Lots of songs tell stories, but there are few as full of simple narrative drive as Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” which launched a character (Major Tom) who would appear in two more songs in the next two decades. Fading in slowly on an acoustic guitar and a military drum roll, the song brings a soft but steady countdown from Ground Control as the song’s spaceship (and occupant) prepares to blast off into the atmosphere. Then the tune switches narrators, as Major Tom steps out of his capsule and finds himself floating “in a most peculiar way.” He’s so taken by the feeling and the view that he decides to stay there, “far above the world.” Ground Control calls out to him, to no avail. He is lost, though sure to return in Bowie’s later songs “Ashes to Ashes” and “Hallo Spaceboy.” It was Bowie’s first hit single, and its topic would foreshadow his unforgettable The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars three years later.
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