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Music

How the Bee Gees influenced David Bowie song 'Space Oddity'

There are many reasons to love David Bowie. The chameleonic artist was a true iconoclast who married music and aesthetics in a way that hadn’t been done before. Androgynous, daring, and undoubtedly a genius, Bowie showed us the future with his work. 

The Brixton native possessed a foresight that was truly astounding, just take his comments on the proliferation of the internet, for example. He had the wisdom of such Dr. Manhattan proportions that made many of his fans wonder whether he was actually from this earthly realm at all. Duly, there’s a cerebral pulp to Bowie’s work that continues to be highly influential.

Bowie wrote many timeless classics over his career, and one of the best-loved is his 1969 single ‘Space Oddity’. The opening track of his eponymous second album, the song proved to be a turning point in Bowie’s career. After his 1967 debut album failed miserably, Bowie’s manager Kenneth Pitt commissioned the promotional film, Love You till Tuesday, intended to introduce him to a larger audience. 

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For the film, Bowie wrote what became ‘Space Oddity’. It tells the tale of the fictional astronaut Major Tom and was partially inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s game-changing masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, channelling the feelings of alienation that he was feeling at the time.

However, the song is also notable for another influence that bled into its creation, that of pop heroes Bee Gees. It became the most complex song Bowie had written in his career at that point, shifting from the music hall-inspired sound of his debut to this type of poetic psychedelic folk that was inspired by the Gibb brothers. 

It says a lot about just how dextrous David Bowie was as an artist that he was able to seamlessly segue from his early style to this complex and intelligent style that the Bee Gees were famous for. “Space Oddity was a Bee Gees type song,” Bowie’s collaborator John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson explained. “David knew it, and he said so at the time, the way he sang it, it’s a Bee Gees thing.” 

Echoing this sentiment was T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan who recalled in an interview: “I remember David playing me ‘Space Oddity’ in his room and I loved it and he said he needed a sound like the Bee Gees, who were very big then”.

I would never have thought that David Bowie would be inspired by Bee Gees. However, this was David Bowie. He was full of surprises.

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