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The track was first released on de Burgh's 10-track album,"Spanish Train and Other Stories", in 1975 on the A&M Records label. It was subsequently released as a single in 1976 without much chart success. Following the worldwide chart success of "The Lady in Red" (1986), a re-worked version of "A Spaceman Came Travelling" was released as a single for Christmas 1986. It has since become a firm favorite song at Christmas.

Talking about the origins of the song with BBC News in 2010, de Burgh said, "It was a very hot August day and I'd been reading the book, "Chariots of the Gods?" by Erich von Daniken. It made me think, what if the star of Bethlehem was a space craft and what if there is a benevolent being or entity in the universe keeping an eye on the world and our foolish things that we do to each other?".

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