1969 – Phillips
Legend of the rock world David Bowie’s second full length album (and first real success) Space Oddity is definitely one of the most widely known Bowie records of all time, and many people regard it as the definitive classic of his career, but when you really get down to it Space Oddity as a record is rather half-formed and sketchy. Now, don’t get me wrong the album is one of the landmarks of music in that it was a real turning point for a giant of music, but when you have a really good listen to this tracklist there is a distinct feeling of stuff being thrown all over the place where it really shouldn’t be.
I mean, starting off with the incredibly well known and loved title track is certainly not something that I could have any issue with and Unwashed And Slightly Dazed is a wonderfully rocky number that is a perfect follow up to the opener (even if Bowie’s voice doesn’t really shine through), but then we hit the weird studio outtake Don’t Sit Down. I ask you – what the hell are we meant to make of that? Did this suddenly become a novelty album? I guess it’s telling that this track was removed from many of the releases of this record that have been put out through the years.
I could forgive, however, this odd intrusion of nonsense into what was shaping up to be an incredibly engaging album if only the thing didn’t suddenly abandon the rock and roll aesthetic and retreat back to Bowie’s earlier Anthony Newley impressions with Letter To Hermione. I mean, really this track sounds like it has been ripped straight out of a second rate musical and thrown onto this record in exactly the place where it should not have been. It’s not necessarily bad or anything, it’s just that it doesn’t really have a place on this album. For a record that’s so obviously looking towards the future, it’s such a shame that this glance backwards is so obtrusively featured.
Letter To Hermione isn’t the only track on this release that throws off Bowie’s wondrously futuristic campaign towards a new music either. I mean, An Occasional Dream and God Knows I’m Good create exactly the same problem wedged in as they are between the brilliant Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud and Memory Of A Free Festival; none of the tracks are in any way subpar, it’s just that they don’t seem to gel well together thematically, and make the whole album just a bit of a mess of ideas.
This all being said, Space Oddity is still a magnificent record with a multitude of standout tracks, and one which clearly shows the evolutionary changes Bowie was undergoing in the way in which he was thinking about music. I guess, though, I would just have preferred to hear a less confused transitional period, or at least a Bowie who was clear about what direction he was taking.
All things considered, however, and listening to the record in retrospect and in the context of the whole latter career that David Bowie ended up having this album is a must have. I mean, one can hear the churning of musical styles that was slowly turning into classics like Hunky Dory, and it for this reason that I just have to give it a worthwhile score. I have no idea how I would have felt about the record if I‘d listened to it back in 1969, but as it is I just can’t de-contextualize at all.
One of the most interesting cuts from the album, Memory Of A Free Festival.
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