Thursday, March 6, 2008

David Bowie - Space Oddity

(RCA, 1973)

RCA dragged “Space Oddity” out of the rubbish in 1973 and, ever savvy, wrapped it in an appropriately Ziggified sleeve (forget that foofy Barrett-loving folk-hippie of the song’s native ’69!) in order to squeeze more cash out of Bowie’s newfound mega-fanbase. It borders on novelty, but “Space Oddity” is one of the more emotionally accessible Bowie songs; where a lot of his material feels heartless and empty – are there many superstars who are less fun? – this one does a good job of connecting with the listener. The alienation of the lyric’s astronaut is handled deftly, and his passive acceptance of his fate at the song’s end is sad and slightly chilling, especially if, as “Ashes to Ashes” tells us a few years later, the whole thing’s actually about junkiedom. Musically, rich acoustic strumming and warm mellotron sell the package, sounding like a more pop-conscious spin on early King Crimson balladry. The label keeps things eerie by putting “The Man Who Sold the World” (from 1970) on the B-side, its mysterious lyrics suggestive of insanity or creeping panic – a skin-crawling classic. Bowie was always into image, but these two songs – especially when heard on this single, outside of the larger context of an era-spanning best-of – demonstrate how satisfying he could be before he allowed his play-acting to overwhelm and often suffocate his music.


ithinkihatemy45s said...

Say, 100th review!

Donald Brown said...

I got this 45 at the time -- didn't realize till later (after I bought the repackaged "debut" album, now dubbed "Space Oddity" and equally ziggified -- though I always liked that picture on the back) that it actually dated from '69.

Both songs are eerie, each in their own way, and, despite the fact that it was Ziggy that became his trademark, they are both definitive Bowie to me.

As to fun and the Thin White Duke, well... Boys Keep Swinging? Teenage Wildlife? Panic in Detroit? Golden Years? Young Americans? Andy Warhol? TVC15? Suffragette City??? Not your idea of fun?

As the (Main) Man sez: "take your glasses off and don't act so sincere."

Anonymous said...

Everytime this was re-released on 45rpm (which happened 4 or 5 times from '69-'80) it was in a different edit, take, or mix. Some have quicker, seque'd intros; some have quick fade-outs, some have the vox mixed higher, some have more acoustic guitar, in Italy it had the vox sung in Italian, one has a different ending tacked on. Some had exclusive b-sides.