McCartney proves his music is out of this world with live space link-up

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The Independent Culture

Sir Paul McCartney turned his global appeal into universal success when he became the first musician to perform live for an audience in space.

His concert in Anaheim, California, was broadcast live to the International Space Station on Saturday.

Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev were treated to renditions of the Beatles classic "Good Day Sunshine" and "English Tea", a new song from McCartney's latest album. "I can't believe we are actually transmitting to space," the singer said to the crew as they orbited 220 miles above the Earth. "This is sensational, I love it."

Replying with a pair of zero-gravity flips, McArthur said: "We're so thrilled that you can participate in our flight. That was simply magnificent, we consider you an explorer just as we are."

McArthur, an American, and Tokarev, a Russian, sipped from a breakfast drink bag during the performance, prompting McCartney to joke: "What's that you've got there in your tea Valery, a little vodka?"

"It's a little early today," replied a smiling Tokarev.

"I think this audience just wants to give you thanks for everything you're doing and for joining us here tonight," McCartney said. "We wish you all the best for the rest of your mission. We can't wait to meet you when you get back down to Earth."

They are 44 days into a six-month mission and are the 12th team to crew the space station. McCartney decided to play live to the space station after hearing that one of his songs had been transmitted to astronauts the morning they returned to Earth.

On 9 August this year, the crew of Discovery were played "Good Day Sunshine" after receiving a good weather forecast for their second landing attempt. It was the first successful landing of a space shuttle since Columbia broke up returning to Earth in February 2003, killing all seven crew.

Traditionally Nasa gives its astronauts a wake-up call by playing recorded music for the start of their day. "Since people were first awakened on the Moon by mission control, wake-up songs have been a space tradition to brighten the crew's day and get them off to a great start," said Eileen Collins, who commanded the Discovery trip to the space station this summer.

The live link-up is a public relations coup for both Nasa and McCartney.

Recent dismissive comments by Yoko Ono, John Lennon's widow, that McCartney wrote songs with "June and spoon" rhymes had threatened to overshadow the launch of the singer's new album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.