Monday, February 9, 2015

Musical Monday - Space Oddity by David Bowie

One really odd thing about the song Space Oddity is that it was not released during David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust period, but was instead recorded a couple of years before Bowie released the The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album. To be fair, although it sounds like something from it, the song wouldn't have really fit on Ziggy Stardust because the subject matter of Space Oddity doesn't mesh with the storyline presented in the album.

Space Oddity was released in 1969, the year after Apollo 8 made its famous circumnavigation of the moon, and just nine days before the crew of Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The song was rejected by one music producer on the grounds that it was a cheap shot taken at the U.S. space program, making fun of the impending moon missions. This seems to be off base to me, as I think the song reflects both the isolated loneliness and danger posed by undertaking space missions, but also the determination to do it anyway. Major Tom, the central character of the song's narrative, never expresses doubts about why he is in space, and never resents the fact that he has gone on the mission, even though it is clear that something has gone horribly wrong and he is doomed to die alone in the cold reaches of space. There is a forlorn quality about the song, but there's also a kind of gritty hopefulness locked inside it as well.

Of course, this song was written in a time when humans were testing the limits of what we could do to explore off of our own planet. We don't do that any more. We aren't Major Tom any more, stepping out the door into the unknown even though it might kill us. We've become timid and fearful. But that's a rant for another time.

Previous Musical Monday: Pop Song 89 by R.E.M.
Subsequent Musical Monday: Starman by David Bowie

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