Wednesday, November 01, 2006

David Bowie's Space Oddity

In 1973, I was a 14 year old comic book geek and straight A student in ninth grade with bad skin and no girlfriend. I liked the already defunct Beatles, Elvis, Ray Stevens and AM Top 40 radio. Then I discovered David Bowie. I heard the re-release of Bowie's SPACE ODDITY a few times on the air and I had no idea it wasn't brand new. It was the story of hapless astronaut Major Tom and "something" that happened to him in space.It sounded like nothing I had ever heard on the radio before. I bought the record (89 cents at JC Penny) but I almost felt guilty, as if I was getting involved in something illicit. On the picture sleeve, Bowie certainly didn't look like David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman or even Dean Martin. He looked...well, not really alien just...freakin' weird! His hair, his eyes, everything. I kinda hid the record from my parents. I played it a lot, though, revelling in the unusual, nontraditional story song and its flip side, THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD with its cool building guitar sound (Mick Ronson?) later covered almost note for note by Nirvana. I didn't know a thing about Bowie's androgeny or Ziggy or drugs or anything at all except the record...but that was enough. Bowie's uniqueness exuded from that record even without the background knowledge. It didn't change my skin condition or my lack of girlfriend but, from there, little by little and right along with the pop mainstream, I discovered a different type of music: Elton, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop,, Ramones, Costello, Blondie. I returned to Bowie over and over as I watched him chameleon to the times as others fell on the fickle battlefields of pop success. For years, I still felt a weird sort of feeling when I saw that picture sleeve, nestled neatly in with everything from Lawrence Welk to Simon and Garfunkel but now it holds a special place here in the Library as the beginning of my appreciation of diversity in music. Thanks, David.


  1. Anonymous5:29 AM

    You have not lived until you've heard Dinah Shore's version of "Ground Control to Major Tom". As a teenager, I remember seeing her sing it on one of her "Here's Dinah!" shows and being blown away by the surrealism of it all!

    I say bring back Bowie and The Runaways and that whole wonderful era of music! I miss it . . . AND my misplaced youth! :)

  2. Anonymous9:24 AM

    I discovered Bowie when Ziggy came out.
    A neighbor owned a record store for 3 years or so in my small town of Momence, IL.
    Buying at her store was better than getting 45s from Ben Franklins or at Spieth's Supermarket (though I did get my Sweet 45s there!)
    I had already started buying YES and ELP at Toppie's Record Store [i think she had a real name for it but I can't recall].
    I remeber seeing Alladin Sane and The Ziggy album. I got both and Bowie was so cool.
    The next thing I got was the "Rebel Rebel" 45 and that was a favorite song for many years.
    It's still my fave Bowie song, but I prefer the album version.

    I don't recall hearing Space Oddity on the radio either when it first came out or in re-release.
    I know I heard "Changes" and "Rebel Rebel" on WLS Radio Chicago. That was THE station for years. Then I discoverd WDAI-FM which played ONLY classic rock until that horribe day in late 1977 when WDAI went all Disco!
    The Horror!

    Bowie is still very cool. I just bought the remastered Mott album "All the Young Dudes". Bowie was responsible for that album saving that band from dying out for 3 more years...[then Ian left and it all went bad].

    I still recall the day I found ELP's Brain Salad Surgery LP.
    I was almost 14. Then the triple live came out after that. I was so into ELP and YES back then.

    Alan Bryan

  3. The recording is from 1969 (originally released in a now very rare single on the Phillips label), but this picture is from 1972, taken by photographer Mick Rock for the RCA reissue of the album with the new title "Space Oddity". Bowie is my #1 idol. He is indeed a musical genius. The flip side is from 1970.