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Galaxy Song

galaxy song, galaxy song lyrics
"Galaxy Song" is a Monty Python song written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez[2]

The song first appeared in the 1983 film Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and was later released on the album Monty Python Sings The song was released as a single in the UK on 27 June 1983 when it reached No 77 in the charts[3] and again on 2 December 1991 as a follow-up to the successful reissue of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life In 2014 the song was featured in the live stage show Monty Python Live Mostly which was followed by another single release on 13 April 2015, this time in collaboration with Stephen Hawking


  • 1 Premise and synopsis
  • 2 Accuracy of astronomical figures
  • 3 Remake
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links

Premise and synopsis

The song originally debuted during the comedy sketch "Live Organ Transplants" The paramedic John Cleese, upon failing to persuade Mrs Brown Terry Jones to donate her liver, opens the refrigerator doors to reveal a man wearing a pink morning suit Eric Idle The man accompanies Mrs Brown through outer space singing various statistics about the galaxy The upshot of the song which follows a synthesized instrumental montage that, in the movie, is accompanied by a computer-animated picture of a woman being impregnated is that in the grand scheme of the universe, the likelihood of Mrs Brown's existence was almost zero, but that she should "pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, 'cause there's bugger all down here on Earth" The singer returns to the refrigerator, at which point Mrs Brown admits that the singer convinced her to hand over her liver

Accuracy of astronomical figures

The lyrics include a number of astronomical facts and figures, which may have accurately reflected the known values at the time the song was written while many are simply rounded for the sake of the song's meter Some of these have changed as improved technology has allowed scientists to make more accurate measurements[4]

  • Idle sings that the Earth is "revolving at nine hundred miles an hour" He is using the wrong term, since the Earth revolves around the Sun, but it rotates on its axis; however, "rotating" does not rhyme with "evolving" so the songwriters may have used artistic license The current estimate for the rotational speed at the equator is 1040 miles/hr 1670 kilometers/hour[5] 900 miles is correct if this is given in nautical miles, but it is more common to speak of knots in this case He gives the Earth's orbital speed as 19 miles 31 km per second, compared with the real figure of 18 to 185[6][7][8]
  • Idle states that the Sun is "the source of all our power" In fact, three notable sources of electrical power are not directly traceable to the Sun: The first is geothermal power, which is derived from geothermal energy, 20% of which remains from the original planet formation and 80% of which is derived from ongoing radioactive decay The second source is the Moon's effects on tides and the associated methods of power generation The third is nuclear power derived from uranium and other fissile elements Ultimately, however, the overwhelming proportion of human-generated power derived from fossil fuels and thence from photosynthetic plants makes this line a very good approximation to the truth The three other power sources are available because of the Sun's influence on our early solar system, so Idle's statement is correct in a literal if somewhat pedantic sense, even if not for practical purposes
  • Idle's figures for the size of the Milky Way galaxy are roughly correct He understates the speed at which the Sun orbits the "galactic central point" by an order of magnitude 12 million miles a day compared to "1 million miles a day", but he gives an estimate accurate to one significant figure for the total time per orbit This is "two hundred million years" according to the song, compared with accepted figures of 220 to 250 million years[9][10][11]
  • The song says that we are "thirty thousand light years from galactic central point", again correct to within one significant figure of 25,000 light years from the centre of the Milky Way[12] The song also states that the galaxy is "a hundred thousand light years side to side" This would make the galactic radius 50,000 light years, which is accurate[12] Australian astrophysicist Bryan Gaensler has stated that Idle's estimation of the thickness of the Milky Way, at 16,000 light years, is more accurate than the official 'textbook' figure of 6,000 light years[13] However, the song's position on this was later confused by Idle's performance of the song in his Not the Messiah show 2007 where the figure he sings is only 6,000 light years[14] The reason for the confusion has since been explained in a message from Idle on the official Monty Python website "There was some smug website pulling apart all my original figures for the song written circa 1981 so for the 2003 Tour or maybe 2000 I 'updated' them Now you tell me I was right all along! Not sure where I got my figures originally but tell the bastards to make up their minds"[15]
  • The last verse of the song explains that the universe is expanding, and furthermore, that the speed of light is the "fastest speed there is" Idle’s estimate of the speed of light is a relatively accurate one: 12 million miles per minute, versus the standard figure of about 1116 million miles per minute 11 million would be a closer estimate, but Idle may have chosen "12" simply because the word "11" would not scan so well[citation needed] Contrary to what the verse implies, the expansion of the universe is not related to the speed of light, and it is in fact expanding much faster[16]


