Space Oddity

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"Space Oddity"
File:Bowie SpaceOdditySingle.jpg
Single by David Bowie
from the album David Bowie
B-side "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" (1969 7")
Released 11 July 1969
Format 7"
Recorded 20 June 1969 at Trident Studios
(London, England)
Length 5:15
Writer(s) David Bowie
Producer(s) Gus Dudgeon
David Bowie singles chronology
"Love You Till Tuesday"
"Space Oddity"
"Ragazzo solo, ragazza sola"
Music sample

"Space Oddity" is a song written and performed by David Bowie and released as a music single in July 1969.

The song exists in two different 1969 versions. The original and shorter version of the song (3:48) was used in the promotional film Love You Till Tuesday. The longer re-recorded version of the song (5:18) was included as the opening song for the 1969 album David Bowie.

The song is about the launch of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut, and was released during a period of great interest in space flight. The United States' Apollo 11 mission would launch 5 days later, and would become the first manned moon landing another 5 days later.[1] The lyrics have also been seen to lampoon the British space programme,[2] which had only launched rockets at that time and has never attempted a moon landing.

Besides its title, which alludes to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the introduction to the song is a barely audible instrumental build-up that is analogous to the deep bass tone in Also sprach Zarathustra that is prominently used in the film.

The song was awarded the 1969 Ivor Novello Award, together with Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?". It was Bowie's first UK Top 5 hit. "Space Oddity" became so well known that Bowie's second album, originally released as David Bowie in the UK (like his first album), was renamed after the track for its re-release 1973 issue by RCA Records, and became known by this name. Upon its re-release as part of a maxi-single, the song was Bowie's first UK No. 1 single.[3]

Bowie would later revisit his Major Tom character in the songs "Ashes to Ashes", "Hallo Spaceboy" and "Blackstar". German singer Peter Schilling's 1983 hit "Major Tom (Coming Home)" is written as a retelling of the song. In 2013, the song gained renewed popularity after it was covered by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who performed the song while aboard the International Space Station, and therefore became the first music video shot in space.

In January 2016, the song gained new popularity following the death of David Bowie, ranking as third on iTunes on January 12, 2016.

Recording and release

After Bowie's split from record label Deram, his manager, Kenneth Pitt, negotiated a one-album deal (with options for a further one or two albums) with Mercury Records and its UK subsidiary, Philips, in 1969. Mercury executives had heard an audition tape that included a demo of "Space Oddity," recorded by Bowie and his then musical partner John Hutchinson in spring 1969. (An even earlier version of the song was recorded on 2 February 1969 for Bowie's promotional film Love You Till Tuesday.)[4]

Next Bowie tried to find a producer. George Martin turned the project down,[citation needed] while Tony Visconti liked the album demo-tracks, but considered the planned lead-off single, "Space Oddity", a 'cheap shot' at the impending Apollo 11 space mission. Visconti decided to delegate its production to Gus Dudgeon.[5] The track was recorded at Trident Studios on 20 June 1969 (with overdubs a few days later) and used the in-house session player Rick Wakeman (Mellotron), who was later to achieve fame with the progressive rock band Yes, as well as Mick Wayne (guitar), Herbie Flowers (bass), and Terry Cox (drums).[6]

The song was promoted in advertisements for the Stylophone, played by Bowie on the record and heard in the background during the opening verse. The single was not played by the BBC until after the Apollo 11 crew had safely returned;[7] after this slow start, the song reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart. In the U.S, it stalled at 124.

Mogol wrote Italian lyrics, and Bowie recorded a new vocal in December 1969, releasing the single "Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola" ("Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl") in Italy, reportedly to take attention away from covers by the Italian bands Equipe 84 and The Computers.

Upon its re-release as a single in 1973, the song reached No. 15 on the Billboard Chart and became Bowie's first hit single in the United States; in Canada, it reached No. 16.[8] This was then used to support RCA's 1975 UK reissue, which gave Bowie his first No. 1 single in the UK Singles Chart in November that year. It spent two weeks at the top of that chart.[9]

Bowie recorded a stripped-down, acoustic version in late 1979, which was issued in February 1980 as the B-side of "Alabama Song". The promotional video of this version debuted in the UK on Kenny Everett's New Year's Eve Show. This video used many of the same sets of the music video for "Ashes to Ashes," solidifying the connection between the two songs. The 1979 recording was rereleased in 1992 on the Rykodisc reissue of Bowie's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album.

The B-side of the original single, "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud", first appeared on CD on 1989's Sound + Vision. This compilation also included, as its opening track, the spring 1969 demo of "Space Oddity" featuring Bowie and Hutchinson. (An earlier Bowie/Hutchinson demo appears on the 2009 2-CD special edition of the album David Bowie.)

On 20 July 2009, the single was reissued on a digital EP that featured four previously released versions of the song and stems that allow listeners to remix the song. This release coincided with the 40th anniversary of the song and the Apollo 11 moon landing.

"Space Oddity" was featured as one of the on-disc songs in the videogame Rock Band 3 and as downloadable content in Rocksmith. "Space Oddity" is also the credits song in the psychological thriller video game Alan Wake.

