David Bowie – Starman

This was from my favorite era of Bowie. After Bowie appeared on the Top of the Pops in 1972 performing this song…the song and Ziggy took off.

The song peaked at #65 in the Billboard 100 and #10 in the UK in 1972. The song was on the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars which peaked at #75 in the Billboard Album Charts in 1972 and #21 in 2016.

Woody Woodmansey the drummer in Bowie’s backing band, The Spiders From Mars: “I love ‘Starman’ as 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’: music and rock ‘n’ roll! It lifted the attention away from the depressing affairs in the ’70s, made the future look better. ‘Starman’ was the first Bowie song since ‘Space Oddity’ with mass appeal. After ‘Starman,’ everything changed.”

From Songfacts

This forms part of the Ziggy Stardust story, in which the end of the world lingers just five years away. This song tells of salvation waiting in the sky, as revealed through Starman’s messenger, Ziggy Stardust. The song is told from the perspective of a person listening to Ziggy on the radio. 

In 1972, Bowie performed this song on the British TV show, Top of the Pops. Bowie appeared as the flame-haired Ziggy Stardust dressed in a multicolored jump suit. Bowie strummed a blue guitar while he moved flirtatiously alongside his guitarist, Mick Ronson. It was the first time many had seen Bowie and people were fascinated by his stage presence. This performance would catapult Bowie to stardom and prove wildly influential on the next generation of English rockers.

Among the many who have cited this specific appearance as a transformative moment is Lol Tolhurst of The Cure, who writes in his memoir, “I remember sitting on my couch at home with my mother, watching this spectacle unfold, and at the point where Bowie sang the line, ‘I had to phone someone so I picked on you,’ he pointed directly at the camera, and I knew he was singing that line to me and everyone like me. It was a call to arms that put me on the path that I would soon follow.”

Bowie was influenced by the song “Over The Rainbow,” which is most obvious during the chorus (“There’s a Starman…”). 

This was the last song written for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, supposedly because nobody had heard a potential single on the album. It became Bowie’s first UK hit in three years. His only previous chart entry had been “Space Oddity” in 1969.

“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!'” Woody Woodmansey recalled to The Quietus. “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,” he continued. “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.”

This is also the title of John Carpenter’s 1984 sci-fi movie, starring Jeff Bridges as an alien who takes the form of a woman’s (Karen Allen) dead husband and needs her help to get home. The song is not used in the movie.

This was used in a 2016 commercial for the Audi R8 that first aired during the 2016 Super Bowl about two months after David Bowie died. In the spot, a retired astronaut has lost his passion for life, but gets it back after his son presents with the car and he goes for a drive under a moonlit sky. The end panel pays tribute to Bowie, stating, “In memory of the Starman.”

Starman

Didn’t know what time it was and the lights were low
I leaned back on my radio
Some cat was layin’ 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 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

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

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

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

10 thoughts on “David Bowie – Starman”

  1. Good song. Who knew it had such an effect on Lol from The Cure?!
    It’s on some commercial these days, I think for a perfume. In a way a bit annoying (like, seems to cheapen the integrity of the music and who from his estate needs the money that much anyway?) but on the other hand, probably has drawn in some new fans to him who didn’t know his work, so I guess in the end it’s a good thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with you on the commercials. I get it though that it introduces it to another generation but they think of perfume? Movies are far better to expose them and yea…does the estate need it that bad?

      Like

  2. Wonderful info on how this song affected listeners and influenced the band. One of the many many incomparable Bowie songs. Maybe he was a Starman? This song is also featured in, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” which has several Bowie songs on its soundtrack. It’s sung by Seu Jorge, who does a touching cover.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. He’s Portuguese and all of Bowie’s songs on the soundtrack are in it. You know what he’s singing anyway. Also, I loved that movie, Starman. It may be the best love story ever put on film.

        Liked by 1 person

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