David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ single was released in the UK and USA on 11 July 1969.
The single was issued just days before Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on 20 July. Bowie’s record labels rush-released it in the hope of receiving a sales boost from its topicality.
I’m sure they really weren’t listening to the lyric at all. It wasn’t a pleasant thing to juxtapose against a moon landing. Of course, I was overjoyed that they did. Obviously some BBC official said, ‘Oh, right then, that space song, Major Tom, blah blah blah, that’ll be great.’ ‘Um, but he gets stranded in space, sir.’ Nobody had the heart to tell the producer that!
This [album version] is slightly longer than the single. The sad thing about the record was that not all copies were in stereo. This is definitely a stereo sound and you lost a lot of impact on the single. This is how it’s supposed to sound.
Disc and Music Echo, 25 October 1969
‘Space Oddity’ was not an immediate hit in the UK, its success hampered by the BBC’s decision not to play it until the Apollo 11 crew had safely returned to Earth. It first charted in September 1969, and in November peaked at number five.
In America, the single was a commercial flop, despite Mercury’s Ron Oberman calling it “one of the greatest recordings I’ve ever heard. If this already controversial single gets the airplay, it’s going to be a huge hit.” The song received limited radio airplay, perhaps due to its bleak subject matter, and the single stalled at number 124.
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