The Misadventures of Major Tom

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When it comes to “Outer Space Music” a seminal work has to be David Bowie’s 1969 single “Space Oddity” featuring the timeless adventure into space with Major Tom.

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The song was released on July 11th, 1969, just nine days before Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and the title is a clear reference the film 2001: A Space Odyssey that came out the year before. The song was Bowie’s first top five hit in the British charts and became so well known that the album from which it was taken was later renamed from David Bowie to Space Oddity in 1972 . A new recording of the single was released and in 1975 it reached number one in the British music charts.

The song introduces the character of Major Tom, an astronaut on an ill fated mission into space, whom Bowie later revisits in 1980 with the song “Ashes to Ashes” and in 1995 with “Hallo Spaceboy.” In 1983, German singer Peter Schilling had a hit with “Major Tom (Coming Home)” which is a retelling of the story . . . music videos that we shall look at another week.

This music video is for the original 1969 version of the song which has a distinctly more sixties feel and in parts sounds like it could have almost been recorded by The Beatles. Perhaps at the time Major Tom’s silver space suit might have seemed futuristic, but almost five decades later it appears comical . . . however, today we could also pass it off as retro-futuristic in the AtomicPunk vein. Another “sixties” element of the video is the two “star women” who greet Major Tom in space; these celestial twins dance in a spaced out drug like haze and welcome the British explorer into their psychedelic domain.

Over the almost half century of this song’s life it has been covered and parodied several times and was made famous yet again in 2013 when recorded by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield while aboard the International Space Station, becoming the first music video actually shot in space. Hadfield first announced the video on his Twitter account and Bowie responded to the video, tweeting back to Hadfield, “Hallo Spaceboy.”

The best parody, however, has to be the New Zealand comedy duo of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, better known as Flight of the Conchords. The 1969 “Space Oddity” music video is directly referenced in their comedy sketch song “Bowie’s in Space.”

Listen to more Outer Space Music HERE and see what happens when you get stuck between rock and dork place.

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