Spaceship Superstar
Recording Artist: Prism
Writers: Jim Vallance (aka Rodney Higgs)
Date Written: started in 1975 / completed in 1977
Albums: Prism (1977)
All The Best From Prism (1980)
Over Sixty Minutes With Prism (1988)
The Best Of Prism (1996)
Charts: #82 - Billboard "Hot 100" Singles Chart / 1977 (4 weeks on the chart)
#23 - CRIA Chart (Canada) / December 28, 1977 (14 weeks on the chart)
Awards: 1978 - Certificate of Honour, Performing Rights Organization of Canada (PROCAN)
Ron Tabak - vocal
Lindsay Mitchell - guitar
Graeme Coleman - Roland electric piano
Peter Bjerring - Arp Odyssey synthesizer
Jack Lavin - bass
Jim Vallance - drums, percussion
Backing vocals: David Sinclair, Bruce Fairbarin, Lindsay Mitchell
Prodcued by Bruce Fairbairn and Jim Vallance.  Recorded and mixed by Rolf Hennemann at Mushroom Studios, Vancouver.
Cover Versions:
Also recorded by Jaymz Bee and the Royal Jelly Orchestra
At 3:23am EST on March 6, 2011 the crew of the International Space Station were woken up to the sound of "Spaceship Superstar".

The inspiration for "Spaceship Superstar" came from a couple of places ...

1). Somewhere between writing the song's first draft (1975) and final draft (1977) George Lucas released the classic film "Star Wars".  Suddenly Science Fiction was all the rage, and that's the direction I took with the lyric, albeit more "Jetsons" than "Jabba the Hutt".

2). Musically, the initial influence was provided by the 1970's German techno group, Kraftwerk. Their signature recording, "Autobahn", peaked at #25 on the Billboard singles chart in March 1975. Listening to Kraftwerk now, their music sounds bland and dated, but in the mid-70s they were cutting edge, revolutionary. 
"Won't Get Fooled Again"
"Free Ride"
Who's Next (1971)
In fact, Kraftwerk influenced a whole generation of new bands including The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, and New Order. "Autobahn" also influenced several elements of "Spaceship Superstar", including the 8th-note keyboard motif and the whole-tone modulation which takes place half-way through each verse.

3). Another source of inspiration was "Who's Next", the brilliant 1971 album by The Who.  That album included the synth-driven track "Won't Get Fooled Again", with its pulsing, eighth-note keyboard pattern.  The "Who" influence was so obvious that, when the "Prism" album was released, initial press reviews called Prism "The Who with horns" ... a nice compliment, but to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen's scathing remark to Dan Quayle during the 1988 U.S. vice-presidential debate: "I know Prism, and Prism are not The Who".

4). And while we're on the topic of "inspiration", I confess that the rhythm guitar figure in the chorus of "Spaceship Superstar" was subtly lifted from the song "Free Ride" by The Edgar Winter Group ("Free Ride" peaked at #14 on the Billboard singles chart in August 1973).
Arp Odyssey
The keyboard solo at the end of "Spaceship Superstar" was performed (in one continuous "take") by Peter Bjerring, using his Arp Odyssey synthesizer.  The technology was relatively new, and synthesizers were still monophonic (only capable of playing one note at a time). In addition, midi and sequencing had not yet been invented, so despite the "high tech" components, synthesizer performances were still generated manually and in real time, a testament to Peter's proficiency on the keys.

Peter's Arp was a "white face" model, which, according to synthesizer historian David Collins, was manufactured between 1972 and 1974.  The Arp pictured here is a "black face" model, manufactured between 1974 and 1976.  I purchased a "black face" Arp in 1976 for the considerable sum of $1,700.  By the mid-1990's it was a dinosaur, and I was lucky to sell my Arp for $250.  Now they're considered "vintage" and are selling for $1,000.  Go figure!
Additional Audio 1: Spaceship Superstar - first demo / 1975?
This was my first attempt at "Spaceship Superstar".  The keyboard sound is David Sinclair's electric harmonium, the same one used on the demo of "Amelia".

Other than the chord structure and melody in the verse, there's little resemblance here to the final version of the song.  The first-draft lyric is "environmental" ... in an embarrassing save-the whales kind of way: "Lately I've been thinkin' 'bout it and I just don't understand / How we let the situation get so out of hand / There really ain't no substitute for the fields and the trees / If there were someplace else to go I'd be the first to leave ..."

Admittedly, more than a little lame.
Additional Audio 2: Spaceship Superstar - second demo / 1976?
By the time I recorded this second demo (lead vocal by Ron Tabak) the lyric had evolved to the final "Science Fiction" draft, give or take a word.  I had also added the "Spaceship Superstar" chorus, including the "question-answer" exchange between the lead and backing vocals (this was suggested by Bruce Fairbairn and Lindsay Mitchell, as I recall). 

Lindsay also contributed a few lyrics to the song: where I originally had "rocket-powered laser beam guitar", Lindsay suggested "solar-powered".

On this, the second demo, the keyboard sound is no longer a harmonium, but a "Roland EP-10 Combo Piano" borrowed from drum-shop owner Ray Ayotte.  The same keyboard was used on the final released recording (played by Graeme Coleman).
Roland EP-10 Combo Piano, released in 1973 >
Additional Audio 3: CFOX Radio Interview / May 29, 1979
Lindsay Mitchell and Rocket Norton discuss "Spaceship Superstar" during an interview on Vancouver's CFOX radio station, May 29, 1979.
Lyrics: Every night it's a different flight
To a different galaxy
I do a sold-out show then I hit the road
In my starship limousine

I get so damn tired and uninspired
Doin' all these one night stands
It's a giant leap for rock and roll
But it's too much for just one man

I'm a Spaceship Superstar
I've got a solar-powered laser beam guitar
(He's a Spaceship Superstar)
I'm at the top of all the charts on Mars
(He's got a solar-powered laser beam guitar)
I'm a Spaceship Superstar

On Mercury they're crazy 'bout
My stellar rock and roll
And I always sell out in advance
At the Martian Astrobowl

The fans they swarm like meteorites
To our concerts on the moon
You should have seen us knock 'em dead on Venus
Doin' all our favourite tunes

I'm a Spaceship Superstar
I've got a solar-powered laser beam guitar
(He's a Spaceship Superstar)
I'm at the top of all the charts on Mars
(He's got a solar-powered laser beam guitar)
I'm a Spaceship Superstar