"Space Oddity" is a song written and performed by David Bowie and released as a music single in 1969. It is about the launch of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut; its title alludes to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The lyrics have also been seen to lampoon the failed British space programme. The song appears on the album David Bowie (also known as Space Oddity). The BBC featured the song in its television coverage of the Apollo 11 launch and lunar landing, which took place in the days following the release of the song.
The song was awarded the 1969 Ivor Novello Award, together with Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?". "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 has since become known by this name.
Bowie would later revisit his Major Tom character in the songs "Ashes to Ashes" and "Hallo Spaceboy". German singer Peter Schilling's 1983 hit "Major Tom (Coming Home)" is written as a retelling of the song.
Recording and releaseEdit
Following 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 their UK subsidiary Philips in 1969.
An early version of the song had appeared in Bowie's 1969 promotional film Love You Till Tuesday.
Next he 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 gimmick track, and delegated its production to Gus Dudgeon. The session players on the song included Rick Wakeman (mellotron), Mick Wayne (guitar), Herbie Flowers (bass) and Terry Cox (drums). Following recording of a fresh version, the single was rush-released on 11 June 1969 to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was promoted via advertisements for the Stylophone, played by Bowie on the record. Although they initially refused to give the song airplay, the BBC played it during their coverage of the Apollo 11 launch and lunar landing. This exposure finally gave Bowie a hit, reaching #5 in the chart. In the U.S, it stalled at 124.
Mogol wrote Italian lyrics, and Bowie recorded a new vocal, 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 #15 on the Billboard Chart and became Bowie's first hit single in America; in neighbouring Canada, it reached #16. This was then used to support RCA's 1975 UK reissue, which gave Bowie his first #1 single in November.
On 20 July 2009, the single was reissued as a digital EP that features four previously-released versions of the song as well as stems allowing fans a chance to remix the song. It coincides 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.
"Space Oddity" was also featured in the psychological thriller videogame, "Alan Wake" as the credits song.
In the days following the song he filmed a music video which was to be used as a promotional video for his movie Love You till Tuesday. In December 1972, Mick Rock shot a music video of Bowie performing the song during the sessions for Aladdin Sane, which was used to promote the January 1973 U.S. reissue on RCA.
Credits apply to 1969 original release:
- David Bowie – vocals, acoustic guitar, stylophone
- Mick Wayne – lead guitar
- Herbie Flowers – bass guitar
- Terry Cox – drums
- Rick Wakeman – Mellotron, piano
- Gus Dudgeon – record producer