Eric Idle and Carol Cleveland performing the Galaxy Song in 2014

Released in 1984, Jim Post's album Crooner From Outer Space features a remake called "Galaxy/Lighten Up"[17]

In 1999, Clint Black recorded a remake of "The Galaxy Song" on his album D'lectrified, as well as the "Outside Intro To Galaxy Song", which he co-wrote and sang with Idle

In late 2012, an updated version of "The Galaxy Song" aired on BBC Two in a trailer for Wonders of Life, hosted by physicist Brian Cox[18] It was called "The Galaxy DNA Song" by Idle[19]

In 2014, the song was performed in the stage show Monty Python Live Mostly Idle emerges from a refrigerator and begins singing to an elderly woman Carol Cleveland At one point, they start dancing on stage as a clip shows them dancing among the stars with the galaxy in the background After the song ends, the show cuts to a clip of Cox at Cambridge discussing the various scientific inaccuracies within the song He is knocked over by Stephen Hawking going by in his motorized chair Hawking tells Cox not to be so pedantic, and then starts to sing the song himself Hawking's cover for the song was released as a Record Store Day single in 2015

In December 2016, the theme of the song was extended into the hour-long BBC Two The Entire Universe show Written and co-presented by Idle and Professor Brian Cox, it took the form of a lecture by Cox interspersed with a "comedy and musical extravaganza with the help of Warwick Davis, Noel Fielding, Hannah Waddingham and Robin Ince, alongside a chorus of singers and dancers" The show closed with an ensemble rendition of "The Galaxy Song" with updated figures: the galaxy containing 500 billion stars instead of 100 billion; the galaxy rotation speed of 500,000 mph instead of 40,000; the galaxy thickness as 6,000 ly instead of 16,000, and a spiral arm thickness of 1,000 ly instead of 3,000[20]


  1. ^ "Monty Python – Galaxy Song" Discogs 
  2. ^ Monty Python Sings CD booklet 1989 Virgin Records
  3. ^ "galaxy song" Official Charts 
  4. ^ Kohlmiller, Paul December 2003 "A study of the Galaxy Song by Eric Idle" Ephemeris San Jose Astronomical Association 
  5. ^ "NASA IMAGE satellite,Ask the Space Scientist Archive" NASA 
  6. ^ "What is Earth's mean orbital speed" WhatIscom 
  7. ^ Pool, Jerry "Earth's Speed" Archived from the original on 19 September 2003 – via AOL 
  8. ^ "The Speed of Light" University of Virginia 
  9. ^ Elert, Glenn "Period of the Sun's Orbit around the Galaxy Cosmic Year" hypertextbookcom 
  10. ^ "Ready Reference" justforkidsonlycom 
  11. ^ "How Fast Are You Moving When You Are Sitting Still" Retrieved 2017-09-27  483000 miles/hour = 115 million miles/day
  12. ^ a b "Milky Way Galaxy" University of Oregon 
  13. ^ "Milky Way twice as thick as thought" earthtimesorg 
  14. ^ Eric Idle Galaxy Song from Not The Messiah finale at Hollywood Bowl 8-2-08 on YouTube
  15. ^ Wood, John Alex 4 August 2008 "6 or 16 thousand light years thick" pythonlinecom Archived from the original on 15 August 2008 
  16. ^ Wright, E L 12 June 2009 "Cosmology Tutorial - Part 2" Ned Wright's Cosmology Tutorial UCLA Retrieved 2011-09-26 
  17. ^ https://wwwyoutubecom/watchv=bjEOpfCcujE
  18. ^ Wonders of Life Trailer - BBC Two on YouTube
  19. ^ Idle, Eric 29 October 2012 "Eric Idle on 'Galaxy Song,' the New Biological Version" The Nerdist 
  20. ^ "The Entire Universe" BBC 26 December 2017 Archived from the original on 27 December 2016 Retrieved 27 December 2016 

External links

  • A study of the Galaxy song
  • Annotations to the Galaxy song
  • "Galaxy Song" 02:43 on YouTube - sung by physicist Stephen Hawking
  • "Galaxy Song - Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" 02:43 on YouTube - official video posted by Monty Python

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Galaxy Song Information about

Galaxy Song

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