EVEN IN THE TRANSPORTING OTHERWORLD of scratchy prohibition-era blues records, Blind Willie Johnson’s Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground is an outstanding piece of aural beyondness. Cut in 1927 and featuring the late godfearing Texan’s transcendant moaning and bottleneck slide guitar playing, this wordless piece is, of course, one of the tunes included on the Voyager Golden Record, the gold-plated copper LP launched into space on the Voyager 1 and 2 probes back in 1977. As there isn’t any live footage of Blind Willie available – even his grave marker is uncertain – here’s a mini-history lesson made by the ‘helping artists get paid’ people at Why Music Matters.
The disc – to be spun at 16 2/3 rpm when our alien co-existers finally get round to playing it over some Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters as their binary system suns set over the horizon – was mixtape’d into existence by a NASA panel headed by late astronomer and communicator Carl Sagan. The tunes include an estimable playlist of Javanese music, classical music, Johnny B Goode, Stravinsky and Beethoven.
In September it was officially conformed that Voyager 1 had finally left the Solar System and entered interstellar space; it and its unique disc are now nearly 19,000,000,000 km from the sun and only likely to pass near another star around the year 42,000. Outtasight? None more so.