Saturday, July 20, 2019

50 years ago: David Bowie’s Career Takes Off – Thanks to Men Landing on the Moon

Space Oddity

David Bowie

Writer(s): David Bowie (see lyrics here)

Released: July 11, 1969

First Charted: August 16, 1969

Peak: 15 US, 17 CB, 11 GR, 10 HR, 1 CL, 1 CO, 12 UK, 16 CN, 9 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.77 UK, 1.02 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 121.03 video, 284.35 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

July 20, 1969 marked one of the greatest achievements of mankind when American astronauts walked on the moon. The event was televised throughout the world, with an estimated 600 million people watching. In the U.K., the BBC’s coverage included a song called “Space Oddity” by a then fairly-unknown David Bowie. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, he crafted a “haunting ballad about alienation” TC in which Major Tom is a “disillusioned astronaut cutting off all contact with the planet Earth.” DT

The song was Bowie’s first single with Mercury Records following his split from Deram Records. He’d been releasing music for five years with the King Bees, the Manish Boys, as Davy Jones with the Lower Third, and under the name David Bowie. However, he’d failed to achieve any chart success until “Space Oddity” reached #5 in 1969. A reissue in 1975 went all the way to #1.

An early version appeared in Bowie’s Love You Till Tuesday promotional film. The song alluded to the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey and lampooned the British space program. He recorded a new version in anticipation of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The song was produced by Gus Dudgeon (who later worked with Elton John on the similar-themed “Rocket Man”) HL after Tony Visconti said no. Visconti went on to work with Bowie on numerous albums, but thought “Space Oddity” was too gimmicky. TB It ended up celebrated as “one of Bowie’s finest narrative songs.” TB

In the U.S., Bowie hit the Billboard Hot 100 with “Changes,” “Starman,” and “The Jean Genie” before “Space Oddity” hit #15 after a 1973 reissue. The 1968 album, Man of Words, Man of Music, from which the song originated, was rechristened Space Oddity and charted in 1972 after Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars had introduced American audiences to Bowie.


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First posted 7/20/2011; last updated 4/13/2023.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I'd never seen the original video before. It's clearly inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. And Bowie looks so . . . nerdy. :D

    Great find, Dave.