David Bowie - Space Oddity


David Bowie - Space Oddity

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David Bowie - Space Oddity
DavidBowiePhilips.jpg
1969 Philips LP (UK) Original LP cover not for sale
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 14 November 1969
Recorded June–September 1969
Studio Trident Studios, London
Genre Folk rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock
Length 45:13
Label Philips (UK)      RCA (UK) re-press
Mercury (US)
Producer Tony Visconti
Gus Dudgeon on "Space Oddity"
David Bowie chronology
David Bowie
(1967)
David Bowie
(1969)
The Man Who Sold the World
(1970)
 
Singles from David Bowie
  1. "Space Oddity"
    Released: 11 July 1969
  2. "Memory of a Free Festival"
    Released: 12 June 1970
Alternative cover of 1972 re-press
 
1972 RCA LP
1972 RCA LP
 
 
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars
Pitchfork media 6.7/10
Popmatters 8/10 stars
Record collector 3/5 stars
Rolling Stone 2.5/5 stars
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars

 

  "David Bowie" is the second studio album by the English musician David Bowie, released under that title by Philips in the UK, and as "Man of Words/Man of Music" by Mercury in the US, on 14 November 1969. It was reissued in 1972 by RCA Records as "Space Oddity" (the title of the opening track, which had reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart).

Regarding its mix of folk, balladry and prog rock, NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaw Murray have said, "Some of it belonged in '67 and some of it in '72, but in 1969 it all seemed vastly incongruous. Basically, "David Bowie" can be viewed in retrospect as all that Bowie had been and a little of what he would become, all jumbled up and fighting for control..."

The album came about after Bowie had made the transition from a cabaret/avant-garde-inspired musician to a hippie/folk-based sound and as such the album is a major turning point from his 1967 debut.

 

Composition

Released as a single in July 1969, "Space Oddity" was a largely acoustic number augmented by the eerie tones of the composer's Stylophone, a pocket electronic organ. The title and subject matter were inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddesy and introduced the character of Major Tom. The song dates back as early as February 1969. It was written for a promotional video named "Love You till Tuesday". The video's intent was to sell Bowie to a new label as he had been dropped from Deram Records in April 1968. He was urged by his manager Kenneth Pitt to record some new material and so "Space Oddity" was born.

"Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed" reflected a strong Bob Dylan influence, with its harmonica, edgy guitar sound and snarling vocal. "Letter to Hermione" was a farewell ballad to Bowie's former girlfriend, Hermione Farthingale, who was also the subject of "An Occasional Dream", a gentle folk tune reminiscent of the singer's 1967 debut album. "God Knows I'm Good", Bowie's observational tale of a shoplifters's plight, also recalled his earlier style.

"Cygnet Committee" has been called Bowie's "first true masterpiece". Commonly regarded as the album track most indicative of the composer's future direction, its lead character is a messianic figure "who breaks down barriers for his younger followers, but finds that he has only provided them with the means to reject and destroy him". Bowie himself described it at the time as a put down of hippies who seemed ready to follow any charismatic leader. Another track cited as foreshadowing themes to which Bowie would return in the 1970s, in this case the fracturing of personality, was "Janine", which featured the words "But if you took an axe to me, you'd kill another man not me at all".

The Buddhism-influenced "Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud" was presented in a heavily expanded form compared to the original guitar-and-cello version on the B-side of the "Space Oddity" single; the album cut featured a 50-piece orchestra. "Memory of a Free Festival" was Bowie's reminiscence of an arts festival he had organised in August 1969. Its drawn-out fade/chorus ("The Sun Machine is coming down / And we're gonna have a party") was compared to The Beatles' "Hey Jude"; the song has also been interpreted as a derisive comment on the counterculture it was ostensibly celebrating. The background vocals for the crowd finale featured Bob Harris, his wife Sue, Tony Woollcott and Marc Bolan among other people. In 1970 Bowie cut the tune in half for the A- and B-sides of a more rock-oriented version featuring the band that would accompany him on "The Man Who Sold the World" later that year: Mick Ronson, Tony Visconti and Mick Woodnansey – an embryonic form of Ziggy Stardust's Spiders From Mars.

