David Bowie is the second studio album by David Bowie, released in 1969. Shifting away from the heavily rockist sounds of Bowie's non-album singles throughout the decade and the art hall pop of his debut album, David Bowie presents the eponymous musician performing progressive folk and Psychedelic Rock influenced primarily by the works of Bob Dylan and the then-Syd Barrett-fronted Pink Floyd.
Due to it having the same name as his previous studio album from 1967 (both an example of Self-Titled Album), it was re-released as Space Oddity in 1972, which became the canon name for it. This was eventually reversed with a 2009 reissue, when it reverted back to the original self-titled name. As of Parlophone Records' 2015 reissue, the album officially goes by both titles, with the digital release using the moniker David Bowie (a.k.a. Space Oddity). For the sake of convenience, Space Oddity is the title used here on TV Tropes.
The album produced Bowie's first international hit, "Space Oddity", which peaked at No. 5 on the UK Singles chart in 1969, and was the first album where trademarks of his traditional style could be noticed: taking on an alter ego persona, space imagery... Still despite the hit song "Space Oddity", which was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey from 1968, the album wasn't a huge best-seller when originally released, missing the charts worldwide and never selling enough to meet any certifications. However, it reached the top 20 in both the UK (where it peaked at No. 17) and the US (where it peaked at No. 16) when it was reissued in 1972 by RCA Records, following Bowie's British commercial breakthrough with Ziggy Stardust.
While the album (sans "Space Oddity") is often overlooked in comparison to Bowie's later discography, especially his RCA-era output, it still stands as a historically significant entry in that it established a number of artistic techniques he'd carry over to his later material, particularly in regards to his lyrics and vocal performances. Though his musical style wouldn't truly start finding its footing until his next album, Space Oddity certainly laid the earliest groundwork for it via some of its harder-tinged and more Progressive Rock-inspired elements, which its successor would build upon further to form the definitive blueprint for Bowie's later work. Bowie's estate and Parlophone Records certainly didn't overlook this album either, devoting 2019 (the year of the album's 50th anniversary) to a massive release campaign devoted to box sets compiling various demos from around the time of the album's production, culminating in the comprehensive Conversation Piece box set on November 15 and a concurrent remix of this album in the vein of Giles Martin's treatments of The Beatles' latter-day albums.
Like its predecessor, David Bowie/Space Oddity was supported by two singles: the Title Track and "Memory of a Free Festival" (split into two parts on the single release).
- "Space Oddity" (5:16)
- "Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed" (6:12)
- "Don't Sit Down" (0:42)note
- "Letter To Hermione" (2:36)
- "Cygnet Committee" (9:35)
- "Janine" (3:25)
- "An Occasional Dream" (3:01)
- "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" (4:52)
- "God Knows I'm Good" (3:21)
- "Memory Of A Free Festival" (7:09)
"The trope machine is coming down, and we're gonna have a party!"
- Alliterative Title: "Cygnet Committee" and "God Knows I'm Good".
- All-Loving Hero: The titular "Wild-Eyed Boy from Freecloud" is a Nature Hero who lives on a mountain and serves as a "missionary mystic of peace/love" — which offends the fearful, small-minded villagers of Dreadful so much that they decide to hang him. He survives because the mountain (apparently a Genius Loci) causes an avalanche that destroys Dreadful — much to the Boy's dismay.
- all lowercase letters: The text throughout the 2019 mix's standalone release is written exclusively in this.
- Continuity Nod: "Space Oddity" is the first song where Bowie dwells into space imagery, a theme he would elaborate further on with "Life On Mars?" from Hunky Dory in 1971 and the entire The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album from 1972. Bowie would later revisit the Major Tom character in the song "Ashes To Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) in 1980, providing an in-universe Alternative Character Interpretation of the astronaut as a hopeless drug addict.
- Covers Always Lie: The original album wasn't a huge seller, but when Bowie hit it big with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars the record was re-released under the name Space Oddity and with an image of Bowie as Ziggy Stardust on the cover. Never mind the fact that the music sounds way different.
- Crapsack World: "Cygnet Committee" tells of a hippie revolution Gone Horribly Wrong.
- Design Student's Orgasm: Bowie's artist friend George Underwood designed the original British cover.
- Digital Destruction: Parlophone Records' 2015 remaster of the album was a noticeably rushed job and— by their own admission— not cross-examined with the original 1969 LP, resulting in a number of audio transfer issues such as a tape buzz during the line "someone else to hear" in "Cygnet Committee". Because of this, the Conversation Piece Boxed Set in 2019 went for the earlier 2009 remaster, which was made to match the original release, in addition to including a new remix by producer Tony Visconti that's been mostly praised as an improvement upon the '69 mix.
- Epic Rocking: The 9:33 "Cygnet Committee" is the most prominent example, but "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed" (6:12) and "Memory of a Free Festival" (7:09) also qualify.
- Face on the Cover: All three covers feature a close-up of Bowie's face. The original UK and US covers use different versions of the same photo.
