David Bowie

Space Oddity

Composed by David Bowie

Song Review by

David Bowie's first hit single, from fall 1969, has long been associated with the first ever Apollo moon landing, with which its release coincided. In fact, it is hard to think of a song less appropriate to such a venture, as Major Tom switches off all communications with earth and prepares to spend eternity floating around in his tin can. Nevertheless, the BBC employed the song as the theme music to its coverage of the event, and Bowie swiftly found himself with a Top Five U.K. smash -- albeit one which it would take him three years to follow-up.

"Space Oddity" was originally written and recorded for a 30-minute promotional film highlighting Bowie as a songwriter, performer, and all-round artiste in 1968 -- discussing its origins, Bowie has credited both Stanley Kubrick's 2001 and "a silly flirtation with smack," and both influences have been discerned by watchful students. This original recording of the song remained unreleased until 1984 brought the Love You Till Tuesday soundtrack release.

Bowie returned to the song in 1969, recording it with producer Gus Dudgeon after his first choice, Tony Visconti, turned it down; "Space Oddity"'s U.K. success also saw him record two foreign language versions, "Ragazza Solo, Ragazza Sola," for the Italian market (the title translates, oddly, as "lonely boy, lonely girl"), and the more appropriate, but hideously wordy, "Un Homme a Disparu Dans le Ciel" -- "a man has disappeared in the sky." English-language versions were released elsewhere around the world, with varying degrees of success, while reissues in the U.S. in 1972 and Britain in 1975 brought further chart honors. Indeed, the latter re-release gave Bowie his first ever homeland chart-topper.

"Space Oddity" remains one of the most popular songs in Bowie's entire canon. All but ever-present in his live show throughout the 1970s and 1980s (a number of live versions are available on both disc and video), he re-recorded the song for a B-side in 1980 (the performance figures among the bonus tracks to Rykodisc's reissue of the Scary Monsters album), before issuing a sequel, "Ashes to Ashes," later in the year. Fittingly, it became his second U.K. number one. A third part of the story, Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)," appeared without any Bowie involvement in 1984, but remains a favorite with many fans -- the German punk band Raubertochter cut a tremendous cover of that song in 2001.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Space Oddity 1969 Atlantic / Elektra / Rhino / Warner Bros. / Warner Music
No Image 1969 Mercury 5:15
No Image 1973 5:09
David Live 1974 EMI Digital / Parlophone / Warner Music 6:27
Changesonebowie 1976 Parlophone / Warner Music 5:18
Scary Monsters 1980 Rykodisc 4:57
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars [The Motion Picture Soundtrack] 1982 Atlantic / Elektra / Rhino / Warner Music
Serious Moonlight [1984] 1984 Pioneer
Sound + Vision 1989 Parlophone / Rhino 5:08
Changesbowie 1990 EMI Digital / Parlophone 5:15
The Marquee: 30 Legendary Years 1993
Various Artists
Alex 3:43
The Singles: 1969-1993 1993 Rykodisc 3:31
The Video Collection 1993 Rykodisc
The Singles Collection 1993 Parlophone 5:15
The Best of David Bowie 1969-1974 1997 EMI Digital / Parlophone / Warner Music 5:17
The Deram Anthology 1966-1968 1997 Deram 3:46
Rock Ballads [Imprint] 1999
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Rock Festival 1999
Various Artists
Insight (3)
The Singles Collection 1 2000 EMI Music Distribution 5:15
Bowie at the Beeb: The Best of the BBC Radio Sessions 68-72 2000 Virgin 4:16
London Boy 2001 Polygram 4:33
Capital Gold Legends 2001
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 5:10
Rarest Live 2001 MF 4:48
Mr. Deeds 2002
Original Soundtrack
RCA 5:27
Best of Bowie 2002 EMI Digital / Parlophone 5:16
The Best of Bowie [DVD] 2002 Virgin 5:20
Remembering Those Scary Monsters 2002 Alternative Edge
50 Years of the Greatest Hit Singles Platinum Collection 2003
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 5:13
Best of Glam Rock 2004
Various Artists
Hunter Records
Best #1 Singles in the World Ever 2005
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 5:14
No Image 2005 Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd. 5:14
The Platinum Collection 2006 Parlophone 5:17
No Image 2006 Jones/Tintoretto
Rock Giants, Vol. 1 [BR] 2006
Various Artists
BR Music
David Bowie: Music in Review 2007 Classic Rock Legends / Ultimate Review
101 60's Hits [EMI] 2007
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 5:12
Top 40: 1969-1970 2008
Various Artists
Rec. of Substance 5:15
Live in Santa Monica '72 2008 Atlantic / Elektra / Rhino / Warner Music
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Mixed Repertoire 5:12
They Sold a Million [EMI] 2009
Various Artists
Virgin 5:14
The Best Sixties Album in the World...Ever! [2009] 2009
Various Artists
EMI 5:12
No Image 2011 Immortal
Greatest Hits from Outer Space 2013
Various Artists
Ace
La Collection RTL Georges Lang, Vol. 3 2014
Various Artists
Warner Music 5:15
Nothing Has Changed 2014 Parlophone 5:17
Five Years 1969-1973 2015 Rhino 5:05
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) 2016 Parlophone
No Image 2016 Sony Music 5:12
David Live [2005 Mix] 2016 Parlophone / Rhino / Warner Music 6:26
Cracked Actor: Live in Los Angeles ’74 2017 Rhino
3, 2 ó 1. Tú y yo lo sabíamos (Homenaje a Joaquín Luqui)
Various Artists
Warner Music 5:15
No Image Immortal
No Image Phantom
Vol. 1-Capital Gold Legends
Various Artists
Virgin
Ziggy & the Spiders: Cleveland Music Hall Gold Standard Laboratories 5:28
blue highlight denotes editor's pick