Marina: This song was written in March 2016 - those were the early days of our collaboration with Michael, even though we already had written 21 songs by that stage, it still felt like we were still getting used to working together.
Writing the lyrics:
Michael Davis: ‘Houston’ came about in a very roundabout way.
I had the classic quote in my head (‘Houston, we have a problem’) for quite some time for no other reason than I liked the fact that ‘Houston’ and ‘problem’ were a classic example of words that don’t 100% rhyme but actually are close enough to sound ‘pleasing’ together.
That line then flowed into; ‘I’m coming apart at the seams’ which at that point was definitely heading down the usual ballad/broken heart route!
Although the outer space image somewhat continued with ‘Everyone seems to be laughing and I can’t hear myself scream’ (supposedly you can’t in space!!), at that stage I really didn’t have much of a clue as to exactly where the song was heading.
January of last year, I was playing around with some ideas to develop the song and right in the middle of trying to progress it, David Bowie passed away! Obviously, that was a tragedy but I guess it was that event that turned the theme of the song into being more about space as an escape from the world and its current problems as well as looking down on them from up on high!
That’s fundamentally what’s it’s about as well as being quite a large ‘nod’ in the direction of David Robert Jones!
Marina caught the mood with a lovely, ethereal (haunting??) melody that fit perfectly with the theme and hopefully it’ll stand the test of time just like the original ‘Life On Mars’
Marina: Nobody really asks a composer what the lyrics are about, but I am going to try to give you my version of it just in case you want to know:
I think it is about how apathetic and numb we have become to what is happening in the world. If it doesn’t touch us directly, it doesn’t have a chance to penetrate that layer of apathy we created. And it is not because we don’t feel hurt, it’s because we don’t want to feel hurt because we feel that there is nothing we could do to change anything. So we have a problem. We know what is going on, but we block it as we get overwhelmed by all of it and our helplessness.
Writing the melody:
I remember getting the lyrics from Michael that day, and then in the evening sitting down with the lyrics sheet on a couch in my living room. The printed lyrics were on my little keyboard which I placed on a coffee table in front of me. My mum was making something in the kitchen, my kids were watching something and I just started playing. Actually I started singing. Within the first minutes I have found the melody for the verse, then the pre-chorus which at that stage was the chorus. I played it and was mesmerised by the melody, Houston we have a problem, it had a magnetic quality about it. I just couldn’t stop singing and playing it. It had so much pull for me, I was extremely proud to harness that melody.
Developing Houston with the band:
That week I brought it to the band and as always the guys were reluctant to hear any new music. J It’s because I absolutely bombard them with my songs. We already had some 10 songs we were learning. But when I did play it on the keyboard for them – they loved it J
Cranna (drummer) said: “It needs a peak and it hasn’t got it yet”.
At that time the pre-chorus was the chorus. So we started playing it and while the guys we feeling their way through the song I looked at the bridge or a third verse that Michael has put in and just sang it, and the chorus appeared. And it was good. So it really happened in the middle of us playing it and it had never happened before like that.
Recording the song with the band:
We recorded it in Depot Sound on Sunday 15th of May, the day before my birthday which was very cool. First half a day we spent setting up drums and getting them right and the second part went really quick. There were still some vocals to do the following week so Josh and I had to come back for that. We had Michael with us in the studio and some friends and family were popping in from time to time. It was a long day but very rewarding. I learnt a lot from that session. Dave (the sound engineer) thought that we were going to give him direction as a band, he didn’t know that I was the main music brain behind it. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, but I don’t think we could get it any better anyway with the pool of ideas we had at the time.
The song was an opening track to the album When I Am Gone released in December 2016. It was reviewed in Elsewhere:
"There's a very retro feel about these songs — their roots often in the Seventies and Eighties – but Bloom possesses a voice which could cut through at mainstream radio with the five-minute 'Houston We Have a Problem' which again works that restrained power ballad idiom and lyrically references Bowie/Life on Mars." Graham Reid
Later in the year it was picked up by Phil O'Brien (RadioNZ) on Saturday night requests and has had great feedback from people all over the world.
We would love to know what you think about this song, please post your comments below.
Houston (We Have A Problem)
Everybody wants to know
is there life on Mars?
David Bowie wondered once
now he's lost in the stars
Everybody likes to dream
of worlds so faraway
We're lining up alibis
and planning our escape
But Houston we have a problem
I'm coming apart at the seams
Everyone seems to be laughing
and I can't hear myself scream!
Houston, I can't believe it
I'm floating around here in space.
I'm a latter day rocket man
who's lost his poker face
And I look down on the world below
a million miles away
The closer I get to heaven's gate
the less I seem to pray
Everybody's laying low
while the time flies past.
David Bowie sold the world
now he’s resting in peace
Everybody needs a dream
to keep our lives fulfilled
So we're lining up alibis
and heading for the hills.
And it's a crazy old world,
this world that we live in
We all want fame and gold
and we're fighting for glory
and storybook endings