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David Bowie- Starman Video

Released in April 1972, “Starman” was a late addition to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, included at the insistence of RCA’s Dennis Katz, who heard a demo and loved the track, believing it would make a great single.

Music and lyrics

The music is in a gentle pop rock vein, featuring prominent acoustic guitar and a string arrangement by Mick Ronson, not dissimilar to the style of Bowie’s previous album Hunky Dory (1971). The chorus is loosely based on Judy Garland’s song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the film The Wizard of Oz. Other influences cited for the track are the T. Rex songs “Telegram Sam” and “Hot Love” (the “boogie” references and “la la la” chorus) and The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (the morse code-esque guitar and piano breaks).

The song has inspired interpretations ranging from an allusion to the Second Coming of Christ, to an accurate prediction of the plot for the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

The song has inspired interpretations ranging from an allusion to the Second Coming of Christ, to an accurate prediction of the plot for the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

“STARMAN”

Didn’t know what time it was the lights were low-oh-ho
I leaned back on my radio-oh-oh
Some cat was layin down some rock n’ roll lotta soul, he said

Then the loud sound did seem to fade-a-ade
Came back like a slow voice on a wave of phase-ha-hase
That werent no d.j. that was hazy cosmic jive

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie

The lyrics describe Ziggy Stardust bringing a message of hope to Earth’s youth through the radio, salvation by an alien ‘Starman’. The story is told from the point of view of one of the youths who hears Ziggy.

I had to phone someone so I picked on you-hoo-hoo – Hey, that’s far out so you heard him too!-oo-oo
Switch on the TV we may pick him up on Channel 2
Look out your window I can see his light-ight-ight
If we can sparkle he may land tonight-ight-ight
Don’t tell your poppa or he’ll get us locked up in fright

CHORUS 

According to Bowie himself, speaking to William S. Burroughs for Rolling Stone magazine in 1973, Ziggy Stardust is not the Starman but merely his earthly messenger – contrary to received opinion which often paints Ziggy as an extraterrestrial.

From a commercial point of view, “Starman” was a milestone in Bowie’s career, his first hit since 1969’s “Space Oddity” three years before. NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray reported that “many thought it was his first record since ‘Space Oddity'”, and assumed that it was a sequel to the earlier single.

The single initially sold steadily rather than spectacularly but earned many positive reviews, John Peel for example calling it “a classic, a gem”. Its turning point came when Bowie scored a place on Top of the Pops in July 1972 (although this wasn’t Bowie’s first UK TV performance of the song, as it had been performed on ITV’s Lift Off With Ayshea three weeks previously). His performance with the Spiders became famous; according to author David Buckley, “Many fans date their conversion to all things Bowie to this Top of the Pops appearance”. It embedded Ziggy Stardust in the nation’s consciousness, helping push “Starman” to #10 and the album, released the previous month, to #5. The single remained in the UK charts for 11 weeks. In the US it peaked at #65.

In February 1999, Q magazine listed the single as one of the 100 greatest singles of all time, as voted by readers.

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