|Single by David Bowie|
|from the album David Bowie|
|B-side||"Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" (1969 7")|
|Released||11 July 1969|
|Recorded||20 June 1969 at Trident Studios
|David Bowie singles chronology|
"Space Oddity" is a song written and performed by David Bowie and released as a music single in July 1969, it was also the opening track of the album David Bowie (also known as Space Oddity). The song is about the launch of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut. 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. The lyrics have also been seen to lampoon the British space programme.
The song was awarded the 1969 Ivor Novello Award, together with Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?". It was Bowie's first UK Top 5 hit. "Space Oddity" became so well known that Bowie's second album, originally released as David Bowie in the UK (like his first album), was renamed after the track for its 1972 reissue by RCA Records, and became known by this name. Upon rerelease in 1975, the song was Bowie's first UK No. 1 single.
Bowie would later revisit his Major Tom character in the songs "Ashes to Ashes", "Hallo Spaceboy" and "Blackstar". German singer Peter Schilling's 1983 hit "Major Tom (Coming Home)" is written as a retelling of the song. In 2013, the song gained renewed popularity after it was covered 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. This video was removed from YouTube on May 13, 2014: despite Bowie's explicit wishes that Hadfield be fully licensed to record the song and produce the video, the song is owned — and its copyright controlled — by Bowie's publisher, who granted Hadfield license to the song for only one year. As of 2 November 2014 the video has been reinstated, this time for a 2-year period.
Recording and release
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, in 1969. Mercury executives had heard an audition tape that included a demo of "Space Oddity," recorded by Bowie and his then musical partner John Hutchinson in spring 1969. (An even earlier version of the song was recorded on 2 February 1969 for Bowie's promotional film Love You Till Tuesday.)
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 track 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).
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 U.S, it stalled at 124.
Mogol wrote Italian lyrics, and Bowie recorded a new vocal in December 1969, releasing the single "Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola" ("Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl") in Italy, reportedly to take attention away from covers by the Italian bands Equipe 84 and The Computers.
Upon its re-release as a single in 1973, the song 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 in late 1979, which was issued in February 1980 as the B-side of "Alabama Song". The promotional video of this version debuted in the UK on Kenny Everett's New Year's Eve Show. The 1979 recording was rereleased in 1992 on the Rykodisc reissue of Bowie's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album.
The B-side of the original single, "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud", first appeared on CD on 1989's Sound + Vision. This compilation also included, as its opening track, the spring 1969 demo of "Space Oddity" featuring Bowie and Hutchinson. (An earlier Bowie/Hutchinson demo appears on the 2009 2-CD special edition of the album David Bowie.)
On 20 July 2009, the single was reissued on a digital EP that featured four previously released versions of the song and stems that allow listeners to remix the song. This release coincided with the 40th anniversary of the song and the Apollo 11 moon landing.
"Space Oddity" was featured as one of the on-disc songs in the videogame Rock Band 3 and as downloadable content in Rocksmith. "Space Oddity" is also the credits song in the psychological thriller video game Alan Wake.
A version of the song was recorded with vocals from actress Kristen Wiig for the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. There is a scene where Mitty, played by Ben Stiller, imagines Wiig's character is singing the song to him, inspiring him to take action. The song, with Bowie & Wiig's vocals, is also included on the official soundtrack.
- 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 live performance filmed on 12 September 1983 is included in the concert film Serious Moonlight (1983 film).
In the days after the song, Bowie filmed a music video to promote his movie Love You till Tuesday.
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, production
- Rick Wakeman – Mellotron
- Gus Dudgeon – record production
Charts and certifications
Cover versions and samples
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; the ending was replaced with Major Tom getting his orders to land and doing 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". The video has had over 24,000,000 views on YouTube. 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. Due to the expiry of the one year licence, the official video was taken offline on 13 May 2014. Following a period of negotiations, the video was restored to YouTube on 2 November 2014 with a two-year licence agreement in place.
The song is used in the Spanish sci-fi film Eva (2011) when the protagonist dances with his old flame who is now married to his brother. The various, rather different sections of the song are used to cue different phases of the scene: During the intro, he is making up his mind whether to stay or to go, then decides to leave the party because he knows it won't end well, with Bowie's voice sending him to the door with "May God's love be with you". But when the lyrics call at him with, "This is ground control to Major Tom!", he changes his mind, walks over, and shoves his brother to the side ("it's time to leave the capsule, if you dare") to ask her for a dance, during which they're "floating in a most peculiar way, and the stars look very different today". As the drumroll starts the coda, the protagonist's brother bitterly downs a glass of liquor, only to find his suspicion confirmed that there's more going on between the two dancers than would be good for his marriage as he looks at them during the song's psychedelic instrumental climax, and now it's time for him to leave the party instead of his brother, obviously wishing to "pass one-hundred thousand miles". When Bowie's voice returns after the climax, the woman, similarly confused as the protagonist as to what just happened to them, notices that her husband is gone, and they go looking for him outside, with the song fading out in the middle of the verse.
The song is also present in Ben Stiller's The Secret Life OF Walter Mitty, featuring actress Kristen Wiig and an older David Bowie.
- David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.49–50
- "Apology to David Bowie". Ottawa Citizen. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- "Space Oddity".
- Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now - David Bowie: The London Years: 1947-1974: pp.147, 145
- Life on Two Legs - Biography by Norman Sheffield
- Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now - David Bowie: The London Years: 1947-1974: pp.153-154, 155
- "Bowie @ The Beeb | Arts and Entertainment | BBC World Service". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 319–20. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- James Christopher Monger. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
- "Ultratop.be – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
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- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Space Oddity". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- "Swedishcharts.com – David Bowie – Space Oddity". Singles Top 60. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- "David Bowie: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- "David Bowie – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for David Bowie. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- "Italian single certifications – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 31 January 2015. Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter David Bowie in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
- 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. Retrieved 2014-03-27.[dead link]
- Davis, Lauren (12 May 2013). "Chris Hadfield sings "Space Oddity" in the first music video in space". Gawker Media. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- Fleishman, Glenn (22 May 2013). "How does copyright work in space?". The Economist. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- "Bowie's last day - we had permission for a year, so our Space Oddity video comes down today. One last look:". Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- "Space Oddity". chrishadfield.ca. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- 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
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
- Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie song)
- Hallo Spaceboy
- Blackstar (song)
- Major Tom (Coming Home)
- Rocket Man (song)
"I Only Have Eyes For You" by Art Garfunkel
|UK number-one single
8 November 1975 (two weeks)
"D.I.V.O.R.C.E." by Billy Connolly