A version of the song was recorded with vocals from actress Kristen Wiig for the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. There is a scene where Mitty, played by Ben Stiller, imagines Wiig's character is singing the song to him, inspiring him to take action. The song, with Bowie & Wiig's vocals, is also included on the official soundtrack.[10]

Live versions

Music video

In the days after the song, Bowie filmed a music video to promote his movie Love You till Tuesday.

In December 1972, Mick Rock shot a music video of Bowie performing the song during the sessions for Aladdin Sane, which was used to promote the January 1973 United States reissue on RCA.

Track listing

All songs written by David Bowie.


Credits apply to the 1969 original release:


Charts and certifications

Cover versions and samples

In May 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, commander of Expedition 35 to the International Space Station, recorded a video of the song on the space station which went viral and generated a great deal of media exposure.[19] The lyrics were somewhat altered; the ending was replaced with Major Tom getting his orders to land and doing so safely, reflecting Hadfield's imminent return from his final mission on the Station. Hadfield announced the video on his Twitter account, writing, "With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here's Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World." Bowie was also thanked in the ending credits.[20] This was the first music video ever shot in space.[21] Bowie responded to the video, tweeting back to Hadfield, "Hallo Spaceboy". The video has had over 27,000,000 views on YouTube. The performance was the subject of a piece by Glenn Fleishman in The Economist on 22 May 2013 analyzing the legal implications of publicly performing a copyrighted work of music while in earth orbit.[22] The song is the only one of Bowie's for which Bowie does not own the copyright. Bowie's publisher granted Hadfield a license to the song for only one year.[23] Due to the expiry of the one year licence, the official video was taken offline on 13 May 2014,[24] despite Bowie's explicit wishes that the publisher grant Hadfield a license at no charge to record the song and produce the video.[23] Following a period of negotiations, the video was restored to YouTube on 2 November 2014 with a two-year licence agreement in place.[25]

American singer Lana Del Rey's song "Terrence Loves You" from her fourth studio album Honeymoon carries an interpolation of "Space Oddity". It was released on 21 August 2015.

The song is used in the Spanish sci-fi film Eva (2011) when the protagonist dances with his old flame who is now married to his brother. The various, rather different sections of the song are used to cue different phases of the scene: During the intro, he is making up his mind whether to stay or to go, then decides to leave the party because he knows it won't end well, with Bowie's voice sending him to the door with "May God's love be with you". But when the lyrics call at him with, "This is ground control to Major Tom!", he changes his mind, walks over, and shoves his brother to the side ("it's time to leave the capsule, if you dare") to ask her for a dance, during which they're "floating in a most peculiar way, and the stars look very different today". As the drumroll starts the coda, the protagonist's brother bitterly downs a glass of liquor, only to find his suspicion confirmed that there's more going on between the two dancers than would be good for his marriage as he looks at them during the song's psychedelic instrumental climax, and now it's time for him to leave the party instead of his brother, obviously wishing to "pass one-hundred thousand miles". When Bowie's voice returns after the climax, the woman, similarly confused as the protagonist as to what just happened to them, notices that her husband is gone, and they go looking for him outside, with the song fading out in the middle of the verse.

The song is also present in Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, featuring actress Kristen Wiig and an older David Bowie.


  2. David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.49–50
  3. Promoted as RCA Maximillion Series, 3 Tracks For The Price of 2 (RCA 2593). The tracks were "Space Oddity", "Changes" and "Velvet Goldmine" (RCA 2593).
  4. Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now - David Bowie: The London Years: 1947-1974: pp.147, 145
  5. Life on Two Legs - Biography by Norman Sheffield
  6. Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now - David Bowie: The London Years: 1947-1974: pp.153-154, 155
  7. "Bowie @ The Beeb | Arts and Entertainment | BBC World Service". Retrieved 2014-03-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2014-03-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 319–20. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. James Christopher Monger. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-03-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. " – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  12. " – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  13. "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Space Oddity". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  14. " – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  15. " – David Bowie – Space Oddity". Singles Top 60. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  16. "David Bowie: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  17. "David Bowie – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for David Bowie. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  18. "Italian single certifications – David Bowie – Space Oddity" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 31 January 2015. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter David Bowie in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  19. Knapp, Alex (13 May 2013). "Astronaut Chris Hadfield Sings David Bowie As He Departs The International Space Station". Forbes. Retrieved 29 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Space Oddity". YouTube. Archived from the original on 26 March 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Davis, Lauren (12 May 2013). "Chris Hadfield sings "Space Oddity" in the first music video in space". Gawker Media. Retrieved 29 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Fleishman, Glenn (22 May 2013). "How does copyright work in space?". The Economist. Retrieved 29 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Apology to David Bowie". Ottawa Citizen. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Bowie's last day - we had permission for a year, so our Space Oddity video comes down today. One last look:". Retrieved 13 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Space Oddity". Retrieved 4 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

See also

Preceded by
"I Only Have Eyes For You" by Art Garfunkel
UK number-one single
8 November 1975 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"D.I.V.O.R.C.E." by Billy Connolly