David Bowie: “Space Oddity” (1969)

The Stylophone’s greatest moment. And Bowie’s too, at the time, but he’d stick around a bit longer.

Kronomyth 1.9: One giant leap for mankind.

Being a young Bowie fan familiar with the song “Space Oddity” in legend only, I brought this single home from the store one day and waited patiently for the solitude of night to unlock its secrets. I can still remember pressing my ear against the speaker and drinking the song’s strange magic in like some extraterrestrial oxygen, amazed that the artist had once again cleared the impossibly high expectations I held for him.

This magical moment, by the way, was delivered courtesy of an all-in-one stereo system produced by the likely long-defunct Lennox company, and featured no less than a cassette player/recorder, three-speed turntable, 8-track player and AM/FM receiver within its modest frame. This, back in the days when consumers confused innovation with utility, before innovation became synonymous with higher prices, pleasing aesthetic shapes and unboxing experiences. In fact, the standard-bearers of the industrial revolution have done a lovely job of washing their hands from the whole unseemly business of manufacturing altogether, preferring to skim profits from the works of other countries under the guise of distribution, moneylending, paper-pushing and productivity enhancement. (Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.) Like this single itself, we’ve changed from the “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” to “The Man Who Sold The World” and, in time, “Ashes To Ashes.”

It’s worth noting that there are several different versions of “Space Oddity” floating around, from the pre-1969 stardom version (sadly absent of the Stylophone) to a new version recorded for the “Alabama Song” single. The US version was originally an edit with a pretty piss-poor ending. And, of course, there’s the version recorded by Elton John, which he re-named “Rocket Man.”

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Original 7-inch single version

A1. Space Oddity (David Bowie)*
B1. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud (David Bowie)

*US version featured 3:26 edit, the Australian version features what appears to be an edit at 4:30, while other releases featured the full-length five-minute version.

1970s 7-inch single reissue
A1. Space Oddity (David Bowie) (5:06)
B1. The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie) (3:53)

7-inch extended play single reissue
A1. Space Oddity (David Bowie) (5:15)
B1. Changes (David Bowie) (3:35)
B2. Velvet Goldmine (David Bowie) (3:10)

7-inch back-to-back hits reissue (Netherlands 1980)
A1. The Jean Genie (David Bowie) (3:59)
B1. Space Oddity (David Bowie) (5:12)

The Players

David Bowie (vocals, acoustic guitar, Stylophone), Terry Cox (drums), Herbie Flowers (bass guitar), Tony Visconti (flutes, woodwinds), Rick Wakeman (mellotron), Mick Wayne (lead guitar) with Paul Buckmaster (string arrangement). Produced by Gus Dudgeon.

The Plastic

Released on mono 7-inch single on July 11, 1969 in the UK (Philips, BF 1801), the US (Mercury, 72949) and Canada (Mercury, M.72949) and in 1969 in Australia (Philips, BF-452), Germany, Italy and the Netherlands (Philips, 704 201 BW) and New Zealand (Philips, BF 304201) with regional picture sleeve; reached #5 on the UK charts. Also released on 7-inch single in January 1970 in Japan (Philips, SFL-1244) and in 1970 in Spain (Philips, 53 04 201) with picture sleeve.

  1. Re-released with “The Man Who Sold The World” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in January 1973 in the US and Canada (RCA, 74-0876) and in 1973 in Australia (RCA Victor, 102235), New Zealand (RCA Victor, 74-0876), Portugal (RCA Victor, 20 092) and Spain (RCA Victor, 3-10834) with picture sleeve; reached #15 on the US charts (charted on January 27, 1973 for 14 weeks). Also released as promotional 7-inch single in 19743 in the US (RCA, 74-0876) feat. A long & short versions.
  2. Re-released on three-track 7-inch single on September 26, 1975 in the UK (RCA, RCA 2593) with picture sleeve; reached #1 on the UK charts.
  3. Re-issued with “The Man Who Sold The World” on 7-inch single in November 1975 in the US (RCA Gold Standard, GB-10470).
  4. Re-issued with “The Man Who Sold The World” on 7-inch single in 1977 in Germany (RCA Oldies But Goodies, PPBO-7040) with picture sleeve.
  5. Re-released with “The Jean Genie” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in 1980 in the Netherlands (RCA, OLD-25010) with picture sleeve.

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