As far as I'm concerned, there is only one version of this song, and it's this one. If that's not awesomely bad, I don't know what is.
She packed my bags last night pre-flight / Zero hour, nine a.m. / And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then
Oh, for the halcyon days of the Cold War, when the "space race" or whatever they called it allowed us to compete with the hated Russkies without blowing each other to smithereens. The moon had been conquered, its moon-men subdued and enslaved, and Mars was just around the corner. America's brave "rocket men" were hailed as heroes, showered with meats and cheeses (not literally), and probably, I don't know, had their pictures on stamps and things of that nature. Today our space program is in shambles, and astronauts are reviled and cannot walk down the street without being spit upon by small children.
Oh, right, the lyrics. They're kind of pretty but don't really make sense. I'm thinking the "zero hour" is when his space rocket is supposed to take off, but why is he going to already be high as a kite when that time arrives? Is he going to take hallucinogenic drugs? That seems like a questionable idea. Does NASA drug astronauts to make the launch more bearable? Unlikely.
I miss the earth so much I miss my wife / It's lonely out in space / On such a timeless flight
Switching tenses within the verse? Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. would be spinning in his grave if he were dead. Actually, I only mention Aldrin so I can link to this video of him punching a guy in the face. The lesson here is, of course, don't fuck with a guy who walked on the fucking moon.
Actually, Sir Elton and co-writer Bernie Taupin switch tenses twice during this verse, giving us the rare and delicious trifecta of past, present, and future all wrapped up in a few short lines. Is this a commentary on the "timelessness" of the rocket man's flight, meant to give us a window into the effects on the psyche of isolation in the inky blackness of space? My guess is no, but what do I know? I'm not a filthy, pathetic astronaut.
And I think it's gonna be a long, long time / Till touchdown brings me round again to find / I'm not the man they think I am at home / Oh no no no, I'm a rocket man / Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone
What kind of man do they think he is at home? I mean, this song was written before the profession of astronaut reached sub-janitorial levels of respect, and once-proud men like Buzz Aldrin had to resort to vicious physical attacks to protect their dignity, so there's no reason he would've had to lie about his job.
Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids / In fact, it's cold as hell / And there's no one there to raise them if you did
I was kind of on the fence as to whether these lyrics were really that bad until I got to this little chestnut. "Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids"? Why not? Substandard school systems? High crime rates? Exorbitant bus fees? Afraid your kids would have trouble making friends with the little Martian children? Oh, no, I'm sorry, it's because it's "cold as hell" (this is true) and because "there's no one there to raise them if you did" (also technically true, I guess, but what?). Also, there's the small matter of the atmosphere being 95 percent carbon dioxide. But I guess "they would rapidly asphyxiate if you did" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
And all this science I don't understand / It's just my job five days a week / A rocket man, a rocket man
This line kind of makes me laugh because it sounds like something the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer would say. Also, again, I am no astronaut, but I have to think the people manning space missions have at least some basic understanding of how their craft works, and know a little bit about astronomy. Otherwise, something like this might happen:
Mission Control: Space Shuttle Eltonia, one of your oxygen tanks is failing. You're going to have to shut down your command module and use the lunar module as a lifeboat.
Rocket Man: What is this, science? I don't understand science! I'm just a rocket man! It's just my job five days a week. My real passion is rock gardens. Man, I tell you, when you get that feng shui just right it's really --
Space Shuttle: (explodes)