Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 218
Sat. August 18, 2012
Did you know David Bowie re-recorded his most famous song in 1979? The original interstellar aura was brought to earth on this stripped down version as David explained in Nicholas Pegg’s The Complete David Bowie, “I agreed as long as I could do it all again without all its trappings and do it with only three instruments. Having played it with just an acoustic guitar on stage early on, I was always surprised at how powerful it was just as a song, without the strings and synthesizers.”
Bowie’s almost naked version, released in 1980, sounds like “Major Tom” is in suspended emotion realizing he became the man who fell to earth. Lennon fans may recognize the three piece arrangement on the updated rendition of “Space Oddity” as Peter Doggett explained in The Man Who Sold The World when he wrote, “Those three ‘pieces’ –piano, bass and drums— mirrored John Lennon’s instrumentation on his 1970 album Plastic Ono Band. Bowie produced an exact replica of the sound that Lennon and Phil Spector produced on “Mother” –bass and drum locked in brutal unison.”
1969’s original had this lifted exploration spirit that gave hope to a new generation, a decade later, that hope had been extinguished with a dramatic sparse sound reflecting back to the paranoid alienation Bowie felt in the 1970s. Still I do prefer the 1980 Plastic Ono Band-esque version. “Space Oddity” sounds more powerful grounded in this Lennon inspired stripped down primal arrangement. Whatever version you prefer, no matter how many times Bowie remixes, re-records or changes the chord sequence for his most classic song, “Space Oddity” in any incarnation, will remain one of the most timelessly memorable songs in David Bowie’s whole eclectic canon.