Space Oddity (1969)

1969

TRACKS:

1. Space Oddity: Masterpiece #1. At first a novelty cash-in on the immanent first moon landing, now clearly Bowie’s first stone cold classic and a career saver which still sounds otherworldly today. Glimpses of Kubrick the track put Bowie on the map as his first hit single, and for quite some a time his only hit. Was to go on and re-record a superb Plastic Ono Band-esque (acoustic/piano/bass/drums) stripped down version in 1979 that is well worth seeking out. 10.0

2. Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed: “Spy spy pretty girl..”. A pleasingly ramshackle strum-along which rocks along in a Dylan country vibe with heavy rhythm, Bowie was embracing all things hippy at the time which may have unfortunately included less showering – it was 1969 after all. Also includes some ripping Benny Marshall harmonica. Ditty ‘Don’t Sit Down’ (3.5) follows. 7.5

3. Letter to Hermione: Direct love song about former lover Hermione Farthingale, and can be quite affecting when listened to in a dark room, alone. Quite a moving piece, Bowie’s voice delicate and fragile. Seeds are sown here. 7.0

4. Cygnet Committee: The definitive Bowie dystopian rant. I think you needed to be born in the 60s to fully appreciate his sentiments on this one – or at least understand them. He seems to be describing the ironies of the hippy movement of peace and love and how even the hippy movement was forceful and controlling. Cygnet Committee is heavy going but it’s a stunningly passionate vocal performance. 8.0

5. Janine: The rocker. Echos of Ziggy in the intro and bouncy pop has never sounded so good. Effective reverb on the vocal and while an unassuming song, something sticks. Somewhat reminiscent of the famous Hey Jude outro towards the end. 6.5 

6. An Occasional Dream: Another gentle love song about Hermione Farthingale again but not as effective as ..Hermione. Time gently washes and erodes the past until the once heavily-passionate affair becomes the subconscious musing of an occasional dream. This piece was an early attempt by Bowie to convey, in direct terms, the effect that rejection in love had upon him. His later work becomes surreal and obscure so I am grateful that we are permitted to share his personal feelings towards a fellow human being in such an unadulterated manner. 6.5 

7. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud: A personal favourite and while there have been any number of versions recorded, this remains the best (except perhaps for the live medley version on Motion Picture which is worth the price of admission). Sonically and lyrically ambitious – a fine track. 8.5

8. God Knows I’m Good: Probably based on a story Bowie read in the newspaper. Using religion when it suits you, in this case an old lady. Not the strongest moment on the album, actually the weakest. 6.0

9. Memory of a Free Festival: Someone thought this would make a good single. That’s how much bliss was being passed among the crowd at the Beckingham’s Arts Lab Free Festival in 1969. With another Hey Jude sing-along outro, this track was last seen opening the monstrous Philly Dogs tour in 1974. A nice album closer, underrated track, and interesting document of the time. 7.5

ALBUM RATING: 7.5

VERDICT: Within the individual songs there is not a truly weak moment, and such a kaleidoscopic album is impressive as a whole. Would be even stronger had some strong additional tracks recorded around the same time been included, for example Let Me Sleep Beside You (6.5), Conversation Piece (7.5) or The Prettiest Star (6.5). A rag-bag collection of psychedelic folk rock from an artist still finding his true voice. Also initially released as David Bowie due to the first self-titled 1967 album being essentially ignored. Still prefer the 1972 Space Oddity re-package (and new title) rather than the 1969 perm and horrendous alternative title, Man of Words, Man of Music.

NEXT: Heavy Metal!

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