David Bowie released his epochal ‘Starman’ in April of 1972 so we thought there was no better time than now to reconnect with what sent this song into the stratosphere and gave David Bowie his first commercial success since ‘Space Oddity’—the Starman himself, and his unique vocal.
While Bowie’s songwriting is often cited as some of the best in modern music, his vocal performance is too often overlooked. But, in these isolated vocals, you can see the otherworldly power he had to tell a story.
Written for the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars as a late addition, the song has a story behind its beginnings. David Bowie’s drummer, Woody Woodmansey, said in an interview to The Quietus “We’d finished recording the Ziggy Stardust album at that time and it went into the record company. They said: ‘We can’t release this. It doesn’t have a single on it!'”
“So we came out of the studio and, in about a month, he had written ‘Starman’ and we were back in the studio by January. It was an obvious single! I think Mick and I went out in the car after David played it for us the first time, and we were already singing it, having only heard it only once. At the time, we thought it might be a bit too poppy, a bit too commercial.” With Bowie still worried about his previous work seeming trite and unrepresentative of his talent, it was a real concern.
“It might seem strange, but we just hadn’t done anything that commercial before. I always thought Bowie had that ability, that any time he felt like it, he could write a hit single. He just had that about him. I think he chose not to right through his career. If he felt like it, he would write one, and if he didn’t, he wouldn’t. That was just the impression of working with him. It’s not a fluke to be able to write all those amazing tunes.”
Ziggy Stardust was created by David Bowie in 1971 as his rock and roll alien from outer space—a deliberately inflammatory character capable of carrying off the kind of songs Bowie had begun to write. He retired the character in 1973 after his performance at the Hammersmith Odeon. But before he did he had bundles of charisma to share.
It was this persona and this charm that rang out of the new single ‘Starman’. Bowie was treating his fans listening through their headphones to another trip out of the atmosphere and into the endless possibilities of space. Bowie wasn’t the Starman, he was the rocket ship off this rock. It’s best hear don his enigmatic isolated vocals.
Enjoy listening to the isolated vocal track below of David Bowie’s iconic song ‘Starman’ below