David Bowie (1969 album)

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David Bowie
DavidBowiePhilips.jpg
1969 Philips LP (UK)
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 14 November 1969[1]
Recorded June–September 1969
Studio Trident Studios, London
Genre Folk rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock
Length 45:13
Label Philips (UK)
Mercury (US)
Producer Tony Visconti
Gus Dudgeon on "Space Oddity"
David Bowie chronology
David Bowie
(1967)
David Bowie
(1969)
The Man Who Sold the World
(1970)
Singles from David Bowie
  1. "Space Oddity"
    Released: 11 July 1969
  2. "Memory of a Free Festival"
    Released: 12 June 1970
Alternative cover
1972 RCA LP
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[2]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[3]
Pitchfork Media (6.7/10)[4]

David Bowie is the second studio album by English musician David Bowie, released under that title by Philips in the UK, and as Man of Words/Man of Music by Mercury in the US, in November 1969. It was reissued in 1972 by RCA Records as Space Oddity (the title of the opening track, which had reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart). Space Oddity was the name used for CD releases of the album in 1984, 1990 and 1999, but it reverted to the original, eponymous title for the 2009 and 2015 reissues.

Regarding its mix of folk, balladry and prog rock, NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray have said, "Some of it belonged in '67 and some of it in '72, but in 1969 it all seemed vastly incongruous. Basically, David Bowie can be viewed in retrospect as all that Bowie had been and a little of what he would become, all jumbled up and fighting for control..."[5]

The album came about after Bowie had made the transition from a cabaret/avant-garde-inspired musician to a hippie/folk-based sound and as such the album is a major turning point from his 1967 debut.

"Don't Sit Down", an unlisted 40-second jam heard after the album's second song, was listed as an independent track on CD releases of the album in the 1990s, but the 2009 and 2015 reissues returned the song to its original status as a hidden piece.

Composition[edit]

Released as a single in July 1969, "Space Oddity" was a largely acoustic number augmented by the eerie tones of the composer's Stylophone, a pocket electronic organ. The title and subject matter were inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and introduced the character of Major Tom. The song dates back as early as February 1969. It was written for a promotional video named "Love You till Tuesday". The video's intent was to sell Bowie to a new label as he had been dropped from Deram Records in April 1968. He was urged by his manager Kenneth Pitt to record some new material and so Space Oddity was born. Some commentators have also seen the song as a metaphor for heroin use, citing the opening countdown as analogous to the drug's passage down the needle prior to the euphoric 'hit', and noting Bowie's admission of a "silly flirtation with smack" in 1968.[6] His 1980 hit "Ashes to Ashes" declared "We know Major Tom's a junkie".

"Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed" reflected a strong Bob Dylan influence,[7] with its harmonica, edgy guitar sound and snarling vocal. "Letter to Hermione" was a farewell ballad to Bowie's former girlfriend, Hermione Farthingale, who was also the subject of "An Occasional Dream",[5] a gentle folk tune reminiscent of the singer's 1967 debut album. "God Knows I'm Good", Bowie's observational tale of a shoplifter's plight, also recalled his earlier style.[5]

"Cygnet Committee" has been called Bowie's "first true masterpiece".[8] Commonly regarded as the album track most indicative of the composer's future direction, its lead character is a messianic figure "who breaks down barriers for his younger followers, but finds that he has only provided them with the means to reject and destroy him".[5] Bowie himself described it at the time as a put down of hippies who seemed ready to follow any charismatic leader.[8] Another track cited as foreshadowing themes to which Bowie would return in the 1970s, in this case the fracturing of personality, was "Janine", which featured the words "But if you took an axe to me, you'd kill another man not me at all".[9]

The Buddhism-influenced "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" was presented in a heavily expanded form compared to the original guitar-and-cello version on the B-side of the "Space Oddity" single; the album cut featured a 50-piece orchestra. (It is also said to be Mick Ronson's debut on a Bowie record, playing uncredited guitar and handclaps midway through the song.[9]) "Memory of a Free Festival" was Bowie's reminiscence of an arts festival he had organised in August 1969. Its drawn-out fade/chorus ("The Sun Machine is coming down / And we're gonna have a party") was compared to The Beatles' "Hey Jude";[10] the song has also been interpreted as a derisive comment on the counterculture it was ostensibly celebrating.[11] The background vocals for the crowd finale featured Bob Harris, his wife Sue, Tony Woollcott and Marc Bolan among other people.[12] In 1970 Bowie cut the tune in half for the A- and B-sides of a more rock-oriented version featuring the band that would accompany him on The Man Who Sold the World later that year: Mick Ronson, Tony Visconti and Mick Woodmansey – an embryonic form of Ziggy Stardust's Spiders From Mars.

