...this kaleidoscopic album is an amalgamation of Dave’s obsessions...
Susie Goldring 2007-04-18
Along with Marc Bolan, with whom he shared a producer, David Bowie is credited with spawning glam rock in the 70s. However, 1969's Space Oddity is fledgling Bowie - not a feather boa in sight - but a spider’s web of influences. It shows a Bowie, not so much casting his own image, but in the shadow of others. Originally turned down by George Martin, this kaleidoscopic album is an amalgamation of Dave’s obsessions - directors, musicians, poets and spirituality of a distinctly late-60s hue.
In this ever-shifting musical refraction there are glimpses of Stanley Kubrick (the title track – originally recorded in Bowie’s bedroom –is inspired by the film 2001: A Space Odyssey), and Muddy Waters (the harmonica and blues rhythm in ‘‘Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed’’ - another song about being an outsider, or as Bowie himself puts it ‘A phallus in pig-tails’). Dylan's influence looms in the social commentary '’God Knows I'm Good’' and the yearning '’Letter to Hermione’' – an ode to the girlfriend Bowie lost the very year the album was born; whilst the poetry of Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg appears in the aching ‘’Cygnet Committee’’ (‘I bless you madly, sadly as I tie my shoes’).
The eponymous single was mistranslated into Italian 'Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola'. When Bowie found out, what the new lyrics meant, he just laughed; ‘I've put in all that time singing some bloody love song about some tart in a blouse on a mountain!’.
There are two particularly mind-blowing tracks on this album, both of which come with an exquisite production by Tony Visconti (who shunned the title track as a cheap publicity stunt tying in with the Apollo 11 moon landings). The symphonic '’Wild Eyed Boy from Free Cloud’' and '’Memory of a Free Festival’', which celebrates his first appearance at Glastonbury festival, linger in your head long after they have stopped playing. Both show Bowie in the trippy hippy mode that he was in the early days and help Space Oddity to stand out in the cannon of this two-toned eyed musical genius.