David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 332: Planet P Project (Why Me?)

March 6, 2024

Planet P Project's 1983 release "Why Me?" was a minor blip on the record charts, peaking at #64. The album it came from changed its title from Planet P to Planet P Project, and the artist behind it, Tony Carey, could barely accept credit for it, given that he was under multiple record contracts. It seems a miracle that it got to #64.

Apparently the Planet P Project, if our Wikipedia friends are to be trusted, "was a pseudonym used by rock musician Tony Carey to distinguish his more progressive and experimental music from his pop-oriented rock releases."The way I read that sentence, it suggests that Planet P Project was the progressive/experimental offering, but the rest of his career, and I knew nothing about Tony Carey prior to writing this blog, sounds more experimental: instrumental albums; demo releases; soundtracks; solo albums. The dude got around. You really can't release albums of demos unless you know there is an audience willing to purchase them. Maybe Carey was more popular than I ever suspected, but if his biggest hit was "Why Me?" and he couldn't show his face or attach his name to it, how impactful was "Why Me?" to his life? Isn't the whole point of having a hit single is to be an overnight sensation?

In this context, "Why Me?" may be the most accurate song title ever.

First off, "Why Me?" is frankly a pretty funny song in its own right, especially within the stripe of space and astronaut-focused rock songs: "Space Oddity," "Rocket Man," "Mr. Spaceman." Instead of the "damn it's beautiful up here, but I am lonely" sentiment, "Why Me?" focuses on the "what have I done! Houston! I've changed my mind, command center, do you read?" panic of the astronaut, with the final lines being "take anyone but me," a much different sentiment than "And I think it's gonna be a long, long time." The song feels somewhat fitting for a time when the space race was now several decades old and the romance of Apollo and Sputnik were long gone (and within 3 years of "Why Me?" the Challenger disaster may slam the door on that romance).

Probably the funniest line in the song is the "must be some other way to look good in your eyes," as if a dude's bravado for a girl has taken him past his comfort level, only this time instead of eating 15 hot chili peppers, the idiot blasts off into space.

"Why Me?" also plays out over wonderfully incessant instrumentation, guitars slicing through the appropriate space-age spooky synthesizers and the steady drumming, with a guitar-led bridge that if you close your eyes sounds like David Gilmour and Pink Floyd. (Is it any coincidence that the second Planet P Project album was called Pink World? I think not.)

There are two versions of "Why Me?" that I have: the single version at around four minutes, and the expanded version which is over six minutes. For years, I liked the expanded version better, feeling that the expanded sections with no vocals added to the hopelessness of our astronaut; but as I have grown older, I am back to liking the punchier, more direct single version. Besides, that shorter version includes the creepy opening, percussion sounding as if someone is running a brush across a set of bones. I don't understand how that opening doesn't make the extended mix. Someone added a good 20 or 30 seconds to the opening before Carey's vocals set in, but took that part out?  

Everywhere I turn, "Why Me?" is making no sense. It is probably a mission that should have been aborted.

I go back to Tony Carey, though. Did the line "Houston, can you hear me/or have I lost my mind" speak to his self-awareness when he realized that out of all of the work he was generating, starting with Rainbow in 1976 and then extending through dozens of demos, solo albums, soundtracks, session playing for other bands, the one instance when popular radio will play one of his songs during the daylight hours, he can't even attach his name to it? "Why me?" for sure.

I found an interview with Carey while looking into his history. The guy did carve out some niche somewhere in rock and roll that eluded me. This notion of having multiple record contracts at the same time seems unprecedented, and he appears to be still releasing music into the present. Maybe he is bigger in Germany, his home country, perhaps Germany's other David Hasselhoff? Perhaps I am missing some common zeitgeist. After all, the Hoff did release HoffSpace later in his career. Talk about a "have I lost my mind" moment.

1"Planet P Project."  Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet_P_Project. Retrieved February 26, 2024.

Planet P Project. "Why Me." Planet P Project. Geffen, 1983. Single link here.

Day 331: Yes "Roundabout"

Day 333: Patti Smith Group "Pissing In A River"

See complete list here.