Production and release[edit]

Held to be "the first Bowie album proper",[9] and his first deemed worthy by record companies of regular reissue, David Bowie featured a notable list of collaborators, including session players Herbie Flowers, Tim Renwick, Terry Cox, and Rick Wakeman, as well as cellist Paul Buckmaster, multi-instrumentalist and producer Tony Visconti, and bassist John Lodge (not to be confused with The Moody Blues' bassist of the same name). Before recording for the album commenced at Trident Studios, the song "Space Oddity" had been selected as the lead single based on an earlier demo.[6] Visconti saw it as a "novelty record" and passed the production responsibility for the song on to Gus Dudgeon.[9] However, Visconti produced all the remaining songs on the album. Tim Renwick, John 'Honk' Lodge, Mick Wayne and John Cambridge – all from the band 'Junior's Eyes' – featured on the album sessions and briefly served as Bowie's backing band for live appearances and on an October 1969 BBC Radio session.[13][14][15]

Although the opening song had given Bowie a No. 5 hit in the UK earlier in the year, the remainder of the material bore little resemblance to it and the album was a commercial failure on its initial release, despite some decent reviews.[10] The New York Times, in a review published over a year after the album's release, praised the album, calling it, "a complete, coherent and brilliant vision".[16] On the other hand, Village Voice critic Robert Christgau considered this album, like his debut, to be "overwrought excursions".[17] However the November 1972 reissue, released in the wake of Bowie's breakthrough The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and featuring a contemporary Ziggy photo on the cover, made No. 17 in the UK charts and No. 16 in the United States.

Cover art[edit]

The original UK David Bowie LP cover artwork showed a facial portrait of Bowie exposed on top of a work by artist Victor Vasarely with blue and violet spots on a green background.[18] A similar portrait was used on the US Mercury LP Man of Words/Man of Music, but on a plain blue background. When the album was re-released as Space Oddity in 1972 by RCA, a more recent portrait from the Ziggy Stardust period was displayed on the front cover.[19] This new cover was replicated in early CD releases of the album. For the 1999 CD reissue, the original UK portrait was restored, although the Space Oddity title was added to the cover. The 2009 and 2015 editions of the album used the original UK cover, reverting to the original green tint and David Bowie title.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by David Bowie

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Space Oddity"   5:16
2. "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed"   6:12
3. "Don't Sit Down" (Hidden track appended to "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed". On the 1972 Space Oddity reissue, this track was removed completely.) 0:42
4. "Letter to Hermione"   2:36
5. "Cygnet Committee"   9:35
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Janine"   3:25
7. "An Occasional Dream"   3:01
8. "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud"   4:52
9. "God Knows I'm Good"   3:21
10. "Memory of a Free Festival"   7:09

Release history[edit]

Region Date Title Label Format Catalog
UK 14 November 1969[1] David Bowie Philips Stereo LP SBL 7912
USA 1969 Man of Words/Man of Music Mercury Stereo LP SR 61246
USA 1972 Space Oddity RCA Stereo LP LSP 4813
USA 1972 Space Oddity RCA Stereo 7 inch open reel tape EPPA 4813-C

7" open reel tape releases[edit]

There was only one release of Space Oddity on open reel, in 1972 duplicated by Magtec, North Hollywood, CA 91605. Catalog number EPPA 4813-C. This is a high speed 7.5 ips 4-track stereo release. RCA is the only known company Bowie has been assigned to that released his albums in this format, and only in the US, though imports into other regions may have occurred.

CD releases[edit]

Space Oddity was first released on CD by RCA in 1984. In keeping with the 1972 RCA LP release, "Don't Sit Down" remained missing. The German (for the European market) and Japanese (for the US market) masters were sourced from different tapes and are not identical for each region.

In 1990, the album was reissued by Rykodisc/EMI with "Don't Sit Down" included as an independent song and three bonus tracks: "Conversation Piece", a March 1970 B-side recorded during the 1969 Space Oddity sessions and originally intended for the album, and a two-part remake of "Memory of a Free Festival", recorded in the spring of 1970 and released as a single that June.

1990 bonus tracks[edit]

  1. "Conversation Piece" (Single B-side of "The Prettiest Star"), 1970 – 3:05
  2. "Memory of a Free Festival Part 1" (Single version A-side), 1970 – 3:59
  3. "Memory of a Free Festival Part 2" (1970 single version B-side), 1970 – 3:31

1999 remaster[edit]

The album was reissued again in 1999 by EMI/Virgin, without bonus tracks but with 24-bit digitally remastered sound and again including a separately listed "Don't Sit Down". The Japanese mini LP replicates the cover of the original Philips LP.

