Monday, January 18, 2016

REFLECTING ON BOWIE'S 'SPACE ODDITY'




In "Space Oddity", from the album David Bowie (1969, later retitled Space Oddity), Major Tom's departure from Earth is successful and everything goes according to plan. At a certain point during the travel ('past one hundred thousand miles'), he thinks that "my spaceship knows which way to go" and proceeds to say "Tell my wife I love her very much." Control then informs him, "Ground Control to Major Tom: your circuit's dead, there's something wrong" and attempts to reestablish contact with Major Tom. Tom's final words in the song (possibly not heard by Ground Control) are: "Here... am I floating in my tin can, far above the Moon. Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do."

A) This song is about alienation and distancing yourself away from people by getting so lost in your mind that you're high up above everyone else. It's about becoming cynical and seeing the world as a sad place but being unable to communicate with anyone about it. "Planet earth is blue and there's nothing I can do" - he realizes there's nothing he can do about all of the problems he sees in the world. "Can you hear me Major Tom? Can you hear me Major Tom? - He's lost communication with those on the ground (i.e. in reality). "The papers want to know who's shirts you wear" - something small and insignificant normal people would worry about seems so small and unimportant to this man metaphorically up in space looking down on the world. "The stars look very different today" - the more you spend time in your mind thinking about things, the more your perception of everything will change.

B) Major Tom finds himself floating in space, and all of a sudden, he knows that he was never meant for life on earth. "Planet earth is blue" in both the literal sense and the figurative: it's a sad place. There's nothing he can do about it. He marvels at the "tin can" that was his means of escape from the sad blue marble. He's "feeling very still," or calm and serene, floating in space. At that moment, he knows he's a space traveler. His "space ship knows which way to go." He leaves. He's finally free. He leaves a farewell for his wife, and sets out to start living his life where he belongs: floating round in his tin can.

1. an odd or remarkably unusual person, thing, or event.
2. the quality of being odd; singularity, strangeness, or eccentricity.
3. an odd characteristic or trait; peculiarity.

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