 

Production and release

Held to be "the first Bowie album proper", and his first deemed worthy by record companies of regular reissue, "David Bowie" featured a notable list of collaborators, including session players Herbie Flowers, Tim Renwick, Terry Cox, and Rick Wakeman, as well as cellist Paul Buckmaster, multi-instrumentalist and producer Tony Visconti, and bassist John Lodge (not to be confused with The Moody Blues' bassist of the same name). Before recording for the album commenced at Trident Studios, the song "Space Oddity" had been selected as the lead single based on an earlier demo. Visconti saw it as a "novelty record" and passed the production responsibility for the song on to Gus Dudgeon. However, Visconti produced all the remaining songs on the album. Tim Renwick, John 'Honk' Lodge, Mick Wayne and John Cambridge – all from the band 'Junior's Eyes' – featured on the album sessions and briefly served as Bowie's backing band for live appearances and on an October 1969 BBC Radio session.

Although the opening song had given Bowie a No. 5 hit in the UK earlier in the year, the remainder of the material bore little resemblance to it and the album was a commercial failure on its initial release, despite some decent reviews. The New York Times, in a review published over a year after the album's release, praised the album, calling it, "a complete, coherent and brilliant vision". On the other hand, Village Voice critic Robert Christgau considered this album, like his debut, to be "overwrought excursions". However the November 1972 reissue, released in the wake of Bowie's breakthrough "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" and featuring a contemporary Ziggy photo on the cover, made No. 17 in the UK charts and No. 16 in the United States.

 

Cover art

The original UK "David Bowie" LP cover artwork showed a facial portrait of Bowie by British photographer Vernon Dewhurst exposed on top of a work by artist Victor Vaserely with blue and violet spots on a green background. A similar portrait was used on the US Mercury LP Man of Words/Man of Music, but on a plain blue background. When the album was re-released as "Space Oddity" in 1972 by RCA, a more recent portrait from the Ziggy Stardust period was displayed on the front cover. This new cover was replicated in early CD releases of the album. For the 1999 CD reissue, the original UK portrait was restored, although the "Space Oddity" title was added to the cover. The 2009 and 2015 editions of the album used the original UK cover, reverting to the original green tint and "David Bowie" title.

 

Track listing

All tracks written by David Bowie.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Space Oddity" 5:16
2. "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed" 6:12
3. "Don't Sit Down" (Hidden track appended to "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed". Was not included in the 1969 US Version of the album from which the 1972 Space Oddity was reissued.) 0:42
4. "Letter to Hermione" 2:36
5. "Cygnet Committee" 9:35
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Janine" 3:25
7. "An Occasional Dream" 3:01
8. "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" 4:52
9. "God Knows I'm Good" 3:21
10. "Memory of a Free Festival" 7:09

 

Release history

Region Date Title Label Format Catalog
UK 14 November 1969 David Bowie Philips Stereo LP SBL 7912
USA 1969 Man of Words/Man of Music Mercury Stereo LP SR 61246
USA 1972 Space Oddity RCA Stereo LP LSP 4813
USA 1972 Space Oddity RCA Stereo 7 inch open reel tape EPPA 4813-C

 

 

 

David Bowie - Space Oddity

UK RCA LSP 4813 stereo (1972).

Album produced by Tony Visconti and Gus Dudgeon.

The vinyl record attains a strong excellent grading, suggesting few plays.

Audio quality is very clear and strong throughout.

Both record centre labels are free from tears, stains or stickers.

The album cover is in excellent condition, displaying only minimal signs of wear.

The album cover has a strong, undamaged spine, displaying very clear, printed script.

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