David Bowie – Space Oddity

David Bowie – Space Oddity

‘Space Oddity’ is a song by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie. It was first released on 11 July 1969 as a 7-inch single, then as the opening track of his second studio album David Bowie. It is a tale about a fictional astronaut named Major Tom; its title and subject matter were partly inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Bowie's feelings of alienation at that point in his career. One of the most musically complex songs he had written up to that point, it represented a change from the music hall-influenced sound of his debut to a sound akin to psychedelic folk and inspired by the Bee Gees.

Rush-released as a single to capitalise on the Apollo 11 Moon landing, it received critical praise and was used by the BBC as background music during its coverage of the event. It initially sold poorly but soon reached number five in the UK, becoming Bowie's first and only chart hit for another three years. A 1972 reissue was Bowie's first US hit and was promoted with a new music video. Another 1975 reissue, as part of a maxi-single, became Bowie's first UK number-one single. Bowie re-recorded an acoustic version in 1979. A mainstay during Bowie's concerts, Bowie revisited the Major Tom character in his later singles, notably the sequel song "Ashes to Ashes" (1980).

By the end of 1968, after a very slow 1967, Bowie had begun to feel alienation from his career. Around this time, Bowie’s new manager Kenneth Pitt asked him to write something new; "a very special piece of material that would dramatically demonstrate David's remarkable inventiveness and would probably be the high spot of the production". With this in mind, Bowie wrote ‘Space Oddity’, a tale about a fictional astronaut named Major Tom, the first of Bowie's famous characters. Its title and subject matter were influenced by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which premiered in May 1968. Bowie said, "I went stoned out of my mind to see the movie and it really freaked me out, especially the trip passage".

‘Space Oddity’ tells the story of an astronaut named Major Tom, who is informed by Ground Control that a malfunction has occurred in his spacecraft but Major Tom does not get the message because he either misses it or is in such awe of outer space he does not hear it. He remains in space "sitting in a tin can, far above the world", preparing for his lonely death. In 1969, Bowie compared Major Tom's fate to the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, saying: "At the end of the song Major Tom is completely emotionless and expresses no view at all about where he's at. He's fragmenting ... at the end of the song his mind is completely blown – he's everything then."

David Bowie

Philips Records rush-released the single to capitalise on the Apollo 11 Moon mission, which was launched five days later. According to Bowie: "It was picked up by British television and used as the background music for the landing itself in Britain ... Though I'm sure they really weren't listening to the lyric at all; it wasn't a pleasant thing to juxtapose against a moon landing. Of course, I was overjoyed that they did." Upon realising the dark lyrics, the BBC ceased playing it until the Apollo 11 crew safely returned home.

In September 1969, the single debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number 48. Mercury's publicist Ron Oberman wrote a letter to American journalists describing ‘Space Oddity’ as "one of the greatest recordings I've ever heard. If this already controversial single gets the airplay, it's going to be a huge hit." Despite this, the single failed to sell in the US, peaking at 124, which Pitt attributed to Oberman's use of the word "controversial" in his statement, causing it to be banned by multiple US radio stations.

After the commercial breakthrough of Bowie's fifth studio album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, RCA Records undertook a reissue campaign for his Mercury albums that included repackaging David Bowie with the title Space Oddity. To promote this release, in the US on 13 December 1972, RCA rereleased "Space Oddity" as a single backed by "The Man Who Sold the World". The single reached number 15 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Bowie's first hit single in the country. In Canada, it reached number 16.

In a 2000 list compiling the 100 greatest rock songs, VH1 placed "Space Oddity" at number 60. In 2021, Rolling Stone ranked "Space Oddity" at number 189 in their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The magazine stated as Bowie's first hit, it "offer[ed] just a glimpse of the ever-evolving star he would become". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included "Space Oddity" in their list of "The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.

Mug Sale

Labels – Philips (1969 UK release), Mercury (1969 US release), RCA (1972 US reissue & 1975 UK reissue)
Songwriter – David Bowie
Producer – Gus Dudgeon


[Instrumental Intro 00:00-00:30]
[Verse 1]
Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
(Ten) Ground Control (Nine) to Major Tom (Eight, seven)
(Six) Commencing (Five) countdown, engines on
(Four, three, two)
Check ignition (One) and may God's love (Lift off) be with you
[Verse 2]
This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare
This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in my tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do
[Instrumental Break 02:36-03:03]
[Guitar Solo]
[Verse 3]
Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much she knows
Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you?
Here am I floating 'round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do
[Instrumental Outro]
[Guitar Solo]
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