Kiefer’s Music Mondays: David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’

The first taste of Bowie’s infinite potential.

The fusion of epic ethereal landscaping, folk rock and electric blues shredding would later evolve into what would be known as progressive rock, but it all started here on David Bowie’s second studio and second self-titled, commonly referred to as Space Oddity

Released in November 1969, Bowie is quite young on this album, and there is fairly little of the Bowie we came to know and love. He had yet to fully adopt his signature style, his chameleonic aesthetic was nowhere near fully realized, and his songwriting was in the very early stages of his grand repertoire of bizarre, socially radical iconography and lyricism. After his breakthrough in the next few years, the album was released in 1972 with completely different, more Ziggy-ish cover art due to his drastic change in style.

“Space Oddity” is the flagship single that put Bowie on the map as the enigmatic icon he will always be revered as. The song links Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” made popular by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the story of Major Tom, who travels to space, finds he no longer belongs to Earth, and floats into the wild unknown alone in a “tin can.” Major Tom would reappear throughout Bowie’s entire career. Released 10 days before we put the first man on the moon, the song forever christened David Bowie’s nickname as “The Spaceman,” and this epithet would stylistically represent much of his work for the next 50 years.

We see inerrant forms of this album in ’71s folksy ‘Hunky Dory’ and in 1976’s proggy ‘Station to Station’. Space Oddity reveals slivers of flower power, bluesy harmonica, psychedelic undertones, a glimpse of eerie Bowie in G, and, most importantly, a peek in the telescope to see David Bowie’s universe of endless frontier of potential.

Listen to: “Space Oddity,” “Cygnet Committee,” “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed”