22 Comments (since 22 May 2015)
User "voixautre", posting on the blog at "OnlyTheLonelyMusic.Blogspot.co.uk", recounts a very long story about the beginnings of fame for David Bowie, his encounter and work with producer Tony Visconti, and the breakthrough that was this Jam: "In 1968, now a solo mime artist, Bowie opened a show for Marc Bolan's 'Tyrannosaurus Rex', and in the process, ended up crossing paths with Bolan's producer Tony Visconti.
"Visconti's account of their initial meeting: 'I met David about a month after Marc [Bolan] and I remember the weather. It was a nice day, I was in David Platz's office at 68 Oxford Street and he played me Bowie's first Deram album, saying, 'What do you think of this kid?' I said, 'he's all over the map.' You know that album, 'Uncle Arthur', 'Mr Gravedigger' and so on, crazy songs, 'Laughing Gnome'? I said, 'he's great but so unfocused.'
"'And he said, 'Come and meet him, he's in the next room.' David was about 19 at the time, very nervous sitting there. He knew he was going to meet me, it had all been set up, and David Platz left us after five minutes. We got on very well, we shared a love of Andy Warhol, underground music, a group called 'The Fugs', which few British people were aware of.
"'He was obviously in love with American music and I loved him, he was a singer songwriter, had this great English accent and now we were going to work together. So we took a long walk down Oxford Street, on this nice day, we continued to talk the whole day and about three hours later ended up on King's Road near a film theatre where Roman Polanski's 'Knife In The Water' was playing.
"'We'd been talking about foreign films and Truffaut, specifically black and white and scratchy films, so we went in there and we said goodbye at about 7 in the evening. We'd struck up a great friendship.' To say this was a fortuitous encounter would be a vast understatement because Visconti proved to be instrumental in shaping the careers of both Bolan and Bowie, as well as helping to foster the birth of the glam-rock movement that would make them both superstars by 1972.
"At the time of their meeting in 1968, Bowie had managed to record an album for Deram the previous year, but it had failed to chart. As Visconti noted when he first heard the LP, 'David Bowie' is an unfocused pastiche of an album, touching on dancehall numbers, show tunes, British invasion and even novelty songs. What was conspicuously absent was any significant reference to rock music, a much better forum for Bowie's growing avant-garde inclinations.
"This and the inconsistent songwriting all but sealed its fate with the public. As a result, his days at the label were numbered, and he was unceremoniously dropped in early 1968.
"However, just before his exit from Deram, Bowie had composed and recorded 'Space Oddity', a song destined to eventually bring him his first taste of commercial success, and he had collaborated on a song with Visconti, 'Let Me Sleep Beside You', which is arguably his first successful attempt at writing a rock song and a harbinger of what was to come next.
"Bowie had written a good deal of new material by the time he entered the studio again in 1969, this time on the dime of Mercury Records, to record his second album, now with Visconti as his producer. Among the songs to be recorded was a new version of 'Space Oddity', which was obviously influenced by the Stanley Kubrick film, '2001: A Space Odyssey' and the impending Apollo 11 moon landing.
"Bowie had originally written and recorded the song for a promotional film for Deram called 'Love You Till Tuesday', which ended up staying in the can until 1984. Reportedly, Mercury's willingness to fund the recording sessions for Bowie's second album was contingent on re-recording 'Space Oddity' and releasing it as a lead single in time to capitalise on the upcoming moon landing, which was to happen roughly a month later.
"Visconti hated this idea as well as the song and had no interest in producing it, which is why his assistant, Gus Dudgeon, who would later become Elton John's producer, was pressed into service. Visconti: 'I turned it down. I thought it was a novelty song. I respected him for the folk rock songs he gave me, with great depth in the lyrics, a real underground writer. But then he hands me this 'Space Oddity' song, which was topical to the point of novelty.
"'To this day I regret not doing it, it's a great song, people remember it more than 'Young Americans' or 'Let's Dance'. I offered it to Gus Dudgeon in the next office, he said, 'You don’t want to record this? You're crazy!' And he did a great job. Then David came back to me. His record company would not let him make the album unless he recorded 'Space Oddity'. 'Now that we’ve got that out of the way', these were his exact words, 'let's get on with the album'.
"'It took a long time for that record to chart. He never did write a follow-up to 'Space Oddity'. His next single was 'The Prettiest Star', which I got Marc Bolan to play on. But really nothing happened until he conceived of Ziggy Stardust a couple of years later.'" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Oddity_%28song%29
[I disagree with the blogger on that last point. True, nothing really happened until Ziggy was born, but "Starman" is exactly and faithfully a follow-up to "Space Oddity" - the subject matter is the same, and it has the ability to draw you into its broad imaginings, albeit in a 'rockier' way than this featured Jam. And don't forget "Ashes to Ashes" - the ultimate 'Major Tom' follow-up!!]
"Planet Earth is blue, and there's nothing left to do." Tho it's David Bowie's song and no one can top his version, I have a personal preference for Chris Hadfield's cover, recorded when he was actually up in the space station. For one thing, he hit lofty high notes that Bowie.. well.. They're both very lovely. =)
As heard on Mad Men ;-)
Classic and one of his best!
One of the best songs!
Incredible songwriting and performing. One of Bowie's best. Thanks for the history lesson, too!
A classic of course...
And guess what? As soon as I reveal that I use a "naughty Russian MP3 site" to post audio on TIMJ (darkmp3.ru), it gets taken down!! I've already found an alternative, but this time I'm not saying!! :/
(I can't figure out why this Jam still played after it was taken out though!)