The videos

David Bowie’s first studio version of ‘Space Oddity’ was recorded at Morgan Studios on 2 February 1969.

The recording was made for the Love You Till Tuesday film, intended as a promotional tool by Bowie’s then-manager Kenneth Pitt. It featured Bowie’s collaborator John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson playing the role of Ground Control, and with Bowie as Major Tom.

The February recording became owned by Decca when Pitt sold the rights to Love You Til Tuesday to PolyGram in 1984.

The 1969 video for ‘Space Oddity’ was uploaded to Bowie’s official YouTube channel on 9 March 2019.

In the final months of 1972, Bowie toured America, where he also recorded parts of the Aladdin Sane album and promoted The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.

On 13 December, just hours before sailing from Manhattan to England aboard the RHMS Ellinis, Bowie was in RCA’s Studio 3, where Mick Rock directed a promotional film for ‘Space Oddity’.

We filmed the promo in five hours in RCA’s New York recording studio. Later that day David sailed back to England on the QE2. The next day I went back to film the oscilloscope and other studio equipment. I viewed the studio as Major Tom’s ‘tin can’.
Mick Rock
Moonage Daydream: The Life And Times Of Ziggy Stardust

Bowie mimed to the song with a guitar. The promo was to support the single ‘Space Oddity’, with ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ on the b-side. It was released in January 1973 and became Bowie’s first US hit, reaching number 15 on the Billboard chart.

Low-tech space has always appealed. I had already done a funky little video for ‘Space Oddity’ back in the late Sixties, which had also belaboured the no-budget factor. This didn’t really worry me, as after the movie 2001: A Space Oddity who wanted to compete with that dazzling and realistic hi-tech look? Again, Rock pretty much just set his camera up, popped on a couple of really red lights, and shot away as I sang. I only had a few hours for him as I hadn’t yet finished packing the huge trunk that accompanied me on all my nautical travels. I really hadn’t much clue why we were doing this, as I had moved on in my mind from the song, but I suppose the record company were re-releasing it again or something like that. Anyway, I know I was disinterested in the proceedings and it shows in my performance. Mick’s video is good, though.
David Bowie, 2002
Moonage Daydream: The Life And Times Of Ziggy Stardust

1979 recording

In September 1976 Bowie recorded new versions of ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Panic In Detroit’, and ‘Rebel Rebel’, at Tony Visconti’s Good Earth Studios on Dean Street in London’s Soho.

The version of ‘Space Oddity’ was acoustic, with Bowie on vocals and 12-string guitar, Zaine Griff on bass guitar, Hans Zimmer on piano, and Andy Duncan on drums. It was recorded for the UK television programme The Kenny Everett Show.

Everett’s show was directed by David Mallett, who also directed Bowie miming to the new recording. It first appeared in two New Year’s Eve specials, Will Kenny Everett Make It To 1980 Show?, and on Dick Clark’s Salute To The Seventies in the US.

That came about because Mallett wanted me to do something for his show and he wanted ‘Space Oddity’.

I agreed as long as I could do it again without all its trappings and do it strictly with three instruments. Having played it with just an acoustic guitar onstage early on I was always surprised as how powerful it was just as a song, without all the strings and synthesisers. In fact the video side of it was secondary; I really wanted to do it as a three-piece song.

David Bowie
NME, 13 September 1980

The new version was released in February 1980 as the b-side of the ‘Alabama Song’ single. The words “Sorry Gus” were etched into the run-out groove, as a message for the song’s original producer Gus Dudgeon.

The 1979 version was also included, in a different mix, on Rykodisc’s 1992 reissue of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).

Published: |