Thursday, 11 July 2019

Happy 50th Anniversary to Space Oddity

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of "Space Oddity", the breakthrough single for David Bowie.

Inspired by the Apollo space programme and the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (released a year earlier), "Space Oddity" was the first single released from Bowie's second album, David Bowie (rather confusingly, the same name as his first album; the second was later renamed Space Oddity to reduce confusion). David Robert Jones had started making music at school, where he played recorder and saxophone. He formed his first band, the Konrads, in 1962 when he was 15. He went through a succession of other bands - the King Bees, the Manish Boys, the Lower Third, the Buzz and the Riot Squad - before going solo. Adopting the stage name David Bowie after being confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees, he released his self-titled debut album in 1967 but it didn't do very well.

Bowie regrouped after meeting choreographer Lindsay Kemp, who instilled in him a keen appreciation for image and artistry. He also began a relationship with dancer Hermione Farthingale. This burst of inspiration resulted in his second album and the title song, which was recorded in February 1969. Released on 11 July, just five days ahead of Apollo 11's landing on the Moon, the song was an immediate hit and a breakthrough for Bowie, who was largely unknown at the time.

The song didn't make Bowie an overnight superstar, but it did raise his profile and his next two albums - The Man Who Sold the World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971) - did a lot better before Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) blew him through the stratosphere.

In 2016 the song took on a new resonance when Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded an acoustic version of the song on the International Space Station, making it the first music video to be actually, specifically filmed in space (as opposed to singles using footage from NASA missions, which had happened previously). In 2018 the song was played on the sound system of the Tesla Roadster fired into space as a publicity stunt by Elon Musk's SpaceX company.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Such a shame that David Bowie is no longer with us to celebrate this anniversary. However, his Youtube channel recently put up the original video from 1969, showing Bowie as Major Tom :
Also, Hadfield's video was from 2013, not 2016. A small detail, but an important one since it means Bowie himself was able to watch it and give it his stamp of approval.