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Charting Out the Third Stone

With today marking the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2, I was reminded of the vaguely controversial decision at the time to include a detailed stellar map of exactly where our planet is located.

How to find the third stone...

Of course, the hope was that friendly aliens might listen to the gold albums of earthly music also stowed aboard Voyager 2 and its sister craft Voyager 1, decide we sounded like a pretty cool civilization, and fly on over for an in-person greeting. Other people, however, feared that this map would lead directly to an alien invasion, brought upon ourselves thanks to our friendly outreach.

Jimi's map was sound.

Jimi Hendrix had already addressed the matter on his debut album, Are You Experienced, via the song "3rd Stone From the Sun." And walking in Jimi's footsteps – as almost all guitarists do – I once had the opportunity to interpret this amazing song.

Third Stone Invasion promo photo, J-Bird Records.

In 1998, my metal band, Third Stone Invasion, were label mates with The Who's John Entwistle and Billy Squier on J-Bird Records, a label that had a brilliant vision to market via the Internet - about two years too early. As a result, our concept album about the alien intervention on Earth sold terribly but got great reviews. I guess if you get favorably compared to Sabbath and Led Zep it's at least an artistic success.

The CD ended with one of my proudest musical moments, this cover of Jimi's "3rd Stone From the Sun." Jimi's song depicts an alien visiting Earth and deciding to do away with annoyances like "surf music" - though the visitor does find a "cackling hen" to be interesting (this set-up takes up roughly the first 1:20, at which point the serious sounds kick in).

Guitarist Rick Farnkopf prepares to answer the mixing call: All hands on the desk!

We mixed this on-the-fly in the old-fashioned, pre-mixing-automation manner - engineer Rick Statkus, my co-guitarist Rick Farnkopf, and yours truly all reaching around each other to ride the faders on 24 tracks at once. It was a complex mix and putting it together was a lot of fun - but exhausting! I've been asked what makes the alien ship landing and takeoff sounds at the track's inception? Pulsing away under effects maestro Mitchell Mercurio's recitation of Jimi's words is simply a chain of guitar effects (including a Roger Mayer Voodoo-Vibe) with no instrument input, being run through a fully-flat-out 5150 amplifier half-stack. Even with no guitar in that effect chain, it was about loud enough to kill ya... It's heard again at the end under the words of Ronald Reagan briefly mentioning aliens, and then it's up from the skies, so to speak. Enjoy!

Click below to listen:

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