Chance to say that most John Stewart fans believe he was inspired to write “Armstrong” on the day of the moon landing, July 20, 1969. But there is evidence in Capitol Records recording logs that the vocal and rhythm tracks were recorded three days earlier on July 17. This does not diminish the song in any respect. John would have been inspired by the worldwide anticipation. Once the landing occurred and was a success the string arrangement and Neil Armstrong’s mantra were added to the other tracks, the recording mixed and released a short time later. The record started climbing the charts but a number of listeners mistook John’s concern for conditions back on earth as a knock against American patriotism. John Stewart not a patriot?! If they only knew the man. John’s song was a celebration of the event that brought people, not only in the United States together for one magical moment, but everyone around the world. His was an unspoken hope that we could all eventually come together as one. Nonetheless, there was a negative response due to the misinterpretation of his lyrics and intent. Reportedly, some Southern radio stations had “Armstrong” record breaking parties. The recording dropped off the charts never to fulfill its promise. But that didn’t stop John from not only re-recording the song in 1973 but playing it extensively on concert tours and shows over the decades that followed. It also hasn’t stopped fans like me from cherishing it. I’ve posted the original 1969 version of “Armstrong” which was produced and arranged by Monkees’ producer Chip Douglas and recorded in Los Angeles. I’ve also posted the 1973 version produced by Fred Carter, Jr. and recorded in Nashville with a few tweaks to Douglas’ arrangement. Although the two versions of the recordings are very similar there are some differences. They are best shown by blending the two songs in a mashup which I have created as the third version on this music video. To keep John mostly in sync singing with himself on both recordings I’ve used the 1973 recording as a template and three sections of the 1969 recording. It’s not perfect but its an interesting comparison of the subtle differences for fans. Thank you to Douglas C. Brown for providing the 1969 recording.
PS – According to a report I came across, a copy of John’s recording of “Armstrong” was buried in a time capsule by NASA at one of its facilities, either the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida or the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. If anyone knows more information about this please advise and I will update this post.