July 11: David Bowie released Space Oddity (single) in 1969 – 50 years ago today

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Ground Control to Major Tom (ten, nine, eight, seven, six)
Commencing countdown, engines on (five, four, three)
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (two, one, liftoff)

…Finally, he teamed up with Elton John producer Gus Dudgeon to create “Space Oddity,” a song he’d been fiddling with all year. The folk ballad about astronaut Major Tom getting stranded in space was rushed out by his label to coincide with the launch of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the BBC played the song during the coverage of the event. “In England, it was always presumed that it was written about the space landing, because it kind of came to prominence around the same time. But it actually wasn’t,” he told Performing Songwriter. “It was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing.
rollingstone.com

Single by David Bowie
from the album David Bowie
B-side “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud”
Released 11 July 1969
Format 7-inch single
Recorded
Genre
  • Psychedelic
  • folk rock
Length 5:15 (album version)
4:33 (UK single edit)
3:26 (U.S. single edit)
Label Philips
Songwriter(s) David Bowie
Producer(s) Gus Dudgeon

Space Oddity” is a song written and recorded by David Bowie. It was first released as a 7-inch single on 11 July 1969. It was also the opening track of his second studio album, David Bowie. It became one of Bowie’s signature songs and one of four of his songs to be included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
-wikipedia

Original Video (1969):

“Space Oddity” was originally written and recorded for a 30-minute promotional film highlighting Bowie as a songwriter, performer, and all-round artiste in 1968 — discussing its origins, Bowie has credited both Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and “a silly flirtation with smack,” and both influences have been discerned by watchful students. This original recording of the song remained unreleased until 1984 brought the Love You Till Tuesday soundtrack release.

“Space Oddity” remains one of the most popular songs in Bowie’s entire canon. All but ever-present in his live show throughout the 1970s and 1980s (a number of live versions are available on both disc and video), he re-recorded the song for a B-side in 1980 (the performance figures among the bonus tracks to Rykodisc’s reissue of the Scary Monsters album), before issuing a sequel, “Ashes to Ashes,” later in the year. Fittingly, it became his second U.K. number one. 

– Dave Thompson, Allmusic




Accolades

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame United States The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll 2004 *
NME United Kingdom “Greatest No1 Singles In History” 2012 26
Channel 4 and The Guardian United Kingdom “The Top 100 British Number 1 Singles” 1997 27

 

“In England, it was always presumed that it was written about the space landing, because it kind of came to prominence around the same time. But it actually wasn’t. It was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing. I was out of my gourd anyway, I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing. It was picked up by the British television, and used as the background music for the landing itself. I’m sure they really weren’t listening to the lyric at all (laughs). It wasn’t a pleasant thing to juxtapose against a moon landing. Of course, I was overjoyed that they did. Obviously, some BBC official said, ‘Oh, right then, that space song, Major Tom, blah blah blah, that’ll be great.’ ‘Um, but he gets stranded in space, sir.’ Nobody had the heart to tell the producer that.”
– David Bowie, 2003

Lyrics

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Ground Control to Major Tom (ten, nine, eight, seven, six)
Commencing countdown, engines on (five, four, three)
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (two, one, liftoff)
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 a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do
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”

Live versions

Live 1969:

Marquee Club in London, October 19-20, 1973:

Live at the Tokyo Dome, 16 May 1990:

-Egil

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.