On June 20, 1969, David Bowie recorded a song at Trident Studios in London at the request of his manager Kenneth Pitt who asked for "a very special piece of material that would dramatically demonstrate David's remarkable inventiveness and would probably be the high spot of the production."* This recording session would result in "Space Oddity," Bowie's first song to reach No. 1 on the UK charts.
"Space Oddity," a song on his second album, David Bowie, introduces a fictional astronaut Major Tom. Bowie has stated that he was inspired to create the character after viewing Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey film. The song was released on July 11, 1969, and became a UK top-five hit five days before the Apollo 11 launch. Although many believed the space landing inspired the song, as it came into prominence during the same time. Bowie since refuted this stating he saw 2001 several times and was stoned while viewing the film.
In 1972 RCA reissued "Space Oddity," and the song would become Bowie's first US hit that was promoted with a music video filmed by Mick Rock. The song would be re-released in 1975, climbing to No. 1 on the UK charts. Bowie would also record an acoustic version, which would become a concert staple.
In the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes," which was featured on the Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album, Bowie would revisit Major Tom, who is then described as a junkie "strung out in heaven's high, hitting an all-time low." It's been said that this song is about Bowie confronting his years of drug addiction in the 1970s.
Throughout the years, many artists have referenced or further developed the story of "Space Oddity," including Peter Shilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home), Panic on the Titanic's "Major Tom," and Def Leppard's "Rocket."
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