|Single by David Bowie|
|from the album David Bowie (Space Oddity)|
|B-side||"Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud"|
|Released||11 July 1969|
|Recorded||20 June 1969|
|Studio||Trident Studios, London|
|Length||5:15 (album version)|
4:33 (UK single edit)
3:26 (US single edit)
|Label||Philips BF 1801 / 304 201 BF|
|David Bowie singles chronology|
"Space Oddity" is a song written and recorded by David Bowie. It was first released as a 7-inch single on 11 July 1969. It was also the opening track of his second studio album, David Bowie. It became one of Bowie's signature songs and one of four of his songs to be included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Inspired by Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the song is about the launch of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut, and was released during a period of great interest in space flight. The United States' Apollo 11 mission would launch five days later and would become the first manned moon landing another five days after that. The lyrics have also been seen to lampoon the British space programme, which was and still is an unmanned project. Bowie would later revisit his Major Tom character in the songs "Ashes to Ashes", "Hallo Spaceboy" and possibly the music video for "Blackstar".
"Space Oddity" was David Bowie's first single to chart in the UK. It reached the top five on its initial release and received the 1970 Ivor Novello Special Award for Originality. His second album, originally released as David Bowie in the UK, was renamed after the track for its 1972 re-release by RCA Records and became known by this name. In 1975, upon re-release as part of a maxi-single, the song became Bowie's first UK No. 1 single.
In 2013, the song gained renewed popularity after it was recorded 44 years after Bowie by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who performed the song while aboard the International Space Station, and therefore became the first music video shot in space. In January 2016, the song re-entered singles charts around the world following Bowie's death, which included becoming Bowie's first single to top the French Singles Chart. The song also ranked as third on iTunes on 12 January 2016.
Recording and release
Three primary studio versions of "Space Oddity" exist: an early version recorded in February 1969, the album version recorded that June (edited for release as a single), and a 1979 re-recording.
The early studio version of "Space Oddity" was recorded on 2 February 1969 for Bowie's promotional film Love You Till Tuesday. Bowie and his then musical partner John Hutchinson shared lead vocals and played acoustic guitars, with Bowie adding ocarina and a Stylophone. The lineup on the first studio version also included Colin Wood (Hammond organ and Mellotron), Dave Clague (bass), and Tat Meager (drums). This recording became commercially available in 1984, on a belated VHS release of the film and accompanying soundtrack album. It subsequently appeared on the compilation albums London Boy (full-length version, 4:31) and The Deram Anthology 1966–1968.
In June 1969, after Bowie's split from record label Deram, his manager, Kenneth Pitt, negotiated a one-album deal (with options for a further one or two albums) with Mercury Records and its UK subsidiary, Philips. Mercury executives had heard an audition tape that included a demo of "Space Oddity" recorded by Bowie and Hutchinson in spring 1969. Next Bowie tried to find a producer. George Martin turned the project down, while Tony Visconti liked the album demo-tracks, but considered the planned lead-off single, "Space Oddity", a 'cheap shot' at the impending Apollo 11 space mission. Visconti decided to delegate its production to Gus Dudgeon.
The album version of "Space Oddity" (5:15) was recorded at Trident Studios on 20 June 1969 (with overdubs a few days later) and used the in-house session player Rick Wakeman (Mellotron), who was later to achieve fame with the progressive rock band Yes, as well as Mick Wayne (guitar), Herbie Flowers (bass), and Terry Cox (drums). Bowie sang lead and harmony vocals and played acoustic guitar and the Stylophone. Differing edits of the album version were released as singles, in the UK (mono, 4:33), the US (mono and stereo, 3:26), and several other countries. The original UK mono single edit was included on Re:Call 1, part of the Five Years (1969–1973) box set, in 2015.
The song was promoted in advertisements for the Stylophone, played by Bowie on the record and heard in the background during the opening verse. The single was not played by the BBC until after the Apollo 11 crew had safely returned; after this slow start, the song reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart. In the US, it stalled at 124.
Besides its title, which alludes to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the introduction to the song is a barely audible instrumental build-up that is analogous to the deep bass tone in Also sprach Zarathustra that is prominently used in the film.
On 2 October 1969, Bowie performed the song for an episode of Top of the Pops. However, this was recorded separate from the main audience. The performance was shown on 9 October the following week, and repeated on 16 October. At present, the performance is 'missing' due to the BBC's late junking policy.
Upon its re-release as a single in 1973, "Space Oddity" reached No. 15 on the Billboard Chart and became Bowie's first hit single in the United States; in Canada, it reached No. 16. This was then used to support RCA's 1975 UK reissue, which gave Bowie his first No. 1 single in the UK Singles Chart in November that year. It spent two weeks at the top of that chart.
