It's been a big year for UFO enthusiasts. The government has declassified a myriad of documents pertaining to possible extraterrestrial life as well as confirmed multiple Navy sightings. (Watch those eerie videos here, or peruse mysterious stories on The Black Vault.) Additionally, many senior intelligence officials have come forward to voice their own belief in aliens. What is it all building towards? We have no idea! But until those flying saucers come beaming down from the starry sky, enjoy these kooky country songs about outer space. It seems some country rockers have had their own close encounters...
Our Country-Alien Playlist
Rock and roll has the sci-fi genre covered: "Subterranean Homesick Alien" by Radiohead, "Space Oddity" and "Starman" by David Bowie, "Zero Zero UFO" by The Ramones, and "Aliens Exist" by Blink 182, to name just a few titles. But country music also has some songwriting gems on the topic.
'The Phantom Empire' starring Gene Autry
Though not technically a single song, the 1935 film The Phantom Empire defines the country-alien aesthetic. Serialized into 12 chapters, this old Western stars Gene Autry as a musical cowboy -- named Gene Autry -- who discovers an ancient civilization of underground dwellers beneath his very own ranch. In addition to entwining Western-style with science fiction for, arguably, the first time, the film is culturally historic: it marked Gene Autry's first starring role. Watch the full movie above.
"Planet Texas" by Kenny Rogers
The late, great Kenny Rogers had a surprise hit in 1989 with his unusual song, "Planet Texas." Penned by songwriter James Andrew Parks III, Rogers connected to the imaginative material and planned a high-production music video to match. (This premiered as part of the TV special Something Inside So Strong, which also featured Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton.) The intro is great: a group of curious kids interrogate Rogers, who plays the town weirdo so effortlessly. At the time, he explained "It's the most unique piece of music I've heard in 20 years. It may be a new genre. It has to do with space and time travel, but it's also a Western. These alien cowboys pick me up and take me to a planet called Texas."
"Trucker And The U.F.O." by Brush Arbor
Brush Arbor's 1973 song, written by Ken Munds, tells the story of a truck driver who comes across a little green alien from outer space... and proceeds to drag race him. A true country UFO sighing if I've ever heard of one! "Ain't no UFO gonna catch my diesel," Arbor sings. The lyrics are relayed like a local tall tale.
"The Flying Saucer and the Truck Driver" by Red Simpson
Another truck driver-alien song! We love to see it. In Red Simpson's playful tune from 1979, a trucker comes across a crash-landed spaceship and befriends the lost alien onboard. The Trucker then offers the alien a jump, as any kind stranger would. Fans of Alvin and the Chipmunks -- if there are any -- will enjoy these funny alien vocals.
"The Purple People Eater" by Sheb Wooley
Country performer Sheb Wooley was a professional cowboy and rodeo rider before recording a series of popular novelty songs during the 1950s. Among them, the classic "Purple People Eater." The highly narrative ditty tells the story of the aforementioned flying purple people eater who travels to Earth to join a rock band. Released around the rise of Elvis Presley, no doubt Wooley was satirizing the pop phenomenon. In addition to the massive success of "Purple People Eater," Wooley recorded country songs under the name Ben Colder and appeared as an actor in various Westerns including High Noon.
"Turtles All the Way Down" by Sturgill Simpson
A fairly new song compared to the rest of our intergalactic playlist, indie-country wonder Sturgill Simpson's "Turtles All the Way Down" is a modern medley on the great unknown. Complimented by trippy visuals, the lyrics dance through philosophy -- from Buddhism to psychedelic experiences -- as the singer mentally encounters Jesus, the Devil, and, yes, even reptile aliens. Not focusing too much on the extraterrestrial creatures, Simpson paints a rainbow scene that reinforces a stolid sense of mortality. The title, and closing stanza, references the Indian concept of Anavastha which essentially says there is no deeper basis for existence:
It's turtles all the way down the line
So to each their own 'til we go home
To other realms our souls must roam
To and through the myth that we all call space and time
"Third Rock From the Sun" by Joe Diffie
The rocking title track off Joe Diffie's 1994 breakthrough album Third Rock from the Sun tells of a typical day in a small town -- imbued with a somewhat alien point of view. By referring to Earth as the third rock from the sun, further characterized by sonic sci-fi effects, the lyric shenanigans feel oddly displaced: the cheating husband, his suspicious wife, and rascal teens begin to sound like foreign concepts. When a local waitress thinks she sees a UFO -- really, it's the effect of a nearby power outage -- the semi-supernatural moment comes full circle.
"Crop Circles" by Dean Brody
Considering crop circles are a farming phenomenon, it's surprising more country crooners don't tackle the mystifying subject. Rather than meditating on Martians, though, Dean Brody's clean lyrics ascribe a practical cause behind the legendary circles. Simply: "Crop circles in the moonlight mean us boys have been around / Show the girls a little good time spinnin' tires in the soft ground." However, this remains a secret from the increasingly paranoid Farmer Johnson who expects to beamed up and experimented on. Poor Farmer Johnson.
"I Saw Elvis in a UFO" By Ray Stevens
This one says more about Elvis conspiracies than it does about the existence of UFOs. Still, Country Music Hall of Famer Ray Stevens' comedic take features fun theatrical layers: 50's-era E.T. noises layered with the lasers of spaceship mechanics. Released as part of Ray's 1992 short film Amazing Rolling Revue, it's a spirited take on some of the 20th Century's biggest oddities including Jimmy Hoffa, Howard Hughes, and Liberace.
"Entirely Different Stars" by Lukas Nelson
In 2018, Willie Nelson's son Lukas Nelson performed an original song live which was inspired by Rick and Morty: the popular sci-fi, dimension-hopping adult cartoon. Listen to Nelson's appreciative musical response above, from his appearance at the Stagecoach Festival in Indio, California. "This is a song I wrote about alien life and my hopes of meeting them one day," Nelson explains during his introduction. Rick and Morty fans -- myself included -- will certainly get a kick out of it. Clearly, Lukas has inherited his father's sense of humor.
"U.F.O" by Jim Sullivan
Now here's a real other-worldly story. In 1975, the up-and-coming country singer Jim Sullivan left Los Angeles for Nashville to work on a new album. Just two days later, he disappeared. His VW Bug and personal belongings were found abandoned in Santa Rosa, New Mexico: a state with a well-documented history of UFO run-ins. Not to mention Sullivan's debut solo album, released in 1969 was called U.F.O. Listen to the title track above and feel the chills. Sullivan was fascinated by the concept of aliens... could the rising star have been abducted? Today, fans still wonder.
Now Watch: Jim Sullivan's Unexplained Fate and Unreal Music Commemorated on Reissue of 'If the Evening Were Dawn'