The second record in the Oddityviz series deconstructs Bowie’s Space Oddity into its eight original master tracks, released in 2009 as part of a special edition marking the song’s 40th anniversary.
We visualised the master tracks in a very simple way, as waveforms. These make up the circular bands on the record – wider for louder sounds, narrower for quieter.
The instrumentation of Space Oddity is distinctive and complex. There are two string tracks, and two flutes (both in track C). Bowie’s 12-string acoustic guitar plays almost constantly, stopping only during the liftoff section (section 3). The song features two vintage synthesizers – a Mellotron and a Stylophone – whose breathy eccentricities give it a kind of broken-down, retro-futuristic sheen: ‘Here am I sitting in a tin can’.
Some of the song’s hallmarks are clearly visible, too. You can see the spoken countdown (‘ten, nine, eight…’) in the backing vocal (track B) in section 2 at around two o’clock on the record, the separate numbers marked with stars. The next section is the ‘liftoff’ interlude, where the string parts work up to a crescendo as the rocket takes off, before dropping right down again for the first verse: ‘This is Ground Control to Major Tom / You’re really made the grade’. You can also see Bowie’s distinctive handclaps in the two breaks at around six and nine o’clock, which we marked with two triangles.
A few studio sounds remain on the master tracks that were edited out of the final mix. ‘Very nice take that, really nice’ says producer Gus Dudgeon to Rick Wakeman at the end of the Mellotron track. And Bowie can be heard at the beginning of the lead vocal track making popping noises with his cheeks, faintly visible on our record.