The Connection Between NASA Bowie And Kubrick

The Connection Between NASA, Bowie And Kubrick

The Connection Between NASA, Bowie and Kubrick does not seem obvious. But dig a little deeper and it becomes clear of how Bowie was inspired to write his stunning debut single using inspiration from one of the world’s greatest film directors and NASA’s Moon landing.

Space Oddity

On July 16th Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on a planet other than our own. A siesmic date in history that is still felt today. For many music fans, another important day occurred nine days prior to the moon landings.

On July 11th a young, and relatively unknown singer named David Bowie released his breakthrough single, Space Oddity. The song transformed the young Bowie’s life and the history of modern music. A masterpiece that set the standard for a career that defined a generation and a song that continues to influence music and society over 50 years after its release.

Connection Between NASA, Bowie & Kubrick
One of Bowie’s First Promo Shots For Space Oddity

Bowie & Kubrick

Space Oddity is a masterpiece that set the standard for a career that defined a generation . It’s a song that continues to influence music and society over 50 years after its release.

Upon the songs initial release many dismissed it as a ‘novelty’ single, released to cash in on the moon landing mania that was gripping the globe. Space and humankind’s place in it dominated popular culture at the time. But Bowie didn’t create Space Oddity from a passion for the unfolding space race. The spark that lit the fire for Space Oddity was after Bowie saw Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odessey in early 1968.

2001 connected by NASA, Bowie & Kubrick
2001: A Space Odyssey Film Poster

“I found [the film] amazing,” Bowie told Performing Songwriter magazine in 2003. “I was out of my gourd anyway. I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing.”

It was clear to anyone that heard an early version of Space Oddity that Bowie had created something special. His then manager, Kenneth Pitt recalled in his book Bowie: The Pitt Report, that “this was an unusually clever song was apparent from the first hearing…It was clear from this first ‘public’ outing of the song that David Bowie had composed something extraordinary.”

Bowie & NASA

Shortly after the song’s release, the BBC decided to ban the track. The ban seems slightly heavy-handed to say the least. But the powers that decide these things felt that with the danger Armstrong and Aldrin were facing on their mission to the moon, the song may seem in poor taste. Yeah, I don’t think we’ll ever understand how they came to that conclusion either.

It seems that nobody bothered to send the memo to the BBC team working on the stations live TV coverage of the moon landings though. Space Oddity was to be heard playing in the background during much of the station’s coverage, a fact Bowie found hilarious, “I’m sure they weren’t really listening to the lyric at all (laughs). It wasn’t really a pleasant thing to juxtapose against a moon landing. Of course, I was overjoyed that they did.”

The Stars Look Very Different

Space Oddity, far from being a novelty record, became the first stepping stone that launched one of history’s most beloved musicians into orbit. A musician that never compromised his vision, his art. A musician that pushed himself into new sounds and experimentation –  something of an oddity when compared to many artists of his and future generations.

This blog originally appeared on To-DoLists.com

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Rivergirl says:

    Wow, I hardly recognized Bowie in that photo. And because it’s been so long since you graced us with your presence? I probably wouldn’t recognize you either.

    1. Yes, I think it’s basically one of his first photo shoots. And if you think you wouldn’t recognise me, surely my bad grammer and punctuation will give me away!? 🙂

  2. What an effective ban. Good job, BBC. (By the way, the “Beeb” is about the last entity I would expect would stifle artistic expression, but maybe things were different back then?)

    1. I think you’ve got the wrong impression 🙂 The Beeb is well known for stifling anything that may be deemed slightly controversial. In fact, I’d say it is much, much worse now. Absolutely no way something like Monty Python would be commissioned today. They still make some great programmes but I think ‘politics’ is becoming the overriding factor of what gets made now

      1. Oh wow, it sounds like I really did have the wrong impression. I thought they were like public radio/public television here in America, which have reputations of being impartial and above board.

      2. They kind of did for many years but pressures from all sides and political pressure has left them trying to please every one but pleasing no one. A major flaw in it all is that whoever is in government decides who is in charge of the BBC – therefore you get people who are ‘sympathetic’ to their political views.

Leave a Reply