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Starman

Side One: Five Years / Soul Love / Moonage Daydream / Starman / It Ain't Easy
Side Two: Lady Stardust / Star / Hang On To Yourself / Ziggy Stardust / Suffragette City / Rock n Roll Suicide

Albums:  The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars (1972)

Singles: Starman

Time: 4:16

Background

 

Video credit: Juanantpadillach Mili
Performing "Starman" live on Top of The Pops.

"Starman" is the fifth song on THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972).  While issued as the album's very first single, the song itself was a late entry to the Ziggy album having been written and recorded at Trident Studios in January 1972 and only finally replacing Chuck Berry's "Round and Round" in either February or March 1972. 

  • "Someone, I do not know if it was Bowie, DeFries or RCA decided that there was no single and so we went back into Trident, my home away from home, to record the first single. All other songs on the album except of course "It Ain't Easy" were recorded during the 2 weeks of sessions [in November 1971]". - Ken Scott

  • "We'd finished recording the Ziggy Stardust album at that time and it went into the record company. They said: 'We can't release this. It doesn't have a single on it!' So we came out of the studio and in about a month he had written 'Starman' and we were back in the studio by January. It was an obvious single! I think Mick and I went out in the car after David played it for us the first time, and we were already singing it, having only heard it only once. At the time, we thought it might be a bit too poppy, a bit too commercial. It might seem strange, but we just hadn't done anything that commercial before. I always thought Bowie had that ability, that any time he felt like it, he could write a hit single. He just had that about him. I think he chose not to right through his career. If he felt like it, he would write one, and if he didn't, he wouldn't. That was just the impression of working with him. It's not a fluke to be able to write all those amazing tunes. Like with 'Starman', he didn't try a few out, he just went bang, 'Alright, I'll write one'. But if it wasn't for that song, the whole thing might not have taken off. It pulled it all together." - Woody Woodmansey

  • “Starman” was the first Bowie song since “Space Oddity” that had mass appeal. It spearheaded the whole Ziggy Stardust concept both musically and visually. Appearing on Top Of The Pops was like reaching the summit of Everest. I recall waiting to go on, standing in a corridor, and Status Quo were opposite us. We were dressed in our clothes and they had on their trademark denim. Francis Rossi looked at me and said: “Shit, you make us feel old.” The success of ‘Starman’ really opened it all up for us. Everything changed." - Woody Woodmansey

According to some sources - it was RCA's Dennis Katz who insisted strongly that Starman be added to the Ziggy Stardust album. "Starman" was released on the 28th April 1972 (some have reported 14 April) with the US single having a slightly different edit compared to the UK's and over 10 seconds removed from the fade-out. 

"Starman" was performed live on the 1st UK, 1st US and the Japanese Ziggy Stardust Tours. It was also performed on a couple of Sound + Vision tour dates in 1990 and on 23 June 2000 for Channel 4's TFI Friday show.

To promote the Ziggy Stardust album in 1972, a special BBC recording of "Starman" was broadcast on the Johnnie Walker Show (Broadcast: 5 June 1972 & 6-9 June 1972) and Bowie and the Spiders From Mars performed the song live on the UK TV shows Lift-Off With Ayshea - Starman (Screened: 15 June 1972) and Top Of The Pops - Starman (Screened: 6 July 1972).  Circulating amongst collectors, as a bootleg, is an almost entirely instrumental version of the song (which was auctioned at Sotherbys in 1990) which had been used as the backing track for the television performances of "Starman".

The release of "Starman" & "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" - includes reviews of "Starman"

At the time Bowie also mentioned "Starman" as originally being slated for a planned (but never completed) bridging album between HUNKY DORY (1971) and THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972). This bridging album was to include the songs "He's A Goldmine", "Bombers", "Starman", "Round & Round" and "Something Happens." Three of these five songs were considered for the Ziggy Stardust album, but only "Starman" was to make it.  However, Ken Scott states that no such album was ever "in the can".

At the Rainbow Theatre concert of 19-20 August 1972 the Starman character was played in mime by Lindsay Kemp. The character also figured in promotional material including transferable skin tattoos.

