On the 34th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, power pop alt-rockers The Rentals released a tribute to the seven people lost in the shuttle’s explosion, with their new single “Great Big Blue” off the upcoming Q36.
Just over a minute after take-off, Challenger burst into flames, immediately killing Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.
Lead singer, and former Weezer bassist, Matt Sharp said the song was inspired by a raw, uncut CNN news footage he stumbled upon. The clips feature a select group of school children and families of the seven Challenger astronauts watching from bleachers about 3 1/2 miles away from the launch site, at Cape Canaveral. Sharp said that seeing the onlookers’ faces left a lasting impression.
“The scope of emotions, in those images, absolutely has had a profound impact on me,” Sharp said. “As the camera moves across these beautiful, colorful faces, all glowing with pride and joy; beaming with the optimism from the limitless potential of their children, the camera operator captured the best of what we can experience in this life. Then suddenly that joy fades into a haze of uncertainty and confusion; ultimately morphing into the horror and the worst of what we face in the human experience.”
The song itself takes a more optimistic tone for being about such a tragedy. Beginning with uptempo distorted garage rock riffs, Sharp and an accompanying backup choir paint a picture of the morning of the incident.
Frigid Tuesday morning, waiting for the winds to die
Shake the Magic 8 Ball; ask if everything’s all right
Outside the thermometer reads 31 degrees
Our families in the bleachers, bundled up so they don’t freeze
“The song itself primarily focuses on the moments before the launch and that is why the music and melody have a more optimistic tone than what you expect from something associated with and inspired by such a devastating tragedy,” Sharp said. “In these moments, I was solely thinking about the great pride the mothers and fathers of the astronauts must have been feeling, just prior to lift-off and the equally, prideful rush the astronauts themselves might have experienced as they shared this monumental moment with their families and the rest of the world.”
The Rentals’ Q36 is the group’s first album in six years, and is set to be released this June.
Watch the official lyric video here: