Permanent Wave

Crash Course for the Ravers
Album: David Bowie aka Space Oddity, 1969
Prior Level of Acquaintance: Moderate
Three-Word Review: Pleasant, vague, compassionate

In which I nod off during Bowie’s second album.
In my own defense, I hadn’t had a lot of sleep. But it’s good to know that if insomnia strikes, ‘Cygnet Committee‘ is there for me.

I really dig only two songs on this album, one because it’s wonderful and one because, I don’t have to explain myself to you.

The wonderful one is ‘God Knows I’m Good,’ a moving vignette about an old lady in a supermarket. Now that I know Bowie’s first album, which is entirely vignettes, this one feels like an outtake.

Unlike ‘Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed,’ which could use some bits outtaken, but still has a great tune and attitude and a hilariously random playout. Bonus kicking harmonica.

And then there’s ‘Space Oddity,’ or, as BBC host Brian Matthew put it,* “Your biggest success to date.” Bowie politely corrects him: “My only success to date.” It’s lovely and disturbing, a perfect milestone. Here’s Bowie’s video for it, demonstrating his ability to be totally surreal without even particularly special effects.

As for the rest, I might love some of these offbeat fairy-tale sermons if they were actually performed by Donovan. (I mean, isn’t ‘Memory of a Free Festival‘ trying to be ‘Atlantis,’ which was itself trying to be ‘Hey Jude,’ or is that just me?)

David and Angie

Hair: permanent. Marriage: Not so much.

What really sticks with me from this album is Bowie’s hair. (Not for the last time.) Mod was dead, apparently, and while he did get momentarily famous for long straight hair, he’d never yet sported a mane like many a hippy gent. Instead the album is covered with this frizzy 80s-anticipating perm that looks great on him only because almost everything looked great on him. Among other things, it’s the hair he had when he married Angie Barnett in March 1970.

Sorry, Davey, but I’ll be relieved to push on to ‘The Prettiest Star’ and The Man Who Sold the World. You wear the dress. It looks better on you.



*on Bowie at the Beeb, a compilation released in 2000.

4 thoughts on “Permanent Wave

  1. gracenotpark says:

    OMG I’d never heard the first incarnation of Space Oddity! Very cool…as were some of his early vids. Did not even know he was doing vids this early! This series is a wonderful walk-thru of his rapid development in just a few years. And kinda sets the path for his continuing to rapidly morph for the rest of his life. The more I know, the more I love him to pieces.


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