Bowie recorded a stripped-down, acoustic version of "Space Oddity" in late 1979, which was issued in February 1980 as the B-side of "Alabama Song". The 1979 recording was released, in a remixed form, in 1992 on the Rykodisc reissue of Bowie's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album, and it was rereleased on Re:Call 3, part of the A New Career in a New Town (1977–1982) compilation, in 2017.
On 20 July 2009, the single was reissued on a digital EP that features the original UK and US mono single edits, a subsequent US stereo single edit, and the 1979 rerecording, as well as stems that allow listeners to remix the song. This release coincided with the 40th anniversary of the song and the Apollo 11 moon landing. The 50th anniversary of the single will be marked in July 2019 by the release, on digital and vinyl singles, of a new remix of the song by Tony Visconti. The vinyl version will also include the original UK mono single edit.
There were also several demos recorded in early 1969, three of which have since had an official commercial release.
An early demo was recorded in approximately late January 1969. This demo differs greatly from the album version, with only an acoustic guitar and Stylophone present as instruments. The vocals in this demo were provided by Bowie and Hutchinson. Hutchinson sang the lead vocals of the "Ground Control section" up until "...This is Major Tom to Ground Control...", while Bowie sang the harmony vocals. When the aforementioned lyric begins, however, the source of the lead vocals switches to Bowie as he continues to provide them for the rest of the song. Hutchinson played the acoustic guitar, while Bowie played the Stylophone. The demo remained officially unreleased for more than 40 years until it appeared on the 2009 two-CD special edition of the album David Bowie.
Bowie and Hutchinson recorded another demo version in approximately mid-April 1969. That recording appeared, with edits, as the opening track on the 1989 box set Sound + Vision. (The compilation also saw the first appearance on CD of the original "Space Oddity" single's B-side, "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud".) It will be released in unedited form, on an album titled The ‘Mercury’ Demos, in June 2019.
The earliest known demo of the song was released for the first time in 2019, on Spying Through a Keyhole, a vinyl box set.
|Rock and Roll Hall of Fame||United States||"The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll"||2004||*|
|VH1||United States||"100 Greatest Rock Songs"||2000||60|
|NME||United Kingdom||"Greatest No1 Singles In History"||2012||26|
|Channel 4 and The Guardian||United Kingdom||"The Top 100 British Number 1 Singles"||1997||27|
(*) designates unordered lists.
This section does not cite any sources. (January 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- Bowie played the song for the BBC's Johnny Walker Lunchtime Show on 22 May 1972. This was broadcast in early June 1972 and eventually released on Bowie at the Beeb in 2000.
- A version recorded at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on 20 October 1972 was first released on Santa Monica '72, before becoming officially available in 2008 on Live Santa Monica '72.
- A live performance recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, on 3 July 1973 was released on Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture in 1983.
- A July 1974 live performance was released on the 2005 reissue of David Live. A September 1974 live performance (previously available on the unofficial album A Portrait in Flesh) was released in 2017 on Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles '74).
- A concert performance recorded on 12 September 1983 was included on the live album Serious Moonlight (Live '83), which was part of the 2018 box set Loving the Alien (1983-1988) and was released separately the following year. The filmed performance appears on the concert video Serious Moonlight (1984).
On 6 February 1969, a video for the original February version of the song was filmed and later appeared in appeared in the film Love You till Tuesday.
In December 1972, Mick Rock shot a video of Bowie miming to the June 1969 recording of the song, during the sessions for Aladdin Sane. The resulting music video was used to promote the 1973 US reissue of the "Space Oddity" single on RCA.
A promotional video of the 1979 version debuted in the UK on Kenny Everett's New Year's Eve Show on 31 December 1979. A music video made the following year for "Ashes to Ashes" used many of the same sets, solidifying the connection between the two songs. (Both videos were directed by Bowie and David Mallet.)
All songs written by David Bowie.
Credits apply to the 1969 original release:
- David Bowie – vocals, acoustic guitar, Stylophone
- Mick Wayne – lead guitar
- Herbie Flowers – bass guitar
- Terry Cox – drums
- Paul Buckmaster – string arrangement
- Tony Visconti – flutes, woodwinds
- Rick Wakeman – Mellotron
- Gus Dudgeon – record production
Charts and certifications
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||27|
|Canada (Canadian Hot 100)||16|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||20|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||40|
|Hungary (Single Top 40)||23|
|Japan (Japan Hot 100)||99|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||4|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||39|
|Portugal (Hung Medien)||30|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||15|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||1|
|US Billboard Hot 100||15|
|US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)||4|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
Cover versions and samples
This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- In 2002, K.I.A. released "Mrs. Major Tom" on the album "Adieu, Shinjuku Zulu", which tells the Major Tom story from the wife's point of view. Sheryl Crow covered this song in 2011.
