Space Oddity by David Bowie

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Space Oddity by David Bowie
Space Oddity by David Bowie

Album Released: 1972

Space Oddity ::: Artwork

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1.Space Oddity5:13
2.Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed6:09
3.Letter To Hermione2:30
4.Cygnet Committee9:22
6.An Occasional Dream2:54
7.The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud4:46
8.God Knows I'm Good3:17
9.Memory Of A Free Festival7:06


The title track's a flaked-out masterpiece, spaceman Spiff ejecting from the stratosphere into the weightless void, then realizing he doesn't want to come down to Earth with its vulgar physicality.

Said car-tune has been rewritten dozens of times by 80's New Romantics ("New Moon On Monday" by Duran Duran) and 90's post-psychedelics (the collected works of Stereolab, Space Men 3, etc). Aside from that, there's not much that's memorable.

Bowie makes a play for the sensitive folksinger role (the original title for this album was the sub-Donavan / Dylan-esque Man of Words, Man of Music), which presents one major problem: Bowie doesn't possess the sincerity or hard-earned, boot-strappin' grit that are the folksinger's primary reasons for existence (even if they are faking them, which half of them are - including the former Robert Zimmerman).

Secondly, Bowie's melodies aren't compelling enough to survive the stripped-down boy-and-his-guitar approach. Only "God Knows I'm Good", a sentimental portrait of an old woman shoplifting, makes the rest of the album worthwhile. The 9-minute science fiction epic "Cygnet Committee" collapses under the weight of its unbearable pretensions. Thankfully the rest isn't nearly that bad, which isn't to say the rest is any good.

The CD-era reissue adds the hippy anthem "Memory of a Free Festival" that's so stupid and flaky I almost want to grab my white socks, redneck, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and bust out singing Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogie".

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise (blogging at Creative Noise)

After years and years of trying, Bowie finally scored big with his outer-space single “Space Oddity”. It didn't quite turn him into a household name, but at least people started to buy his records, which is certainly a step in the right direction (so he could stop doing that mime stuff, which is the only point in Bowie's unmatchably cool career that could legitimately be construed as uncool).

“Space Oddity” is a great song of course, it's a folky ballad that does everything perfectly: The melody is very catchy, the concept about an astronaut deciding that he'd rather float around in space for the rest of his life than go back to Earth is very dark and moving. The lush instrumentation is full and sweeping without ever overdoing it. It's brilliant, and I love it no matter how many times I hear it! It's a very serious song, which is a stark contrast from the silly children's songs Bowie released on his debut album (in a way, I wish he'd kept on writing silly music, because I adored the humor, but I guess you can't progress to being a major 1970's star without getting SERIOUS).

Unfortunately, Bowie still had a ways to go before he'd actually start writing consistently good songs - the song that comes after “Space Oddity” is an all-too-potent reminder of that! “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed” is an overlong, boring jam-rock song from a backing band that was terrible at jamming. Making it worse is Bowie's lead vocals, which are way too high-pitched and wimpy for such music. So he was a bit out of his league there. “Letter to Hermione” is a brief ballad, which is definitely more up his alley, but that's got to be the most dead-boring song on the entire album!

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

Leaving behind his early generic material, Bowie crafts some genuinely ambitious songs here - "Cygnet Committee" for example runs for nine and a half minutes, the guitar presaging later Bowie guitar sounds, and the lyrics can have things read into them and appear to be deep, without any single definitive meaning evident.

Elsewhere, "Don't Sit Down" adds character to the album, being a frivilous 43-second piece that ends with Dame Bowie laughing and breaking up. Then there's the likes of "Janine", mixing acoustic and electric guitars, demonstrating Bowie had a fine way with a pop hook even as early as 1969, something he'd been developing since his mid-60's singles, singles that without fail flopped spectacularly, despite the best efforts of Bowie and his various managers to promote them.

Bowie was the kind of guy who was very clever at self promotion, he was adept at mixing with the right people, and appearing to have things in common with them, by omitting to mention all the things you DON'T agree with somebody about, and just focus on the things you do - present a single side of yourself.

As such, Bowie is in vaguely-folky hippie singer/songwriter mode here, competing with the likes of Marc Bolan with acoustic guitar, and singing lyrics that make little sense, but sound good. Bolan was a touch ahead of Bowie at this stage though, writing arguably more consistent material and was having the greater commercial success. For despite "Space Oddity" being a huge hit, it was very much seen as a one off. Bowie was being written off as a one-hit-wonder and didn't in fact have another hit for a good three years.

About "Space Oddity" then, the breakthrough single. Singing about space just as man landed on the moon was partly opportunistic. But it's a gorgeous haunting song, a stone-cold classic. One problem the album has is there's nothing else as remotely commercial, nothing else has anything in common with the title track at all. Indeed, the title track was only written for a video presentation of himself and his talents, and the potential of the track was subsequently recognized and capitalised upon, but Bowie had already moved on.

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)

Bowie had his blues hipster phase, his mod hipster phase, and his pansy dancehall hipster phase, and now he's gone into his counterculture hipster phase ... strangely, his most palatable yet.

This album's US title was Oddity upon its eventual release in 1972 - the "Space Oddity" single was first recorded in 1968 (being a knock-off of a Barrett-era Pink Floyd performance circa 1967).

Space Oddity presents Bowie as the kind of guy you might see hanging out at the park on a Saturday afternoon, his ever-so-cool Beaker haircut marking him as a Deep Thinker, and the conspicuous acoustic guitar as a guy out to score with hippie chicks. So he's a fraud really (hell, Bowie was always kind of a fraud, but he hadn't yet learnt how to fake it good), but compared with the fashion-maven slimeball featured on David Bowie, this fraud is one I don't mind so much.

Bowie's cast himself here as a sort of acoustic space cadet, a folksy psychadelicist who tries too hard for weird chords and lets-scream-this-all-together humanist anthems. So these songs range from subtle spacey anthems like "Space Oddity" - the cute tell my wife I love her very much / I think my spaceship knows which way to go NASA fantasy which Bowie would later famously say was about becoming a junkie, to ridiculous attempts at emotional gravity on "The Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" and "Cygnet Committee", to - ultimately - air-headed flower-power atrocities like "An Occasional Dream".

He's generally 'sensitive' throughout, but still not gaining a foothold on any emotions other than gentle irony and treacly hippie communalism, and his songs are nearly all lightweight acoustic strumalongs fleshed-out with a Moody Blues-patented orchestra here and there, especially on the barren Side Two, all of which makes for a mighty samey listen.

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by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza (blogging at Capn Marvel's Bonanza [Defunct])