It’s been a rather bleak place for music fans around the globe due to the recent departure of cultural and musical icon David Bowie. So to celebrate his legacy, it’s more than fitting to review one of the songs that contributed to Bowie’s era-defining career: Space Oddity. Taken from his second studio album David Bowie, the track was inspired by the 1969 lunar landings and film director Stanley Kubrick.
Space Oddity opens in a very subtle way with a basic guitar strumming pattern, a buzzing stylophone and a faint drum roll. The almost inaudible opening can be compared to Richard Strauss’ classical masterpiece Also Sprach Zarathustra due to the similarities they share in their opening bars. Bowie marvellously sets the scene of space with opening lyrics “Ground control to Major Tom/Take your protein pills and put your helmet on”. Major Tom is a fictional character created by Bowie who he references in many of his songs such as Ashes to Ashes, Hallo Spaceboy and Blackstar. It’s characters like Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust that show how colourful David Bowie’s imagination was.
With a spoken countdown in the background leading to the words “Lift-off”, the song descends into a rush of eerie ambient noises in the form of guitars, flutes, violins and a mellotron, which builds up tension. It can be interpreted that the track trying to mimic the intensity of an actual spaceship countdown. The impeccable atmosphere that surrounds the track reinforces the point of why it was an absolute game changer for its time because the incorporation of production techniques such as bizarre soundscapes made it a very unprecedented quality to have in music. These techniques would go on to inspire the likes of Elton John, who would try to channel the extraordinary sound of Space Oddity through his self titled album. The elegant guitar solo reflects how glorious the universe is in the space of a few notes. There is an affectionate quality that can be taken away from Space Oddity where it makes us all want to look up to the stars and gaze in complete admiration. It can also be implied that Bowie tried to put across the significance of space flight during that era as Apollo 11 was the very first manned mission to go into outer space in 1969.
In conclusion, considering this was three years before the birth of Bowie’s revolutionary glam rock icon Ziggy Stardust, there is one thing that Space Oddity did masterfully; it gave a glimpse into the versatility and the unlimited potential of David Bowie. There is no doubt that Bowie’s legacy will go on for eternity because of his fearless and controversial approach to so many contrasting genres which allowed him to sophisticatedly bridge a link between music and art. In many ways, Bowie’s musical and artistic vision allowed similar people to liberate and express themselves without ever feeling ashamed of their true identity. He was a chameleon that lived under many alter egos and as a result managed to make such a remarkable and profound impression on the world. His virtuoso will be greatly missed. God bless you David Bowie. You will always be the Starman that’s waiting in the sky.