Cover of the 1972 UK single
|Single by David Bowie|
|from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars|
|Released||28 April 1972|
|Recorded||4 February 1972|
|David Bowie singles chronology|
|The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars track listing|
"Starman" is a song by David Bowie, recorded on 4 February 1972 and released as a single in April. The song 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. It replaced the Chuck Berry cover "Round and Round" on the album.
Music and lyrics
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. 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. 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 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 Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow" from the film The Wizard of Oz, alluding to the "Starman"'s extraterrestrial origins (over the rainbow) (the octave leap on the word "Starman" is identical to that on the word "Somewhere" in "Over the Rainbow"). 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 Holland–Dozier–Holland's "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (the morse code-esque guitar and piano breaks).
Release and critical reception
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 and sang "Starman". Bowie's television 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 No. 10 and the album, released the previous month, to No. 5. Although this performance, recorded on 5 July 1972 and broadcast on 6 July, is often cited as being the first UK TV performance of the song, it had in fact been performed on ITV's Lift Off with Ayshea three weeks earlier.
The Top of the Pops performance was included on the DVD version of Best of Bowie in 2002. In addition to the TV performances, Bowie played the song for radio listeners on the BBC's Johnny Walker Lunchtime Show on 22 May 1972. This performance was broadcast in early June 1972 and eventually released on Bowie at the Beeb in 2000.
The "Starman" single originally featured a "loud mix" of the "morse code" section between the verse and the chorus. This single mix appeared on the original UK album, but not on other vinyl editions of the album internationally (which had a more subdued mix of this section), and it did not appear on CD until the song was included on the compilation album Nothing Has Changed in 2014.
- "Starman" (Bowie) – 4:16
- "Suffragette City" (Bowie) – 3:25
Charts and certifications
- The Italian release of "John, I'm Only Dancing" from September 1972 used "Starman" as the B-side.
- The Portuguese release of the single had "John, I'm Only Dancing" and "Hang on to Yourself" as additional B-sides.
- "Starman" has appeared on numerous Bowie compilations:
- The Best of David Bowie (Japan 1974)
- The Best of Bowie (1980) – original UK single mix
- Chameleon (Australia & New Zealand 1979)
- ChangesTwoBowie (1981)
- Fame and Fashion (1984)
- Starman (Russia 1989)
- Changesbowie (1990) (LP and cassette versions)
- The Singles Collection (1993)
- The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974 (1997)
- Best of Bowie (2002)
- The Platinum Collection (2006)
- Nothing Has Changed (2014) – original UK single mix
- Bowie Legacy (2016) – original UK single mix
- The original UK single mix was also released on Re:Call 1, part of the Five Years (1969–1973) boxed set, in 2015.
- Bowie's 25 June 2000 live performance of the song at the Glastonbury Festival was released in 2018 on Glastonbury 2000.
Notable cover versions
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- 10,000 Maniacs – Single (1992)
- Bob Downe – Greatest Hits
- Dan – Single (1996)
- Magni Asgeirsson – Rock Star: Supernova (2006)
- Mates of State – All Day EP
- Nena – Cover me (2007)
- Phillip Boa – Fine Art on Silver, also released as a single
- Garbage - recorded for Howard Stern's radio tribute to Bowie, scheduled for Record Store Day release in November 2018.
- Brazilian band Nenhum de Nós recorded a Portuguese language version called "O Astronauta de Mármore" (The Marble Astronaut) for their 1989 album Cardume.
This section contains a list of miscellaneous information. (September 2018)
- Writer James Robinson's Starman comic book series featured a story about an alien named Mikaal Tomas, who went by the alias of Starman while living on Earth. In the opening scene of the tale, Mikaal claims that the people of Earth gave him the name due to the similarities between his own life and Bowie's song.
- The song was featured in the 2015 film The Martian and appears on its soundtrack album.
- The song was covered by John C. Reilly in the 2007 film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
- 2016 U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders used the song prominently throughout his campaign.
- The mannequin in Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster which was launched into orbit around the Sun during the maiden test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket is named "Starman" after the song. 
- Molon, Dominic; Diederichsen, Diederich; Elms, Antony; Hell, Richard; Graham, Dan; Higgs, Matthew; Koether, Jutta; Nickas, Bob; Kelley, Mike; Tumlir, Jan (2007). Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll since 1967 (Illustrated ed.). Yale University Press. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-30013-426-1.
- Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now – David Bowie: The London Years: 1947–1974: p.242
- Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: p.203
- Nicholas Pegg (2000). Ibid: pp.276–277
- David Buckley (1999) Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.148–151
- Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.44
- Trynka, Paul (2011). Starman: David Bowie – The Definitive Biography. London: Sphere. ISBN 978-0751542936.
- Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Ibid: p.8
- Michael Harvey. "The Ziggy Stardust Companion - The Release". 5years.com. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- "The Ziggy Stardust Companion: Lift off with Ayshea - 15 June 1972". 5years.com. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- "David Bowie - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- "McCartney, Bowie, Phish drop rare vinyl for Record Store Day", MSNBC, msnbc.com, archived from the original on 22 April 2012, retrieved 21 April 2012
- "Starman – David Bowie. Original UK LP and 45 mix is AWOL!!". Retrieved 23 March 2008.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "Austriancharts.at – David Bowie – Starman" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Top RPM Singles: Issue 7665." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
- "David Bowie – Chart history" Billboard Euro Digital Songs for David Bowie. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava.
- "Lescharts.com – David Bowie – Starman" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Starman". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- "Media Forest weekly chart (year 2016 week 02)". Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- "Italiancharts.com – David Bowie – Starman". Top Digital Download. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "David Bowie Chart History (Japan Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
- Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959-2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
- "David Bowie Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "British single certifications – David Bowie – Starman". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 12 December 2018. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Starman in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- Starman (Vol. 2), #28
- Newman, Melinda (2 October 2015). "Will the '70s Disco Soundtrack of 'The Martian' Be the Next 'Guardians of the Galaxy'?". Billboard. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Robinson, Will (4 February 2016). "See Audi's Super Bowl commercial featuring David Bowie's 'Starman'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "STARMAN - Walk Hard:The Dewey Cox Story David Bowie". YouTube. 13 August 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- Emre Kelly, James Dean (7 February 2018). "Floating through space, SpaceX's 'Starman' mesmerizes the world". floridatoday.com. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
- "Bleu de Chanel TV Commercial, 'Starman' Song by David Bowie". ispot.tv. Retrieved 1 December 2018.