Story of the Song: Space Oddity, David Bowie (1969)

Major Tom, David Bowie's first musical alter ego, shot to fame in "Space Oddity".

The doomed spaceman first appeared in Bowie's early 1969 film short, Love You Till Tuesday. Wrapped in a silver space suit, the singer plays the part, floating through an early version of his debut hit. The song was written over a week at Bowie's house in Clareville Grove, Kensington, and first recorded at Willesden's Morgan Studios: "It just sort of oozed out," said Bowie. Signed to Mercury Records in June 1969 on the strength of "Space Oddity", he immediately re-recorded the song with the producer Gus Dudgeon. Among the session men were a young Rick Wakeman and Pentangle's Terry Cox, whose drum flares puncture the languid fade-in much disliked by radio DJs. Bowie plays an acoustic guitar and a Stylophone, a musical toy he was introduced to by Marc Bolan. The lyrics – Bowie claimed they were "about alienation" – made the song an unusual choice by the BBC to accompany their coverage of the Moon landing. The song charted shortly afterwards and is now reissued as an interactive download, to mark the 40th anniversary of that momentous event.