February 18, 2014

101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes 44: David Bowie 5 ~ Space Oddity

reel-to-reel tape label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

I have hundreds of reel-to-reel, pre-recorded tapes in addition to my 20,000 Vinyl LP collection I'm selling. This is another entry about one of them (see links below). I will have Space Oddity, one of my David Bowie tapes, up for sale on eBay on July 15, 2014 (link below). Interested? Contact me by email please, not by a comment.

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reel-to-reel tape box
photo by Brian Ward
photo of album cover by Styrous®

7" open reel tape releases

There was only one release of Space Oddity on open reel, in 1972 duplicated by Magtec, North Hollywood, CA 91605. This is a high speed 7.5 ips release. RCA is the only known company Bowie has been assigned to that released his albums in this format, and only in the US, though imports into other regions may have occurred.

Space Oddity is one of my all-time favorite albums. It has so many innovative songs in addition to the hard core rock 'n roll ones, a nice blend. It was the second studio album by David Bowie. It was originally released in 1969 as Man Of Words, Man Of Music (by Mercury in the US) and as David Bowie (by Philips in the UK).  It was later re-released in 1972 by RCA as Space Oddity. The original UK David Bowie LP cover artwork showed a facial portrait of Bowie on top of a work by artist Victor Vasarely with blue and violet spots on a green background.

 David Bowie                                           Man Of Words, Man Of Music
Philips Records (UK)                                        Mercury Records (US)

I love the slowed-down, vaguely Hambone-esque beat of, Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed. It's one of my favorite Bowie songs. Some really nice harmonica work by Benny Marshall in it and a terrific instrumental break in which he is featured.

Memory of a Free Festival was written as a homage to the Free Festival, organised by the Beckenham Arts Lab, which was held at Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham on 16 August 1969. Biographer David Buckley described Memory of a Free Festival as "a sort of trippy retake of the Stones' Sympathy For The Devil but with a smiley lyric". Somehow, that is not my impression of the song. David Bowie used a child's Rosedale Electric Chord Organ, obtained from Woolworths, to give a "classic Ivor Cutler/harmonium feel". The organ and vocal intro is almost 3 minutes long but when it does move into the melody it is really sweet. A slow, soothing and hopeful tune that is, oh, so refreshing.

Rosedale Electric Chord Organ

Cygnet Committee has lyrics riding over a moderately-slow, magic carpet provided by drums and bass guitar. However, the melody has unsettling minor key shifts that say, "Listen to what I'm saying!" "It's important!" It's a very dramatic song.

reel-to-reel tape box back
photo by Brian Ward
photo of album cover by Styrous®

Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud is a mellow and beautiful song with a lush orchestra and a dreamy, echoey vibraphone accompaniment. Bowie said of the song: "It was about the disassociated, the ones who feel as though they're left outside, which was how I felt about me. I always felt I was on the edge of events, the fringe of things, and left out."

reel-to-reel tape box back detail
photo by Brian Ward
detail photo by Styrous®

When I was dancing on Broadway in the late 70's, one of the girls, Iris, used to dance to this song with her partner doing the Love Act at the Hungry i and I will always associate this song with her.

Space Oddity, the big hit from the album, is a song written and performed by David Bowie and released as a music single in 1969. It is about the launch of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut; its title alludes to the Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The lyrics have also been seen to lampoon the failed British space program.

The song was awarded the 1969 Ivor Novello Award, together with Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?". "Space Oddity" became so well known that Bowie's second album, originally released as David Bowie in the UK (like his first album), was renamed after the track for its 1972 reissue by RCA Records, and has since become known by this name. It was used by U2 during their 360° Tour (2009-2011). It was played over the public address system preceding the band's arrival on stage.[2] In 2013, the song gained renewed popularity after it was covered by astronaut Chris Hadfield, who performed the song while aboard the International Space Station.

Upon its re-release as a single in 1973, the song reached #15 on the Billboard Chart and became Bowie's first hit single in America; in Canada, it reached #16. This was then used to support RCA's 1975 UK reissue, which gave Bowie his first #1 single in November.

Bowie would later revisit his Major Tom character in the songs "Ashes to Ashes" and "Hallo Spaceboy". German singer Peter Schilling's 1983 hit "Major Tom (Coming Home)" is written as a retelling of the song.

There is a video, a revised version of Bowie's Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield while on board the International Space Station. Link to the video below.

reel-to-reel tape label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Track listing:

All songs written and composed by David Bowie.

Side 1:

1. Space Oddity - 5:16
2. Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed - 6:12
3. (Don't Sit Down) - 0:42
4. Letter to Hermione - 2:36
5. Cygnet Committee - 9:35

Side 2:

1. Janine - 3:25
2. An Occasional Dream - 3:01
3. Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud - 4:52
4. God Knows I'm Good - 3:21
5. Memory of a Free Festival - 7:09


  • Record Producer - Gus Dudgeon
  • ProducerTony Visconti (tracks: 2 to 13)
  • Design [Package Design]Reiner Design Consultants, Inc.
  • Photography [Additional] – Brian Ward, Robin Bean
  • Photography [Album Photo Art] – Brian Ward

Music links:
Space Oddity (original 1969 video) on YouTube 
Space Oddity on YouTube
Space Oddity recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on YouTube
Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed on YouTube
Memory of a Free Festival on YouTube
Cygnet Committee on YouTube
Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud on YouTube

David BowieSpace Oddity for sale on eBay

reel-to-reel listings on eBay

Styrous® ~ February 18, 2013


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