In 1973, I was not quite in my teens yet, but I was a big fan of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ had just been re-released and was gaining popularity in North America. Bowie was already a massive star in the UK after the release of Ziggy Stardust and was in the studio recording the followup album Alladin Sane when famed 1970s rock photographer Mick Rock filmed Bowie performing Space Oddity (see above). The song reached #15 and helped Bowie become a star in North America.
The song had first appeared in 1969 on Bowie’s self-titled album and hit #1 in the UK after it was featured on the BBC broadcast of the US lunar landing. The song’s title references the Stanley Kubrick classic ‘2001, A Space Odyssey‘ which had been released the previous year.
As most people know the song tells the tragic story of fictional astronaut Major Tom through his conversations with Ground Control. More than once the song gave me chills as I stared into the night sky imagining Major Tom in his spaceship forever drifting deeper and deeper into space. Which reminds me, I never did figure out who’s shirts he wore. (you’ll laugh if you know the song… maybe)
Kitchener illustrator Andrew Kolb was inspired to create a project for himself telling the story of Bowie’s Major Tom in the style of a children’s book. The book follows the lyrics of the song. Andrew has done some pretty cool work for magazines like Canadian Family Magazine, Monocle as well as the band Tokyo Police Club.
A full version of the book was made available on Andrew’s site as a PDF, but it looks like all the attention from mentions on sites like Wired.com has brought the lawyers calling so it’s temporarily down. You see Andrew didn’t ask before he went public with his illustrations, and while the results are awesome (and free) they do violate the song publisher’s copyright.
Hopefully something can be worked out between the parties and a print version of the project can be published. If things do work out, I would certainly love to see his version of Ashes to Ashes.
At least for now you can still click through a slideshow the images on Wired.com.