- Folk Rock: The album shows clear influences of Bob Dylan, the harmonica sounds in "Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed" being a dead give-away. "God Knows I'm Good" is another example.
- Future Food Is Artificial: The title track features Ground Control instructing Major Tom to "take your protein pills."
- Hidden Track: "Don't Sit Down" is an unusual example. It's a brief piece of studio verite in which Bowie sings "Yeah yeah baby yeah/Don't sit down", while the musicians riff behind him until he breaks down laughing. The original British release and some reissues include it without listing it; the 1990 and 1999 reissues list it as a separate track; Man of Words/Man of Music, the 1972 RCA reissue, and the 2019 remix don't include it, and contemporary production notes surrounding the album indicate that it may have never been meant to be included on the album at all.
- I Have Many Names: Depending on when the album was issued and what format it was issued on, it'll either be referred to as David Bowie (sometimes with a "2" appended to the end in order to differentiate it from the 1967 self-titled album immediately before it) or Space Oddity. Fans also bestow the nickname Man of Words/Man of Music on the original U.S. release by Mercury Records, after the subtitle added on the cover art.
- In the Style of...:
- "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed" is a noticeable pastiche of Bob Dylan, being an energetic folk rock piece with electric guitars, snazzy harmonicas, and Word Salad Lyrics.
- The album version of "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" takes noticeable influence from the traditional pop genre with its heavy orchestral embellishments (the version included as the B-Side to the Title Track lacks these).
- "Memory Of A Free Festival" is clearly influenced by The Beatles' "Hey Jude", especially when the final chant ("The sun machine is coming down/And we're gonna have a party") takes up about half the seven minute running time.
- Isn't It Ironic?: "Space Oddity". It's about an astronaut lost in the empty space forever — or rather until his eventual cremation by re-entry — sung in a tone quite appropriate for describing such a fate, and the Ground Control guy sounds plainly hopeless by the end. Despite that:
- The BBC used "Space Oddity", when it was originally released in 1969, as part of its coverage of the moon landing. A car commercial by Lincoln used a cover of "Space Oddity" by Cat Power. The ad proper pushes the technology of the car and how "futuristic" it looks. It cuts off after "you've really made the grade".
- Another in the same series of commercials uses the cover of "Major Tom (Coming Home)" by Shiny Toy Guns (originally recorded by Peter Schilling), and it cuts off right after "Earth below us / Drifting, falling..." While it's a very cool commercial, you just have to say, "Uh, you know that song doesn't end well, right? "Across the stratosphere / a final message / 'give my wife my love' / then nothing more..." it's only even more of a Tear Jerker after that, and that "drifting, falling" part becomes an Ironic Echo— the same words meant something totally different on the way up, didn't they?
- Astronaut Chris Hadfield released a video of himself performing "Space Oddity" in the International Space Station. As mentioned above, the song... does not have a happy ending. The Downer Ending verses were changed/removednote , but still, it's sort of Tempting Fate to sing that song when you're actually in space. Hadfield, for his part, acknowledged this; when he appeared on Conan to talk about it, he said he expressed concern about singing the song up there in space due to how dark the lyrics are, and he only agreed to do it were they modified.
- Last Note Nightmare: The cacophonic ending of "Space Oddity", depending on your perspective.
- Long Title: "Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed".
- Messianic Archetype: The lead character in "Cygnet Committee" is considered an inspiration to his followers, but finds that he has only provided them with the means to reject and destroy him.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Don't Sit Down", if it's treated as a separate track.
- No Ending: "Space Oddity": last thing we know is Major Tom and his Mission Control lose communication, no clue is left as to what happens after that. "Ashes To Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) in 1980 later reveals that Tom may have survived.
- The Not-Remix: The album received a new remix by original producer and now-longtime Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti in 2019 as part of the year-long 50th anniversary celebration by the Bowie estate and Parlophone Records, done in the vein of The Beatles' Giles Martin mixes. The remix also adds in "Conversation Piece" (the B-Side to the original 1970 non-album single release of "The Prettiest Star"), which was originally intended for inclusion on the record but was cut for space reasons, albeit at the cost of cutting "Don't Sit Down".
- One-Man Song: "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud".
- One-Woman Song: "Janine".
- One-Word Title: "Janine" again.
- Pun-Based Title: "Space Oddity" is, of course, a pun on 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Rearrange the Song: "Space Oddity" was remade as an acoustic number in 1979, as a prelude of sorts to Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)'s follow-up song "Ashes To Ashes".
- Conversely, "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" was originally featured as the B-Side to "Space Oddity", appearing as a primarily acoustic guitar-driven song. When it was included on the album, it was given new orchestral embellishments that make the song seem much more bombastic.