- In May 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, commander of Expedition 35 to the International Space Station, recorded a video of the song on the space station which went viral and generated a great deal of media exposure. The lyrics were somewhat altered; instead of losing communication with ground control and presumably being lost in space as a result, Major Tom successfully receives his orders to land and does so safely, reflecting Hadfield's imminent return from his final mission on the Station. Hadfield announced the video on his Twitter account, writing, "With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here's Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World." Bowie was also thanked in the ending credits. This was the first music video ever shot in space. Bowie responded to the video, tweeting back to Hadfield, "Hallo Spaceboy..." and would later call the cover "possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created". The performance was the subject of a piece by Glenn Fleishman in The Economist on 22 May 2013 analyzing the legal implications of publicly performing a copyrighted work of music while in earth orbit. The song is the only one of Bowie's for which Bowie did not own the copyright. Bowie's publisher granted Hadfield a license to the song for only one year. Due to the expiry of the one year licence, the official video was taken offline on 13 May 2014, despite Bowie's explicit wishes that the publisher grant Hadfield a license at no charge to record the song and produce the video. Following a period of negotiations, the video was restored to YouTube on 2 November 2014 with a two-year licence agreement in place.
- Tangerine Dream included their version of "Space Oddity" on their 2010 Under Cover – Chapter One album.
- In 2011, William Shatner published an album entitled "Seeking Major Tom", with "Space Oddity" and a few other songs with the Major Tom character.
- The song was recorded by hard rock band Saigon Kick on their 1993 LP Water.
- The song was recorded by alternative metal band Cold on their 1998 EP Oddity.
- Power metal band Helloween included their version of "Space Oddity" on their 1999 Metal Jukebox album.
- Def Leppard included the song on the Wal-Mart bonus disc to their covers album, Yeah!.
"Space Oddity" has appeared in several episodes of TV shows, including Friends and Mad Men, and in an episode of Supernatural, Clap Your Hands If You Believe (6x9). It has also featured in movies, such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Wonderstruck, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and the trailer for the video game Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The song was also used by U2 as an intro during their U2 360° Tour.
The song was featured in Star Trek: Discovery episode "An Obol for Charon".
On 6 February 2018, the maiden flight of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carried Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster and a mannequin affectionately named Starman into space. "Space Oddity" was to be one of the tunes playing on the car's sound system during the flight.
"'Space Oddity' by David Bowie" is the name of the first chapter in the 2015 novel "Dying in June," by Amy Magness. There are several more references to the song throughout the novel.
In the comedy radio series Bleak Expectations, the main character Phillip "Pip" Bin, his best friend Harry Biscuit and their nemesis Mr. Gently Benevolent are trapped in a space rocket which later plummets back to Earth. A number of lines from the song are quoted, including during the aftermath of the crash when a dying Biscuit asks his friend to "Tell my wife I love her very much", Pip replying "She knows."
- "Ashes to Ashes" (David Bowie song)
- "Hallo Spaceboy"
- "Blackstar" (song)
- "Major Tom (Coming Home)"
- "Rocket Man" (song)
- David Bowie - Space Oddity, retrieved 23 July 2018
- David Bowie - Space Oddity, retrieved 23 July 2018
- Beaumont, Mark (12 January 2016). "Life Before Ziggy – Remembering David Bowie's Early Years". NME. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- "Experience The Music: One Hit Wonders and The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
- "David Bowie: 30 Essential Songs". Rolling Stone. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
- Bahrampour, Tara. "David Bowie dies at 69; mesmerizing performer and restless innovator". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.49–50
- "The 15th Ivor Novello Awards". The Ivors. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
- Promoted as RCA Maximillion Series, 3 Tracks For The Price of 2 (RCA 2593). The tracks were "Space Oddity", "Changes" and "Velvet Goldmine" (RCA 2593).
- Steffen Hung. "David Bowie – Space Oddity". lescharts.com. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- Cann, Kevin (2010). Any day now : David Bowie : the London years, 1947-1974. London: Adelita. pp. 145, 147. ISBN 9780955201776. OCLC 489633829.
- Chris O'Leary (2015). Rebel Rebel: pp. 98, 104
- Chris O'Leary (2015). Rebel Rebel: pp. 98-99
- Peter & Leni Gillman (1986). Alias David Bowie: a biography: p. 172
- Life on Two Legs – Biography by Norman Sheffield
- Cann, Kevin (2010). Any day now : David Bowie : the London years, 1947-1974. London: Adelita. pp. 153–155. ISBN 9780955201776. OCLC 489633829.
