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43rd Anniversary of Bowie’s New Years Eve “Spaces Oddity” performance

Bowie performed this version of “Space Oddity” on a New Year’s Eve show hosted by British entertainer Kenny Everett on the last night of 1979. The production is fairly elaborate and uses imagery and at least one set (the padded room) that would later appear in the “Ashes to Ashes” video, so, between that linkage and Bowie’s very intense performance, he seems to have been deliberately laying the groundwork for the connection between the two songs (possibly playing into the interpretation that “Space Oddity” is actually a song about heroin use, setting up the unmistakable subject matter of “Ashes to Ashes,” which is about addiction).

Bowie is around his absolute peak at this time, both as a singer and as a performer. Of all the striking images here, including the close-up of Bowie’s eyes, what particularly stuck out to me was the part of the song where Bowie moves from one set to another, with a confused and terrified expression on his face. This brief sequence, in addition to Bowie’s look, reminded me of David Byrne, though who was evoking who around this time is another matter. Anyway, the sequence underscores the transition that took place at this juncture in the song and suggests that transition, or transformation is really what the song is about.

I can’t help but think of his famous performance on Saturday Night Live in 1979– these appearances are works of art.

The audio of this version of “Space Oddity” was used as a B side to the Scary Monsters-era release of “Alabama Song” and has been included in reissues of Scary Monsters as bonus material.

Happy New Year!

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