In 1984, John Carpenter's sci-fi movie was titled "Starman", starring Jeff Bridges as an alien. The song however, was not used in the movie.
In 2016 Audi used the song in a commercial at the Super Bowl - two months after David Bowie died. In the commercial an astronaut regains his passion for life, after his son presents him with an Audi car. The ending pays tribute to Bowie - "In memory of the Starman."

Starman Original Lyrics

Analysis

The song "Starman" tells the story of an extraterrestrial contacting the youth of the doomed earth through the medium of radio. The extraterrestrial promises salvation but is weary of his impact on the planet. 

  • "Starman" can be taken at the immediate level of "There's a Starman in the Sky Saying Boogie Children", but the theme of it is that the idea of things in the sky is really quite human and real and we should be a bit happier about the prospect of meeting people" - Bowie (1972)

  • "Starman" was the song that Ziggy wrote which inspired people to follow him and it was all a pack of lies but he continued and then he was crushed by his own ego" - Bowie (1974)

  • "Its a take on Judy Garland....Star.....man" is in fact "Some......where over the Rainbow..." and I just went from there and just took it somewhere else to be.....It became a blueprint for that... Anything I touch always kind of gets perverted out of all recognisable form.   That's half the fun of it. Taking a system and throwing a spanner into it." - Bowie

  • “Starman” was along the same lines as “Space Oddity” and “Life On Mars”, two other favourites of mine. It’s the concept of hope that the song communicates. That “we’re not alone” and “they” contact the kids, not the adults, and kind of say “get on with it”. “Let the children boogie”: it’s music and rock’n’roll! It made the future look better." - Woody Woodmansey

  • "I think David saw “Starman” as the ultimate follow-up to “Space Oddity”, which had been a hit in ’69. But you can see all that ‘star’ stuff he was projecting like mad then: “Starman”; “Prettiest Star”; “Moonage Daydream”. He wanted it bad, he really did. At one point when I was interviewing him he said: “Y’know, I’m so focused on what I’m doing, Mick, that if you were to come and tell me my best friend had just died, I’d probably say, ‘Oh, that’s really sad’, then go right back to work.” That was how he thought of himself. It was important for him to be a star. People forget that Ziggy Stardust was all projection, because he wasn’t a star at the moment he recorded the single and the album. “Starman” was the set-up. That song was the reason there were a thousand people at Oxford Town Hall [June 1972]." - Mick Rock

According to the Ziggy cosmology created by Bowie for the never-staged Ziggy Stardust theatrical show - "Starmen" were the invisible infinites (black-hole jumpers) who, through a dream, tell the human Ziggy Stardust to write of the imminent coming of a Starman to Earth. Ziggy Stardust subsequently writes "Starman" which is the first hope that people have of salvation since the news that the Earth has only five years left. Interestingly, "Starman" neatly predicts the plot of the science fiction movie Close Encounters of The Third Kind (1977).

Recording notes

On the RCA cassette release, "Starman" begins Side Two swapping places with "Lady Stardust".

On the orginal album at 0:02 seconds there is a slight audio drop in the right channel and @ 0:18 seconds there is missing reverb in the left channel.

"There are probably two things worth mentioning about this.  Firstyl, the really bad edit where Woody comes in.  I used a lot of reverb on the rythmn acoustic guitar for the intro but I edited on the drum fill instead of the downbeat and so the reverb cuts off early.  I'm sure that stoped it selling a lot of copies." - Ken Scott

"The other thing is a mystery to me and it concerns the "morse code" sections leading into each chorus.  The overall sound was a piano and two guitars, an octave apart and then all put through the Countryman phaser.  There are two different versions of this part, one much louder than the other.  I have no recollection of doing two different versions and so have no idea why two versions were done nor which was the orginal!" - Ken Scott

 

 Starman (Bowie)

Fun version

Didn't know what time it was, the lights were low
I leaned back on my radio
Some cat was laying down some rock 'n' roll 'lotta soul, he said
Then the loud sound did seem to fade
Came back like a slow voice on a wave of phase
That weren't no DJ 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

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

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

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

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la. la , la, la,
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la ...

 

---This page last modified: 19 Jan 2019---

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