group, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils were hardly an unknown band in the early to mid 1970’s.  They had several successful albums and at least two “top 30” hits, most notably…

Jackie Blue reached #3 on the Billboard charts in 1975.

They were regarded as a Southern rock/country rock band but, as Jackie Blue illustrates, they were capable performers in a variety of genres… which brings me to Spaceship Orion.  Recorded on their first album (self-titled), the song has an ethereal quality which distinguishes it from many of the other tracks.  Because I was not exposed to a lot of major 7th, major 9th and minor 7th chords in the music of my early years my ear was drawn to this particular harmony when I discovered it in some popular music in my adolescence.  Perhaps an emotive quality.  I don’t know… anyway, Spaceship Orion has it.  And, although I never really listened carefully to the lyrics at the time I recognized they were not typical fodder for a pop song.

We received the album as a Christmas gift (I think) shortly after its release… in other words, it was not deliberately purchased.  And while it enjoyed a few spins at the time, I hadn’t listened to the album for several decades.  And then came the new turntable this year.  I pulled a few albums from the basement at random and the Daredevils happened to be in the pile.  I remembered the song and, after listening to it again, decided it would be an ideal first candidate in this series.  So here it is… from my turntable to your ears…

The OMD circa 1975.
The OMD circa 1975.

Oh yes,  and the lyrics…

When the man comes to you

Tells you what you always knew was  comin’

You feel it came twice as fast

You always thought the world would last way past you

But  now you find

There’s nothin’ left  around you

Spaceship Orion’s  there

Waiting to part the air above  you

Waiting to take you

Waiting to place you

In a world exactly different

From  the one you leave behind

If you  find it man you’re lucky

But it  still won’t be the same

It can’t be  like home

It can’t feel like  home

To you there

It can’t be like home

It can’t feel like home

To  you there

It can’t be like  home

It can’t feel like home

To you there.

As I suggested earlier, finding your planet uninhabitable and departing for a new destination in the galaxy is not usual fare for a pop song (or even a country song, for that matter!)

In this age of ubiquitous media (is anything truly obscure?) I could have simply referred to the recording, which is (like almost everything) to be found on Youtube.  What I did discover, however, is that the band still performs live periodically and includes this song in their set.  Evidence of this fact

p.s.  If you don’t know the band at all, you might be forgiven for thinking that these examples (Jackie Blue, Spaceship Orion) don’t sound very country rock.  Their other significant hit, If You Wanna Get to Heaven, may go some distance in correcting that impression.  It is to be found with Spaceship Orion on their first album and it reached #25 in 1974.  (You might take issue with the theology here… but that’s another discussion!)


8 thoughts on “Obscurity #1 Spaceship Orion by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils

  1. Spaceship Orion had been one of most elusive songs for me to transpose since my early days playing guitar. I could never get it quite right so that it sounded like the original recording. It has only been in the past few years that I’ve gone back to playing it. It works best with two guitars, obviously, but there is always the lack of background vocals to give it that etheral sound. It is still one of my favorite songs.

    1. Hi Bill aka Doc
      Been away for a few days…so apologies for being so slow in replying. Likewise a favourite of mine… and quite “distinct” from their other well-known hits. Oddly I don’t think I’ve ever tried to play it (I’m a piano guy) so I don’t know how it would translate to keyboard. A new project, I suppose! Anyway, thanks for the note and… should you get inclined to upload a Youtube performance of the song (playing) yourself, let me know. I’ll amend that “Orion” post to include your video.


  2. just learned this on guitar . forgot how much I loved this band. i hate that the only song the radio plays is Jackie Blue, great song but there are so many others too and this is near the top of my list. also working on Whippoorwill. tough one to sing but such a beautiful song.

    1. Interesting… you are second person to have spoken of learning to play this on guitar. Maybe the song’s not such an obscurity after all! In any case, the recording has, as mentioned, such an ethereal arrangement to fit with the fantasy/science fiction theme in the lyrics. As I said to “Doc”, if any of you decide to “Youtube” your own performance of the song, I’d be pleased to hear it and add it as a postscript to that post.
      Thanks for writing…

  3. ‘Spaceship Orion’ is one of my favorite songs of theirs as is ‘Within Without’ from the same album. Coincidentally, both songs are written and sung by Larry Lee I have noticed that I gravitate mostly to his songs with the band. There seems to be an underlying common thread to his songs. Both of these songs sound sad, disappointed, disillusioned and the fact that he is deeply searching for something comes out pretty clearly in the lyrics.
    I also really like ‘Colorado Song’ from this album and it too has a lyrical theme of searching and sadness, but this one was written by other members of the band. Altogether a great album.
    Thanks for writing a post about this song. It’s too good a tune to remain forgotten.

  4. This song came up very much by accident one day (recently) when my wife started humming/singing it very much out of the blue. It prompted me to dig it out of our collection and play it probably for the first time in close to 30 years. Forgot how good it actually was and after looking at the lyrics closely I was nearly dumfounded. What actually promptly Larry Lee to write a song like this when the rest of the collection is nearly polarized as compared to this song. The rest of the members obviously had no problem including it with the collection. As you stated it does have an ethereal quality to it and in my opinion a spiritual quality to it as well. Makes me wonder how many other songs Larry Lee has that never got recorded in the mainstream of music. The OMD from I gathered were not going to be wrangled in to some monster record company and change what they were at the time and was evidenced by a refusal to re-locate to Southern California which in my opinion would have succumbed them to the whims of producers that may have had other ideas on how to produce their music. Happens from time to time and the end result is a music quality that diverges significantly sometimes and abandons the original mission whatever that might be. In short not being true to themselves and what got them there in the first place.
    At little off the subject but a couple other artists/songs come to mind that parallel your theme(s) centered around obscurity. One is Glenn Campbell’s song “Wichita Lineman”. Wichita has an ethereal quality to it and is in my opinion very different from the rest of what Glenn Campbell did. On the other hand the Doors were “off the charts” different from anything else that came out at the time. Nobody sounded like the Doors and Jim Morrison solidified that “stamp”. Their music is still locked up and forbidden to be used by anyone musically or commercially to this day. Enough said there.

    I like your forum(s) and it makes me think about some of the obscurities that occasionally occur in songwriting.

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