From the Stacks

From The Stacks: David Bowie, ‘Space Oddity’ (8-Track)

Next week marks the 50th anniversary of David Bowie’s second debut album.

Bowie’s true debut was 1967’s David Bowie on the Deram label, an album that strikes most listeners as a misfire. I can’t say that I disagree with that assessment, but there are a few great songs buried beneath the bad arrangements and Anthony Newley impersonations.

But 1969’s David Bowie, aka Man of Words, Man of Music, aka Space Oddity; well, that’s another story entirely. Everybody knows the title song (though it wasn’t the album’s title until RCA’s 1972 re-release), and given that in most people’s minds Bowie doesn’t exist prior to “Space Oddity” I get why folks mistake this for his first record.

What those casual listeners don’t realize, though, is that “Space Oddity” is, well, an oddity. This is the Dame’s folk-hippie album, and he took to the genre with the same brilliance as any other incarnation in his shape-changing career.  Unlike “Space Oddity,” the rest of the album is acoustic guitars, pastoral settings, and soothing-yet-sometimes-Dylanesque vocals.

David Bowie captures a young man coming into his own creatively, one who is madly in love with art, music, and the ethereal Hermione Farthingale, with whom he had recently parted ways. “Letter To Hermione” is the kind of song that only a 22 year-old with a broken heart and a 12-string can write:

Is it Bowie’s greatest album? No, but prior to this year’s 50th anniversary celebrations it has been a sorely overlooked one. Regardless, David Bowie/Space Oddity has always remained in my regular rotation. If you like that late ’60s/early ’70s singer-songwriter vibe, this album should be in your regular rotation, too.

Owning an 8-track copy is a cool novelty, and one that you only need around ten bucks to add to your collection. Wouldn’t this look cool sitting on your shelf? Happy hunting.

1 reply »

  1. I had completely forgotten how much I loved the songs on this album until I read the back of the 8 track – suddenly the echo-ey words from “An Occasional Dream” are in my head and I have been flung back to Venice Beach circa 1977, living with Lali in the guest house of a couple we babysat for in exchange for rent….It was really more of a treehouse, one great large room up a long flight of stairs, if we needed to use the bathroom or anything else, we just let ourselves in the backdoor, which was always unlocked (😳).
    “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed” was the theme song that year, because waking up and dropping a tab of acid rather than brewing a pot of coffee was how we started our mornings, and showering was optional because you could wind up spending hours in there.

    Thank you for continuing to write this blog, Hi-may. You do something that no one else can do, you take me back to so many of my memories, and since most of them are locked away, they have not dimmed from being too manhandled – they fly out of the box as clear and vibrant as the day itself.
    I read this, I think of the song, and I just stare off into space with a little smile on my face. I do this much more often than I leave a comment, and one is long overdue as to how much WIM, and its creator, matter to me.


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