Meaning of Space Oddity by David Bowie & The Story Behind

Passed away on January 10, 2016, David Bowie was a master at creating colorful characters and vivid imagery. The first such hero, born of the imagination of a brilliant creator, was Major Tom.

The fictional astronaut, mentioned in several songs, has achieved popularity that many real-life show business stars would envy. Much has been written about him in periodicals, other musicians have devoted compositions to him, and he was awarded a separate detailed article in Wikipedia.

The story of the creation of the song Space Oddity – David Bowie

And it all started with the track Space Oddity, from which the public learned about the astronaut, with whom contact was lost during the flight. Bowie has said that he wrote the song while inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi film A Space Odyssey 2001.

In England it has always been assumed that it was written about landing in space, because it became known around the same time. But actually it is not. It was written because I saw the movie “2001” which stunned me. I was literally out of my mind, went to watch it high several times, and it was a real revelation for me. And the song literally poured out of me.

Performing Songwriter, 2003

The composition was recorded at Trident Studios on June 20, 1969 with producer Gus Dudgeon. The song featured several session musicians, including bassist Herbie Flowers, who later said:

The first time I played with Bowie was in a session for Space Oddity. Old Gus’s hamstrings were shaking. It was probably the first thing he produced. Space Oddity was such a weird hybrid song. Rick Wakeman went out to buy a small stylophone for seven shillings from the shop on the corner where the Trident studios were. Considering it and all the string arrangements, it can be considered a semi-orchestral composition.

Uncut, 2008

By the way, Jimmy Page – either jokingly or seriously – claimed that he was also related to the song:

I played on his records – did you know that? His very first recordings were made when he performed with The Lower Third under the name Davy Jones. Shel Talmy. I seem to have worked with him in two separate sessions. In some interview he said that in one of those sessions I showed him the chords that he used in Space Oddity. But he added, “Don’t tell Jim, or he might sue me.” Haha!

Uncut, 2008

Release and achievements

The single was released on July 11th. A few days later, the Apollo 11 manned spacecraft set off for the moon, delivering humans to another planet for the first time in history. The BBC radio station broadcast about what was happening and used Space Oddity in these reports. Undoubtedly, this helped the track climb to the fifth line of the British charts.

Subsequently, David, not without humor, recalled:

British television picked it up and used it as background music for the landing itself. I’m sure they didn’t listen to the lyrics at all. But there was nothing pleasant about opposing the moon landings. Of course, I was overjoyed that they did it. Apparently someone in the BBC management said, “Oh come on, this song is about space, Major Tom, blah blah blah, it’ll do just fine.” “Hmm, but he got lost in space, sir,” no one had the guts to tell the producer.

Performing Songwriter, 2003

The song was re-released in 1975 and topped the UK Singles Chart. Different versions of the composition were also released in other years.

Subsequently, Bowie revived Major Tom on Ashes to Ashes, Hallo Spaceboy and Blackstar. But we will talk about them separately.

Video of Space Oddity by David Bowie

And now let’s watch the video for the song Space Oddity.

Further history of Space Oddity

In 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield sang Major Tom while aboard the International Space Station. With tens of millions of views on YouTube, the video was the first music video filmed in space.

In February 2018, SpaceX released a Falcon Heavy Animation video clip of a super-heavy rocket launch. Elon Musk’s company chose the song Space Oddity by David Bowie as the musical accompaniment.

Interesting Facts

  • German artist Peter Schilling dedicated the composition Major Tom (Coming Home), released in 1983, to Major Tom.
  • The song is featured in various films, including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Space Oddity Lyrics by David Bowie

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Ground Control to Major Tom
(Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six)
Commencing countdown, engines on
(Five, Four, Three)
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you
(Two, One, Lift off)

This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You’ve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in the most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here am I sitting in my tin can
Far above the world
planet earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do

Thought I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows
Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear…
And I’m floating around my tin can
Far above the Moon
planet earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do.”

Lyrics Space Oddity by David Bowie Alternate

Earth to Major Tom,
Earth to Major Tom,
Drink protein pills and wear a helmet
Earth to Major Tom
(ten, nine, eight, seven, six)
Let’s start the countdown, start the engines
(five, four, three)
Ignition check and God’s love be with you
(two, one, start)

Earth calls Major Tom
You really did a good job
And the papers wanna know what team you root for
It’s time to get out of the capsule if you dare
Major Tom calls the Earth
I’m out the door
And sort of soar
The stars seem special tonight
‘Cause I’m sitting here in a tin can
Far from all the world
Planet Earth is so blue
And there’s nothing I can do

Though I’ve traveled a hundred thousand miles
I am very calm
And I think my ship knows where to fly
Tell your wife I love her very much even though she knows
Earth to Major Tom,
Your electrical circuit is out of order, something is broken
Do you hear me, Major Tom?
Do you hear me, Major Tom?
Do you hear me, Major Tom?
You hear…
And I’m flying around in a tin can
Far above the moon
Planet Earth is so blue
And there’s nothing I can do

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