David Bowie – Space Oddity: 40th Anniversary Special Edition

January 01, 1970

(EMI) www.emirecords.com

 

BY RON HART

 

Originally released in 1969 as David Bowie Man of Words, Man of Music in Europe and as Space Oddity in the U.S. in 1972, David Bowie’s
career-altering second LP might not be heralded amongst the cream of his
recorded output. But it stands as one of his most important releases,
signifying the future Thin White Duke’s first major artistic shift in character
from the music hall Mod of his largely forgotten eponymous 1967 debut to that
of an otherworldly psychedelic folk rock troubadour with a penchant for bungled
space missions, acidheaded Buddhism and Orwellian visions of the future; or, if
you’d rather, Ziggy Stardust sans the glam.  

 

The album also serves as the platform for one of Bowie’s
most revered hits, “Space Oddity”, a song initially inspired by a combination
of a viewing of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey and David’s own self-described “silly flirtation
with smack”, but became an international smash when it was released to radio
around the same time that man first landed on the moon in the summer of 1969.
But there are far more superior songs on the original nine-track LP,
particularly the masterful prog-folk epic “Cygnet Committee” featuring Yes
keyboardist Rick Wakeman on harpsichord, “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud”, which
would mark the uncredited debut of future Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick
Ronson into the Bowie fold, and the mesmerizing “Memory Of A Free Festival”
with its unforgettable Pagan-like chorus, “The Sun Machine is coming down/And
we’re gonna have a party.” The album also marks the first of many projects with
longtime friend and producer Tony Visconti, who would go on to produce such
future Bowie
classics as The Man Who Sold The World,
Scary Monsters
and the fabled “Berlin Trilogy” of Low, “Heroes” and Lodger.

 

In celebration of Man
of Words, Man of Music/Space Oddity’s
40th anniversary, EMI has
compiled the most definitive version of this album yet with this lovely Special
Edition, which contains a remastered version of the original LP alongside a
bonus disc offering 15 tracks of B-sides, BBC sessions and demos pertaining to
the album, eight of which have never been released officially or on bootleg.
True, many discerning Bowie fans will refer to their trusty copies of Bowie at the BEEB for the versions of
“Let Me Sleep Beside You” and “Janine” included here, Rykodisc’s 1990 reissue
of Space Oddity (which, for my money,
contains the better album cover) for the two-part single version of “Free
Festival” and The Best of 1969/1974 for the stereo mix of the 1970 single “The Prettiest Star” (which features Marc
Bolan of T.Rex on guitar) and question why they should pick this set up. However,
they will find solace in this anniversary edition for the super rare demo
versions of “Space Oddity” and “An Occasional Dream” with producer John “Hutch”
Hutchinson, a previously unissued BBC performance of “Unwashed and Somewhat
Slightly Dazed”, the best version of “Festival” you never heard that’s clocks
in at nearly 10 minutes and the “full-length stereo version” of “Space Oddity”
that Bowie recorded in Italian and retitled as “Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola”, or
“Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl”. What that title has to do with either 2001: A Space Odyssey or heroin is
anyone’s guess, but nevertheless is worth hearing.

 

Regardless of where you stand on Man of Words, Man of Music/Space Oddity, be it one of Bowie’s misunderstood
masterpieces or a career dud that belongs alongside Tonight and Earthling, any
respectable music fan cannot deny this album’s indelible place in the evolution
of this most extraordinary figure in rock history.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“Space Oddity” (both the official version and the demo), “Cygnet
Committee”, “Janine (BBC Radio Session, D.L.T. Show), “The Prettiest Star
(stereo version)”, “Memory Of A Free Festival (alternate album mix)” 

 

 

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