On this day in music history: July 11, 1969 – …

On this day in music history: July 11, 1969 – “Space Oddity” by David Bowie is released. Written by David Bowie, it is the eleventh UK and fourth US single release for the rock music icon from Brixton, London, UK. Forming his first band in 1962, David Jones makes his recording debut two years later with the single “Liza Jane”, under the name Davie Jones And The King-Bees. It fails and he moves on to numerous other blues bands including The Mannish Boys, The Lower Third, and more pop oriented Riot Squad. By 1967, unhappy with being in a band, Jones decides to go it on his own. With the decision to go solo, he renames himself David Bowie, taking his new stage name from the 19th century frontiersman Jim Bowie, and to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees. Even with the change in name, it doesn’t help Bowie land a hit, with his first solo single “The Laughing Gnome” and debut album released in the Spring of 1967, quickly fading from view. By 1969, Bowie is dropped by his label Deram Records. During this time, he sees Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Inspired by the films second act about the exploration of space, Bowie begins to write around that concept, creating the fictional astronaut Major Tom. With world attention focused on the impending first mission to the moon being launched by NASA, Bowie completes the song titled “Space Oddity”, recording a rough early version in February of 1969. His manager Ken Pitt negotiates a deal with Philips Records in the UK and Mercury Records in the US. When producer Tony Visconti hears the demo, he opts not to work with Bowie on it, instead recommending his colleague Gus Dudgeon (Elton John) to produce. “Space Oddity” is recorded at Trident Studios in London on June 20, 1969 with Rick Wakeman (mellotron), Mick Wayne (guitar), Herbie Flowers (bass) and Terry Cox (drums). The bulk of the track is recorded in the first session, its completed over the next few days. Released just five days before the Apollo 11 launch to the moon, it becomes David Bowie’s breakthrough in the UK, peaking at #5 on September 6, 1969. In the US, it fails to crack the Hot 100, Bubbling Under at #124. However, it is not the last time it is heard from. After breaking stateside in the early 70’s, RCA Records acquires the rights to Bowie’s album from Mercury and Philips, re-releasing it as “Space Oddity”, and reissuing the title track. It becomes his first US top 40 single, peaking at #15 on the Hot 100 on April 7, 1973. RCA in the UK then reissues the song in the Fall of 1975, hitting number one, and spending two weeks at the top. Regarded as one of the signature songs of David Bowie’s career, “Space Oddity” has been covered numerous times, with the original being featured in many films. Bowie again makes reference to Major Tom in “Ashes To Ashes” (#1 UK, #101 US Pop), and in the songs “Hallo Spaceboy” and on the title track of his final album “Blackstar”.