Opposite Hunky Dory‘s “Life on Mars?” two years later, David Bowie‘s “Space Oddity,” recorded on this day in 1969, appointed the ever-morphing rocker as the new king of psych-folk, four years before The Dark Side of the Moon, mind you. And three before his own Ziggy Stardust epic.
On its surface, it’s this trippy ballad about a fictional character named Major Tom and his communication with “ground control,” paralleling the Brit’s failed attempts at joining the Space Race. The BBC actually featured the song in its coverage of the States’ first encounter with the moon. Which is so unbelievably awesome to think about. Even more awesome to think about Canadian astronauts performing “the most poignant version of the song ever created” 40+ years later.
Even more unbelievably awesome though is that peeling beneath its meandering cymbal rides, its iconic string lulls and power chord and handclap bridge that cuts through it all, reveals this floating metaphor about loneliness and reinvention that time won’t ever crack, Bowie lofting:
This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do
Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go