UK single release: The Prettiest Star

David Bowie’s single ‘The Prettiest Star’ was released in the United Kingdom on 6 March 1970.

‘The Prettiest Star’ received positive reviews in the music press. Writing in the New Musical Express, Derek Johnson called it “a thoroughly charming and wholly fascinating little song. Set to a relaxed jog-along rhythm, with a wowing guitar picking out the melody line behind David’s subdued and sensitive vocal. The self-penned lyric is enchanting, if somewhat enigmatic – and the melody is haunting and hummable. It’s a quiet, inoffensive disc, with a touch of mysticism that holds the listener in its spell. I like it immensely, and I reckon it could do very well indeed.”

Others were similarly enthused. Record Mirror called it a “chart cert”, and in Disc, long-time Bowie supporter Penny Valentine described the song as “a lovely, gentle, gossamer piece… A hit indeed”. Annie Nightingale told Daily Sketch readers that Bowie’s “next step to fame comes next month with the release of ‘The Prettiest Star’.”

They could not have been more wrong. Released on 6 March 1970, ‘The Prettiest Star’ failed to reach the UK charts, selling just 798 copies in its first ten days on sale.

The Prettiest Star single – United Kingdom

The single we did immediately after ‘Space Oddity’, ‘The Prettiest Star’, wasn’t science fiction, it was about his new wife Angie. It was bouncy, but it didn’t do anything.
Tony Visconti
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The single’s commercial failure quashed the chances of a US release. Besides, Bowie’s A&R man in America, Mercury’s Robin McBride, disliked the song, and the company opted for a re-recording of ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’ instead.

Despite being liked, although not loved, by the music press ‘The Prettiest Star’ was a huge disappointment for David, and for me; it probably sold less than a thousand copies. Considering how well the ‘Space Oddity’ single had done it was a double blow. It would be another two and a half years before David had a hit single in Britain.
Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy (Uncut)

‘The Prettiest Star’ was released on the same day as The World Of David Bowie, a budget-priced selection of his Deram recordings. It fared better than the single, selling more than 5,000 copies in its first two weeks on sale.

Beautiful. Just hearing the original recording with David and Marc Bolan and the drummer and a bass and a little bit of piano. You can’t sit down and write a song with somebody if they’re your mortal enemy.
Herbie Flowers
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The single’s mono mix was later included in the compilations Sound + Vision and Re:Call 1. A previously-unreleased 1987 stereo mix made by PolyGram’s Tris Penna was included on The Best Of David Bowie 1969/1974, the 2003 edition of the Sound + Vision box set, and the 2009 reissue of the 1969 album David Bowie (Space Oddity).

The word ‘star’ occurs in nine song titles released by Bowie, four on the Ziggy Stardust album alone. ‘The Prettiest Star’ was the earliest example, and was followed by ‘Starman’, ‘Lady Stardust’, ‘Star’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)’, ‘New Killer Star’, ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’, and ‘Blackstar’.

Although he rarely performed it live, Bowie re-recorded ‘The Prettiest Star’ for his sixth album, 1973’s Aladdin Sane.

Last updated: 28 March 2023
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