Because of his lack of commercial success, Bowie was forced to try to earn a living in different ways. He featured in a Lyons Maid ice cream commercial, but was rejected for another by Kit Kat. Then intended as a vehicle to promote the singer, a 30-minute film featuring performances from his repertoire, “Love You till Tuesday”, was made.
Although not released until 1984, the filming sessions in January 1969 led to unexpected success when Bowie told the producers, "That film of yours—I've got a new song for it." He then demoed the song that would provide his commercial breakthrough. "Space Oddity" was released later in the year to coincide with the first moon landing. "Space Oddity" was released on 11 July, 1969 five days ahead of the Apollo 11 launch, to become a UK top five hit.
In a 2003 interview with Performing Songwriter magazine, Bowie explained: "In England, it was always presumed that it was written about the space landing, because it kind of came to prominence around the same time. But it actually wasn't. It was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing. I was out of my gourd anyway, I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me."
Now this is a great song - about the launch of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut, (Bowie would later revisit his Major Tom character in the songs "Ashes to Ashes" and "Hallo Spaceboy").
Session musician Herbie Flowers ("Walk On The Wild Side," "Diamond Dogs") played bass on the track, (the first time he played with Bowie) and "Space Oddity" featured future Yes keyboard wizzard Rick Wakeman on Mellotron and piano.
Bowie is in fine singing voice, and played guitar, and stylophone. Yes stylophone - a miniature stylus-operated synthesizer – if you’ve never seen one, it consisted of a metal keyboard played by touching it with a stylus, it was really a kids toy. Australian entertainer Rolf Harris had made it famous, but after Bowie cleverly utilised it on his first hit record, he ended up advertising the things. “As used by David Bowie”.
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