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.