- Chris O'Leary (2015). Rebel Rebel: p. 99
- "Bowie @ The Beeb". BBC World Service. BBC. 8 January 2001. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
- Cann, Kevin (2010). Any day now : David Bowie : the London years, 1947-1974. London: Adelita. p. 174. ISBN 9780955201776. OCLC 489633829.
- "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
- Roberts, David (2006). British hit singles & albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records. pp. 319–320. ISBN 1904994105. OCLC 64098209.
- Chris O'Leary (2015). Rebel Rebel: pp. 99, 107
- "A NEW CAREER IN A NEW TOWN (1977 – 1982) - David Bowie Latest News". DavidBowie.com. 22 July 2016. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- "Space Oddity 50th anniversary 2 x 7" vinyl box with TV remixes". David Bowie. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
- Chris O'Leary (2015). Rebel Rebel: p. 98
- "John 'Hutch' Hutchinson". www.johnhutchhutchinson.co.uk. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
- "500 Songs That Shaped Rock". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "100 Greatest Rock Songs". VH1. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- "Rocklist.net NME Greatest Singles Lists". Rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- "Rocklist.net...Channel 4/HMV best music of this millennium". www.rocklistmusic.co.uk.
- ""Space Oddity" December 1972". The ZIGGY STARDUST Companion. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- "David Bowie And Kenny Everett's Space Oddity". Mojo. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
- "Space Oddity 50th anniversary 2 x 7" vinyl box with TV remixes". David Bowie. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
- "Australian-charts.com – David Bowie – Space Oddity". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Austriancharts.at – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "David Bowie Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Ultratop.be – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Lescharts.com – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
- "Musicline.de – David Bowie Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Space Oddity". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Italiancharts.com – David Bowie – Space Oddity". Top Digital Download. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "David Bowie Chart History (Japan Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Charts.nz – David Bowie – Space Oddity". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
- "Portuguesecharts – David Bowie – Space Oddity". portuguesecharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- "Spanishcharts.com – David Bowie – Space Oddity" Canciones Top 50. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Swedishcharts.com – David Bowie – Space Oddity". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Swisscharts.com – David Bowie – Space Oddity". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "David Bowie: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "David Bowie Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "David Bowie Chart History (Hot Rock Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Italian single certifications – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 31 January 2015. Select "2015" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Space Oddity" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
- "British single certifications – David Bowie – Space Oddity". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 17 June 2016. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Space Oddity in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- Knapp, Alex (13 May 2013). "Astronaut Chris Hadfield Sings David Bowie As He Departs The International Space Station". Forbes. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- "Space Oddity". YouTube. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- Davis, Lauren (12 May 2013). "Chris Hadfield sings "Space Oddity" in the first music video in space". Gawker Media. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- "David Bowie Official on Twitter: "CHRIS HADFIELD SINGS SPACE ODDITY IN SPACE! "Hallo Spaceboy..." Commander Chris Hadfield, currently on..."". Twitter. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- "David Bowie – Timeline". Facebook. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- Andrew Griffin. "David Bowie: How Chris Hadfield's 'Space Oddity' cover from orbit was helped by the 'Starman'". The Independent. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- Fleishman, Glenn (22 May 2013). "How does copyright work in space?". The Economist. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- "Apology to David Bowie". Ottawa Citizen. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- "Bowie's last day – we had permission for a year, so our Space Oddity video comes down today. One last look:". Archived from the original on 13 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- "Space Oddity". chrishadfield.ca. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- "Space Oddity – Cold – Song Info – AllMusic". AllMusic.
- Jess Denham (12 January 2016). "Remembering all the times David Bowie featured in Friends". The Independent. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- Gay, Verne (5 May 2015). "'Mad Men' recap: Frank Capra, Jack Kerouac, David Bowie and... Don Draper". Newsday. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
- James Christopher Monger. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] – Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
- Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub (21 April 2013). "Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig Talk THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY". Collider. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- Burwell, Carter. "Carter Burwell – Wonderstruck". Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- "U2: Launching the Biggest Tour of All". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- Kossoff, Julian (20 July 2009). "Apollo 11 Moon landing: Moon music". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
- "SpaceX Successfully Launches the Falcon Heavy—And Elon Musk's Roadster". WIRED. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
- Magness, Amy (2015). Dying in June. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 1515040836.
- Was "Major Tom" the astronaut a real person? from The Straight Dope
- Video from Love you Till Tuesday featuring the pre-single version of the song
- Video from German music TV show MusicLaden recorded in 1969. Single version of the song
- The video of Astronaut Chris Hadfield's version of the song
- Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics