Heathen album coverWritten by: Norman Carl Odam
Recorded: August-September 2001; October 2001 – January 2002
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 10 June 2002

Available on:
Heathen

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, guitar, Theremin, Chamberlin, baritone saxophone
David Torn: guitar
Tony Visconti: bass guitar
Matt Chamberlain: drums, loops
Greg Kitzis, Meg Okura: violin
Martha Mooke: viola
Mary Wooten: cello

Originally released by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, David Bowie covered ‘I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship’ for his 2002 album Heathen.

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy was the moniker of Norman Carl Odam, born in 1947 in Lubbock, Texas. His debut since, 1968’s ‘Paralyzed’, was a pioneering slice of psychobilly and led to a small cult following. Released by Mercury later the same year, ‘I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship’ was his second single.

When I first joined Mercury Records in the late 60s, he was one of the only other artists they had. And they gave me his entire catalogue, which at the time was three singles. I immediately fell in love with his music. Well actually, the IDEA of his music. As the music itself wasn’t too recognizable as being such.
David Bowie
BowieNet webchat, 4 June 2001

Odam’s alter ego also inspired one of Bowie’s first creations, the character Ziggy Stardust.

The last name, Stardust, came from another of my favourites, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, who was on Mercury Records along with me in the ‘Space Oddity’ days, and he sang things like ‘I Took A Trip In The Gemini Spacecraft’ [sic]. His big hit was ‘Paralysed’… well, I bought it! He was a kind of Wild Man Fischer character; he was on guitar and he had a one-legged trumpet player and in his biography he said, “Mah only regret is that mah father never lived to see me become a success.” I just liked the Ziggy Stardust bit because it was so silly.
David Bowie
Q magazine, April 1990

Although Odam’s recording career largely started and ended in 1968, Bowie remembered him as a key influence. In addition to Bowie recording ‘I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship’, in 2002 he invited the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to perform at the Bowie-curated Meltdown Festival in London. Odam also played at the David Bowie High-Line festival in New York City in May 2007, at Bowie’s invitation.

The pair finally met in San Francisco in August 2002, during a stop on Bowie’s Heathen Tour.

I knew instantly that David Bowie was much more intimidated by the Ledge than vice versa. When he came walking into to the room, he yelled out ‘Ledge!’ and ran to him to try and hug him. And Norman was having none of that – he stepped back slightly and David ended up giving him the two hands on the arms squeeze as opposed to a full hug. And they just stood around taking pictures, and Bowie had this grin on his face like somebody had just handed him a syringe of the sweetest smack in the world.
Tony Philputt, filmmaker
Texas Music Magazine, Winter 2003

In 2011, Cherry Red Records released For Sarah, Raquel, and David: An Anthology, a collection of Odam’s music. The title refers to well known fans of the singer: Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York; actor Raquel Welch; and David Bowie.

After ‘Cactus’ and ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’, ‘I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship’ was the third cover version on Heathen.

The third is a song by my one time muse The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. He was a stablemate of mine on Mercury records in the late ’60s and I chewed off the last part of his name for Ziggy, of course. When I read on his site that he thought that because I’d borrowed his name that, at least I should sing one of his songs I got guilty and wanted to make amends immediately. So I covered one of his best songs, ‘I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship’ although he sings Spacecraft on the record.
David Bowie
Livewire magazine, 16 June 2002

‘I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship’ features the lowest note performed by Bowie on an album – a G1, the lowest G note on a piano keyboard.

The string parts the Heathen recording were performed by the Scorchio Quartet, based on Bowie’s own ideas.

Tony [Visconti] wrote most all of them. I had a major hand in ‘I Would Be Your Slave’ as I had kind of worked them out on the Trinity keyboard. And I came up with the line in ‘Gemini’ but everything else is Tony. He is a superb string arranger, I could not think of doing an album with him without strings in some form. It would be criminal.
David Bowie
Livewire magazine, 16 June 2002

The recording also featured the Theremin, the electronic instrument invented by Leon Theremin in 1919.

The ‘Longwave Theremin’ and a proper Theremin were used on a couple of tracks. Tony had the proper one and has had it for years. He’s a super fan of Theremin and showed us all a great documentary on Theremin’s very sad and long life. This woeful sounding instrument found its way onto ‘Gemini’ among others.
David Bowie
Livewire magazine, 16 June 2002

An eight-minute version of the song, titled the Deepsky’s Space Cowboy Remix, was released in January 2003 as the b-side of the American promo 12″ of ‘Everyone Says ‘Hi” (METRO Remix).

Live performances

David Bowie performed ‘I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship’ live on just four occasions, all in 2002.

The first was on 2 June at the Kaufman Studios in New York, filmed for the BBC’s Top Of The Pops and TOTP2. Eight songs were filmed: ‘Fame’, ‘Slow Burn’, ‘I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship’, ‘Everyone Says ‘Hi”, ‘I Would Be Your Slave’, ‘Hallo Spaceboy’, ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’, and ‘Ziggy Stardust’.

The other performances were all in concert: at New York’s Roseland Ballroom on 11 June; London’s Meltdown Festival on 29 June; and the Horsens Open Air festival in Denmark on 5 July.

Previous song: ‘I Would Be Your Slave’
Next song: ‘5:15 The Angels Have Gone’