- Refrain from Assuming: "Space Oddity" is not called "Major Tom". Peter Schilling's new-wave sequel to Bowie's song, on the other hand, was titled "Major Tom" despite there being no mention of Tom in the chorus. It's sometimes referred to as "Coming Home". To add to the confusion, Peter Schilling has two "Major Tom" songs. One takes the themes of the Bowie song and runs with them — "Major Tom (Coming Home)", the second one is "Major Tom, Part 2" Or, in the original German version, as "Major Tom (völlig losgelöst)"; the parenthetical part features very prominently in the chorus.
- Remote Vitals Monitoring: Implied in the title track. The astronaut Major Tom conducts a spacewalk, but something goes amiss, and Ground Control attempts to determine the astronaut's status. Major Tom's response is a non sequitur.Ground Control to Major Tom / Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong / Can you hear me, Major Tom?
- Ripped from the Headlines: "God Knows I'm Good" was based on a case Bowie had read about of an old impoverished woman being arrested for shoplifting.
- "Space Oddity" is a shout-out to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Going the other way, Naked Snake's Mission Control, Zero, takes on the codename "Major Tom" during the Virtuous Mission and Operation: Snake Eater.
- "Cygnet Committee" both quotes "All You Need Is Love" and namedrops Kick Out the Jams (the latter of which was released a few months before this album began recording) in rapid succession.
- Sequel Song: "Ashes To Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) is a sequel song to "Space Oddity". The Pet Shop Boys' remix of "Hallo Spaceboy" from Outside in 1995 too.
- Self-Titled Album: His second and final studio album to be named after himself (discounting the two albums by Tin Machine, which were less of a Bowie project and more a democratic band). Re-issues would change the title, partly to help dispel confusion between the two records.
- Song Style Shift: "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed" starts out as an atmospheric acoustic folk song in the vein of the Title Track (which directly precedes it), but after the first verse it shifts into a more energetic and electric folk rock song In the Style of... Bob Dylan, complete with harmonica.
- Special Guest: Rick Wakeman, who would later become keyboardist for Yes, plays mellotron, keyboards and electric harpsichord on this album.
- Spoiler Cover: The back cover of the album features a painting detailing key points in nearly every song on the album. Specifically, two astronauts fighting for a flower ("Space Oddity"), a big-haired, glassy-eyed Bowie ("Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed"), a minuscule man writing a letter ("Letter to Hermione"), a round table of hippies and a rat-headed mystic at a table covering a pile of corpses ("Cygnet Committee"), the title character of "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" emerging from the living mountain, a shoplifting old woman being led away by a Pierrot figure ("God Knows I'm Good"), and a crowd of festival-goers ("Memory of a Free Festival").
- Foreshadowing: Bowie would revisit the "old woman with clown" imagery in the video for "Ashes to Ashes".
- Spoken Word in Music: "Space Oddity" starts off with a countdown in the background of the first two verses.
- Standard Snippet: "Space Oddity" is often used as a soundtrack to imagery of rockets and astronauts floating in space.
- Title Track: "Space Oddity" was retroactively turned into this with the 1972 RCA reissue, which retitles the album after the song.
- Translated Cover Version: "Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola", a love song to the tune of "Space Oddity" (which Bowie hated; he thought he was singing a direct translation).
- Variant Cover: As pictured above, the album had three different covers across different releases.
- The 1969 Philips Records release in the UK features a portrait of Bowie by photographer Vernon Dewherst, laid among a pattern of circles and squares designed by Hungarian op-artist Victor Vasarely.
- The 1969 Mercury Records release in the US features the same portrait of Bowie against a blank navy blue background, with the subtitle "Man of Words/Man of Music" appended to it; fans typically refer to this release by the subtitle for clarification's sake.
- The 1972 RCA Records release features a trend cover photograph of Bowie as the title character of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, intended to cash in on the popularity of that album. A similar technique was used for the label's concurrent reissue of The Man Who Sold the World. In both cases, this trend cover would be replicated on RCA's CD reissues of the albums. The RCA reissue of this album also retitles it to Space Oddity, thus making the opening song a retroactive Title Track. This variant of the cover is also maintained on the 1990 Rykodisc remaster.
- The 1999 EMI remaster restores the original 1969 UK cover, but appends the RCA reissue's Space Oddity title to the bottom.
- Finally, the 2019 mix features◊ a textless variant of the 1969 UK cover against a navy blue background, packaged in a die-cut navy blue slipcase that exposes only Bowie's face; the slipcase is spot-varnished to feature the same pattern of circles, and includes the artist name and album title in a simple sans-serif all lowercase letters font.
- Wham Line:
- From "Space Oddity":"Ground Control to Major TomYour circuit's dead; there's something wrong..."
- From "Cygnet Committee":"And I open my eyes to look around
And I see a child laid slain on the ground
As a love machine lumbers through desolation rows
Plowing down man, woman, listening to its command
But not hearing anymore."
- From "Space Oddity":
- Wrong Name Outburst: From "Letter to Hermione":And when he's strong
He's strong for you
And when you kiss
It's something new
But did you ever call my name
Just by mistake?