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Music / Space Oddity

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The original British release.
The original American release.
The retitled 1972 reissue, with its Trend Cover showing Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

"Ground Control to Major Tom..."

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", 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. However, it reached the top 20 when it was reissued in 1972 by RCA Records, following Bowie's commercial breakthrough with Ziggy Stardust.



Side One

  1. "Space Oddity" (5:16)
  2. "Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed" (6:12)
  3. "(Don't Sit Down)" (0:42)
  4. "Letter To Hermione" (2:36)
  5. "Cygnet Committee" (9:35)

Side Two

  1. "Janine" (3:25)
  2. "An Occasional Dream" (3:01)
  3. "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" (4:52)
  4. "God Knows I'm Good" (3:21)
  5. "Memory Of A Free Festival" (7:09)

Check your troping pills and put your helmet on!

  • 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.
  • 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. In the song "Ashes To Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) in 1980 the line "we know Major Tom's a junkie" revisits the character.
  • 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.
  • 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: "Ground Control to Major Tom: Take your protein pills and put your helmet on."
  • 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 before he breaks down laughing. The original British release and the most recent reissues include it without listing it; the 1990-91 reissues list it as a separate track; Man of Words/Man of Music and the 1972 reissue don't have it 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 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...: "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.
    • Though considering he was set to return to Earth shortly after, it's also possible that he was pining for such a fate, so long as it meant he could stay up there, looking down at that view of Earth.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: "Space Oddity" is a shout-out to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Sequel Song: "Ashes To Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) is a sequel song to "Space Oddity". "Hallo Spaceboy" from Outside in 1995 too.
  • Self-Titled Album: His second studio album to be named after himself. Though re-issues would change the title.
  • Special Guest: Rick Wakeman, who would later become keyboardist for Yes, plays mellotron, keyboards and electric harpsichord on this album.
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Space Oddity" starts off with a countdown.
  • Standard Snippet: "Space Oddity" is often used as a soundtrack to imagery of rockets and astronauts floating in space.
  • Title Track: "Space Oddity"
  • 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).
  • Wham Line:
    • From "Space Oddity":
    "Ground Control to Major Tom
    Your 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.

Alternative Title(s): Man Of Words Man Of Music, David Bowie 1969


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