- This article is about the song. For the album which includes this song, see Space Oddity (album).
"Space Oddity" is a song written and performed by David Bowie and released as a single in 1969. It is about the launch of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut who becomes lost in outer space. Supposedly released to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon landing, it appears on the album of the same title. The BBC featured the song in its television coverage of the lunar landing.
Recording and release
Following Bowie's split from record label Deram, his manager Kenneth Pitt managed to negotiate a one-album deal (with options for a further one or two albums) with Mercury Records, and their UK subsidiary Philips in 1969. Next he tried to find a producer. George Martin turned the project down , while Tony Visconti liked the album demo-tracks, but considered the planned lead-off single, "Space Oddity", a gimmick track , and delegated its production to Gus Dudgeon. An early version of the song had appeared in Bowie's promotional film Love You Till Tuesday.
Following recording of a fresh version, the single was rush-released on July 11, 1969 to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon landings. In the UK, it was used in conjunction with the BBC's coverage of the landing, and also promoted via advertisements for the Stylophone, played by Bowie on the record. This exposure finally gave Bowie a hit, reaching #5 in the chart. It failed to chart in the U.S., however.
Mogol wrote Italian lyrics, and Bowie recorded a new vocal, 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.
The song was awarded the 1969 Ivor Novello Award, together with Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)".
The song 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 1972 reissue by RCA, and has since become known by this name.
In December 1972, Mick Rock shot a film clip of Bowie performing the song during the sessions for Aladdin Sane, which was used to promote the January 1973 U.S. reissue on RCA, which reached #15 in the Billboard Chart. This was then used to support RCA's 1975 UK reissue, which gave Bowie his first #1 single in November.
A stripped down version, originally performed on Kenny Everett's New Year's Eve Show was issued in February 1980 as the B-side of "Alabama Song".
The B-side version of "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" first appeared on 1989's Sound + Vision.
The song is parodied by New Zealand folk band Flight of the Conchords in their song 'Bowie'
- "Space Oddity" (Bowie) – 4:33
- "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" (Bowie) – 4:52 1975 reissue
- "Space Oddity" (Bowie) – 5:15
- "Changes" (Bowie) – 3:33
- "Velvet Goldmine" (Bowie) – 3:09
Credits apply to 1969 original release: Musical
Alternate Studio Versions
In pop culture
"Space Oddity" has been widely referenced in pop culture; in particular the use of the line "ground control to Major Tom" indicating communication problems, or "Major Tom" as shorthand for someone who is lost, traveling in space, or simply spaced-out, is common.
- Jonathan Coulton's song Space Doggity is a re-imaging of Space Oddity with Laika replacing Major Tom as the central character.
- In the British sitcom The Young Ones, the song is mentioned in a scene where Neil is getting high on drugs (literally) and floats into space. He passed a space shuttle where two astronauts have the conversation - "This is just like that record by David Bowie" then "Hey look, the planet Earth is blue and there's nothing we can do", quoting a memorable line from the song.
- In the U.S. sitcom Friends, there have been two references to this song. In season 5 episode 19, Chandler Bing and his friends accidentally see a tape of him singing the first few lyrics of the song. In season 6 episode 1, Joey Tribianni sings a few lyrics of the song as he tries to get his friend Phoebe Buffay to forgive him for ruining their road trip.
- In an episode of the MTV show Sifl and Olly, the character Olly dresses up as a Bowie-esqe "Olly Moondust" and sings a song called "Star Lover", a presumed parody of "Space Oddity." The lyrics include a stanza which goes: "I've been stuck in space/for such a long, long time/Sorry, Mum/I'm five years late for tea time."
- On an episode of Jackson Publick's Adult Swim program The Venture Bros. titled "Ghosts of the Sarragaso", the song's story, along with that of "Ashes to Ashes", is played out using the songs' lyrics as dialogue. The characters of Major Tom and Action Man are recreated as animated characters. The scene takes place in 1969, the same year the song was released.
- Spanish Rock singer Enrique Bunbury makes multiple allusions to "Space Oddity" in his song "Lady Blue". Though the song is in Spanish it begins with the countdown "ten, nine, eight, seven..." which can also be heard in "Space Oddity". The song is about an astronaut who is lost in space but says that "everything is ok". The video for the song also uses an outer space theme.
- In the Canadian movie C.R.A.Z.Y. there is a long scene where the main character Zac "performs" "Space Oddity" in his room, unaware that several people are watching him through the window.
- In the series Without a Trace - Season 3 / Episode 22, Title "John Michaels" - "Space Oddity" is used at the beginning and the end of the episode.
- In the 2006 film The Fountain, actor Hugh Jackman portrays a character who appears in three incarnations across a 1000-year span: as a 16th-century Spanish conquistador named Tomás, as a modern-day research oncologist named Tommy, and as the guru-like Tom who travels alone in a spacecraft to a distant nebula in the 26th century. In an April 2005 interview with the SuicideGirls website, Darren Aronofsky, the film's director, cited "Space Oddity" as an inspiration for this third storyline and as the probable source of the protagonist's name. Both film and song draw influence from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- In 2004 Wes Anderson's film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou one of the characters is Pelé dos Santos (played by Seu Jorge), a Brazilian mariner who sits alone with his guitar and plays several Bowie Songs in Portuguese, one of these is "Space Oddity", which he sings the first verse of as pirates are sneaking aboard the Belefonte behind him.
- In the Barclay James Harvest song "The Great 1974 Mining Disaster", the singer references both "Space Oddity" and the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" as he recounts having "Heard a song the other day/About a Major out in space/And though the song was kind of grey/It took me far away". The song also references Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World".
- In the The Edwin J. Hill Social Club episode "Room For Let", the serial killer has a penchant for dispatching his victims to the tune of David Bowie's "Space Oddity". The song is also used during the end credits of this episode.
- New Zealand "novelty band" (comedy duo) Flight of the Conchords parodied "Space Oddity" in Season 1 Episode 6 of their 2007 HBO series. The TV episode entitled "Bowie" featured a music video 'Bowie's in Space' which paid homage to the musical and set stylings of the original. While the episode aired on July 22, 2007, the Flight of the Conchords has been performing the song on tour and on their UK radio program for years.
- The 2008 game, Worms: A Space Oddity, is named after the song.
- A 2008 car commercial for the 2009 Lincoln MKS features a covered version of "Space Oddity" by Cat Power (Charlyn "Chan" Marshall), starting with the lyrics, "This is ground control to Major Tom."