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MoonPop: “Space Oddity” September 30, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, MoonPop, Youtube.

It’s time for another session of MoonPop (my ongoing series of features on Moon colonization and integration in pop culture), and while this one has a few asterisks, often the interpretation of pop culture is just as signicant as the pop culture itself.

Today, in honor of the first-ever Chinese spacewalk, we take a look at the David Bowie classic “Space Oddity“, first released in 1969 (supposedly to coincide with the 1969 moon landing, and also supposedly after his seeing the 1968 film release “2001: A Space Odyssey“, itself in part a previous MoonPop feature). The video of the A-side version of Space Oddity annoys me to such a great deal (too much drugs, not enough competency on that one…) that I’m going to feature a more palatable user-made animated video instead (congrats, Gonetia):

Check out the end of this post for a neat, rare 1969 video of the B-side version of the song.

The song, while inspiring to anyone thinking about space and (as noted) generally thought to be inspired by space’s place in the pop culture of the 1960’s, is also concurrently about something else entirely. The song was featured by the BBC during their coverage of the 1969 moon landing, despite the drug-trip symbolism, which itself is confirmed in Bowie’s follow-up to “Space Oddity”, “Ashes to Ashes“:

“Do you remember a guy thats been
In such an early song
Ive heard a rumour from ground control
Oh no, dont say its true
Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know major toms a junkie
Strung out in heavens high
Hitting an all-time low”
-“Ashes to Ashes”, David Bowie, 1980

The BBC’s usage of “Space Oddity” was surprising, given the rather negative tone of the song. In fact, this song outright gave me the creeps when I was a kid growing up (though technically, at 24, some older segments of the population may still consider someone my age to be a ‘kid’).

“Space Oddity” is deeply rooted in both the events (the moon landing) and the pop culture (“2001: a Space Odyssey”) of that time, and as we enter into two decades (2010-2020; 2020-2030) that are going to have both a likely private space boom, and then the full swing of the ‘base race’, we should expect to see more pop culture creations like “Space Oddity” come around in vivid form. Hell, Bowie himself is still kickin’ (as Tesla, no less), so maybe we can lobby him for a tune to fit this new era (perhaps about an internet junkie this time?).

As promised, as a wrap-up for this edition of MoonPop, here’s that rare B-side version video of the song. Enjoy:


1. MoonPop: Sam Rockwell as a Helium-3 Miner in “Moon” (2009) « Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration - March 8, 2009

[…] by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie; Bowie’s first big hit was, of course, Space Oddity (a previous MoonPop feature here […]

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