2009 special edition[edit]

In 2009, the album was released as a 2CD special edition by EMI/Virgin as David Bowie with the original cover art, with the first disc containing nine tracks and the second disc a collection of unreleased demos, stereo versions and previously released B-sides and BBC session tracks. "Don't Sit Down" reverted to its status as a hidden track.

2009 bonus disc[edit]

All songs written by David Bowie, unless otherwise indicated.

  1. "Space Oddity" (Demo version) – 5:10 different from the demo released on Sound + Vision, 2003
  2. "An Occasional Dream" (Demo version) – 2:49
  3. "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" (B-side of "Space Oddity", 1969) – 4:56 previously released on Sound + Vision, 2003
  4. Brian Matthew interviews David / "Let Me Sleep Beside You" (BBC Radio session D.L.T. (Dave Lee Travis Show), 1969) – 4:45 previously released on Bowie at the Beeb, 2000
  5. "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed" (BBC Radio session D.L.T. Show, 1969) – 3:54
  6. "Janine" (BBC Radio session D.L.T. Show, 1969) – 3:02 previously released on Bowie at the Beeb, 2000
  7. "London Bye Ta–Ta" (Stereo version) – 3:12 previously released on Sound + Vision, 2003
  8. "The Prettiest Star" (Stereo version) – 3:12 previously released on The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974, 1997
  9. "Conversation Piece" (Stereo version) – 3:06
  10. "Memory of a Free Festival (Part 1)" (Single A-side) – 4:01 previously released on EMI/Rykodisc reissue of Space Oddity, 1990
  11. "Memory of a Free Festival (Part 2)" (Single B-side) – 3:30 previously released on EMI/Rykodisc reissue of Space Oddity, 1990
  12. "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" (Alternate album mix) – 4:45
  13. "Memory of a Free Festival" (Alternate album mix) – 9:22
  14. "London Bye Ta–Ta" (Alternate stereo mix) – 2:34
  15. "Ragazzo solo, ragazza sola" (Bowie (music), Mogol (lyrics)) (Full-length stereo version) – 5:14

2015 remaster[edit]

In 2015, the album was remastered for the Five Years (1969–1973) box set.[20] It was released in CD, vinyl, and digital formats, both as part of this compilation and separately.[21]

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Album

Year Chart Position
1972 UK Albums chart 17
1972 Australian Kent Report Albums Chart 21
Finland Album Charts 27
1973 Canadian RPM 100 Albums Chart 13[22]
1973 US Billboard Pop Albums 16

Single

Year Single Chart Position
1969 "Space Oddity" UK Singles Chart 5
1969 "Space Oddity" US Billboard Pop Singles 124
1973 "Space Oddity" US Billboard Pop Singles 15
1973 "Space Oddity" Canadian RPM 100 Top Singles Chart 16[23]
1975 "Space Oddity" UK Singles Chart 1

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now - David Bowie: The London Years: 1947-1974: pp. 167, 168
  2. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Space Oddity". AllMusic. 
  3. ^ "David Bowie", rollingstone.com (archived version retrieved 27 October 2014).
  4. ^ "David Bowie". Pitchfork. 
  5. ^ a b c d Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: pp.28–29
  6. ^ a b Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: p.257
  7. ^ Nicholas Pegg (2000). Ibid: p.227
  8. ^ a b Nicholas Pegg (2000). Ibid: p.57
  9. ^ a b c d David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.36–79
  10. ^ a b Christopher Sandford (1996, 1997). Loving the Alien: p.60
  11. ^ Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: pp.141–2
  12. ^ Kevin Cann (2009). Space Oddity 2009 reissue liner notes.
  13. ^ Junior's Eyes discography at Discogs.com
  14. ^ David Bowie and Junior's Eyes BBC recording session at The Illustrated db Discography
  15. ^ Battersea Power Station (Junior's Eyes) Liner Notes, David Wells (2000)
  16. ^ "TimesMachine: Bowie, Bolan, Heron -- Superstars? - NYTimes.com". 
  17. ^ "Robert Christgau: CG: david bowie". 
  18. ^ Poulsen, Jan (2007) [2006]. David Bowie – Station til station (in Danish) (2nd ed.). Gyldendal. p. 47. ISBN 978-87-02-06313-4. Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  19. ^ Poulsen (2007), p. 91
  20. ^ FIVE YEARS 1969 – 1973 box set due September at davidbowie.com
  21. ^ David Bowie / ‘Five Years’ vinyl available separately next month at superdeluxeedition.com
  22. ^ "Results – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 27 July 2011. 
  23. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 27 July 2011. 

External links[edit]