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The NMO 16


Doug Somers

 Genre: Bluegrass

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This song is dedicated to my good friend Doug Welch who co-wrote the lyrics way way back when we were in our teens. At the time we were into amateur astronomy and visited the North Mountain Observatory. It had a telescope with a 16" mirror, hence the name of the song. The telescope still exists although it has since been relocated to an area with less light pollution.
I asked two local accomplished musical friends (who can actually sing well, unlike me!) to perform the vocal tracks for this version and they very kindly agreed. Jef Leeson sings the lead and the wide panned backup vocals, and Pat Walsh sings the close harmony parts. I did the instrumentals with my guitar and some MIDI instruments and some drum loops (as well as singing bass at the end - buried in the mix!).

Here you can find out more about the artists:

The tune is The Wabash Cannonball, which apparently started life in the late 1800s as "The Great Rock Island Route". It's credited to J. A. Roff in the first sheet music version although it may pre-date that time. It's been recorded countless times since then and even though the lyrics and title evolved over time, no one else has sung lyrics with an ode to a telescope as far as I know! Nerd music - for sure. BTW, I don't consider this a cover as it was always conceived to be a humorous piece only related by melody to the original.

Get your dancing boots on and enjoy!

BTW, Doug Welch is also the subject of the song "Fossils in the Milky Way"
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Verse 1

From the Milky Way in Cygnus to the distant M13,
Past the Dumbbell and the Helix, which are lookin' mighty keen,
She's wide and round and silvered, she's used by old Ted Bean,
She's a richest field reflector, called the NMO 16.

Listen to the drive hum, the motors and the clutch,
Followin' the objects we like to see so much,
Hear the moanin' of the axes, see the mirror with its gleam,
showin' us the clusters, is the NMO 16.

Verse 2

When the Sun's behind the h'rizon, and the birds have gone to bed,
and the starts commence to risin’ o'er top of old Fred's shed,
Rolf sets the Aero-Ektar to take some colour scenes,
strapped beneath the belly of the NMO 16.


Verse 3

Then the [new] dawn starts a breakin', and Venus starts to rise,
and the baggy rings of Saturn are underneath our eyes,
we're the finest in the country, the great observing team,
but we wouldn't have got nowhere without the NMO 16.

Finish with refrain 2x
Song Stats
Hits: 1811
Comments: 22
Fans: 15
Plays: 49
Downloads: 21
Votes: 0
Uploaded: Aug 15, 2016 - 10:34:27 PM
Last Updated: Aug 15, 2016 - 10:34:27 PM Last Played: Dec 10, 2018 - 02:14:11 PM
Song License
Creative Commons License:

Creative Commons

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Mac Pro
LP X, EWQL Ra, Goliath; Requiem Light; Apple drum loops
DWL said 976 days ago (August 16th, 2016)
That was unexpected!
Great fun Doug. I really enjoyed that :-)


Check out my latest song called Fascist in my Soup
Doug Somers said 975 days ago (August 17th, 2016)
Thanks Dick! This kind of music to me often has an infectious joy to it. I think that Jef and Pat captured that in their vocals.

And as for being unexpected I can only say that one of the marvels of music is its variety and I'm thankful that there is no genre I don't like, although the ones I'll actually have a go at recording are less broad. Cheers!
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
Skean said 975 days ago (August 16th, 2016)
The NMO 16
Fun listening, thanks for sharing, cheers.
Check out my latest song called A terrible day
Doug Somers said 975 days ago (August 17th, 2016)
Thanks Kent!! Glad you liked this one.
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
Bowman said 975 days ago (August 16th, 2016)
My dancing boots
are a little beat up but I still got some foot stomping in.
Great production. Sounds terrific and what fun you all had with this.
Always good to hear something from you and thanks for the download Doug.
Check out my latest song called THE LOST JEDI
Doug Somers said 975 days ago (August 17th, 2016)
Dancing boots
This is at least the third recording I've made of this tune, all of which were decades after we penned the lyrics. The previous versions were me multi track singing with guitar and synth fiddle, banjo, drums and bass. I never liked the results though and so when I was collaborating with Jef and Pat on other projects the idea came up to ask them if they would be kind enough to lay down fresh vocals for a reworked version of this tune. Thankfully they agreed and Midi samples for bass, banjo, dobro etc have improved. Fiddle samples are still not so musical so those bits are loop sections I cut together. And here we are!!

Thanks as always for the kind words Charlie!

Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
jiguma said 975 days ago (August 16th, 2016)
And a heap of fun :)
Cheers from Oz (the Parkes telescope says HI!),
Check out my latest song called The Disappearing Man
Doug Somers said 975 days ago (August 17th, 2016)
Parkes, we salute you
Thanks Neil!! Was fun indeed. Appreciate your having a listen.
Cheers from the GWN,
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
Philip18 said 975 days ago (August 17th, 2016)
The NMO 16
A lot to like here. Banjo and fiddle set the tone. Sweet harmonies. Entertaining lyrics. The solos are lively. Everyone's having fun, including me!
Check out my latest song called Refuge
Doug Somers said 974 days ago (August 17th, 2016)
I knew that eventually someone with stringed instruments chops would make a comment
Actually I think you and everyone above fit into that category. Yes, I have to admit that the mandolin, banjo, and dobro tracks are not live performances- and when I got out my guitar I was rather shocked and dismayed at how my playing had deteriorated from lack of practice. Clearly too much time on the orchestration side of things. Anyway, all that aside I think I'm more arranger than performer and I'm happy with that as long as I can work with great artists on fun projects. And this one was fun. Thanks for the kind words Philip!
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
davajonah said 974 days ago (August 18th, 2016)
Great fun. I don't think I've ever heard a song about a telescope before. Brilliant. :-)
Check out my latest song called Lost and Found
Doug Somers said 965 days ago (August 26th, 2016)
Astronomical Bluegrass
I'm petitioning for a new genre. :) Glad you liked this one sir. Thanks for having a listen and leaving your thoughts.
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
Daugrin said 973 days ago (August 19th, 2016)
Fab Work!
A key modulation in the plan as well. Yer a public domain rider here as well so no worries on the cover controversy, you got parody anyway... great stuff.

Check out my latest song called Joe "The Creep" Kool
Doug Somers said 965 days ago (August 26th, 2016)
Thanks Daug!!
I remember hearing certain styles of country which were more than the traditional instruments on the radio at my grandmother's and so thought that the strings and chorus and modulation would be a way to make this a little more interesting. Thanks for the kind words - glad you liked it!!
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
grah3am said 970 days ago (August 21st, 2016)
I love the banjo and cool science, so this is bliss. The heavenly choir and the slide guitar are icing.
Check out my latest song called Gravity
Doug Somers said 965 days ago (August 26th, 2016)
Banjo + science = ?
Yes, I tried to throw in all the standard musical toys without taking away from the basic musicality. Previous versions (not posted anywhere) had more parody elements and I decided to take them out. Besides, I've come to really like Bluegrass over the years and so why not do it fairly straight? Even if it does have obscure references to nebulae and astro-photographic gear.

Thanks for having a listen and leaving your kind words!
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
PeterB7858 said 970 days ago (August 22nd, 2016)
The NMO 16
New genre alert! Big Bang Bluegrass by the Science Allstars :-) Great fun. You did well blending the midi tracks in. Fine arrangement, Doug. Thanks.
Check out my latest song called The Parting Of The Ways
Doug Somers said 965 days ago (August 26th, 2016)
Science Allstars
Ha! What's next I wonder? Harmony of the Spheres? - oh wait, that's taken... Thanks Peter. I appreciate your comments and making the time to have a listen.
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
mr_mordenus said 964 days ago (August 27th, 2016)
Banjos And Science...
...who knew they were such a fab fit? If I'd heard this gem on the radio, I'd have pulled off the road and... well, who's kidding who? I'd have been so amazed that I'd simply have driven off the road and taken out a barn full of chickens and not even noticed.

"Honest officer, I was listening to this bluegrass tune about a telescope, and I was so distracted - "

"Bluegrass? Telescope?" Cop looks skeptical. "Really?"

"Yeah, it made all these cool references to interstellar nubulae between the banjo solos and - "

(Sound of a taser)

"Banjoes and nubulae..." mutters the cop. "Jeez, I meet all kinds in this job..."

* * *

Seriously, huge thumbs up to you, Jef and Pat for just about the coolest piece of music I've heard in a while. Congratulations all around here!
Doug Somers said 963 days ago (August 28th, 2016)
Bluegrass? Telescope??
I love how you think in stories and vignettes! Maybe something to animate some day?

Many thanks Rik, not just for your kind words but for the introduction to Jef!

Now about getting you out of the slammer..... I have mailed you a cake - look for the file! Don't bite too hard either.
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
Warren Smith said 948 days ago (September 12th, 2016)
Ha ha ha ha hah.

You never know what you're going get when you tune into MacJams!
Check out my latest song called I'll Be On My Way
Doug Somers said 896 days ago (November 3rd, 2016)
MJ is like a box of chocolates - F. Gump
Nerd grass indeed. Thanks Warren.
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
Artist Info
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Name: Doug Somers
Location: Ottawa Ontario Canada
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I make music for pleasure, usually using a computer to create soundscapes around all kinds of music. I used to jam with a local celtic group, playing bodhran and 12 string guitar, but I find that my technical and live performance skills fall short o... [see more]

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Genre Info
Bluegrass music is considered a form of American roots music with its own roots in the English, Irish and Scottish traditional music of immigrants from the British Isles (particularly the Scots-Irish immigrants of Appalachia), as well as the music of

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