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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Space Oddity" - David Bowie Isolated Vocal

Here's the isolated vocal track to one of my favorite songs, David Bowie's "Space Oddity." The song was recorded in 1969 for the album of the same name, but it didn't become a hit in the US until 1972 after Bowie had already achieved some acclaim here.

Although everyone connects this song with Bowie's famous backing band The Spiders From Mars, the players on this recording were different. They included Mick Wayne on lead guitar, Herbie Flowers on bass (who would go on to play the famous dueling bass part on Lou Reed's "Take A Walk On The Wild Side,") Terry Cox on drums, and pre-Yes Rick Wakeman on Mellotron and piano.

Tony Visconti produced the album but felt the single was a gimmick, so he handed it off to protege Gus Dudgeon (who went on to great fame as Elton John's producer for his big albums like "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"). Here are some things to listen for.

1) Although the vocal doesn't start until about 40 seconds in, you can hear David make the sort of mouth noises that every vocalist does from time to time when bored.

2) There's a slight crack in his voice at the end of the first verse, which is probably the type of thing that wouldn't get by today without being replaced. That being said, the vocal is performed well and is remarkably in tune. Engineer/producer Ken Scott, who produced the next 4 Bowie albums after this one (including the exquisite "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars"), recently told me that over the course of 4 albums, every vocal that David recorded was a first take except for one that he intentionally wanted to sing the chorus a little differently. Remarkable!

3) This isn't what you'd call a "pristine" vocal sound, as it has a lot of fur (distortion) around around it as he begins to get loud. You can hear the compressor working as well.

4) If you listen closely, there's a bit of what sounds like print-through on the 3rd verse. Print-through is a phenomena of magnetic tape where a layers imprint magnetic information to adjacent layers. As a result, you get an echo-like effect with the print-through vocal occurring sometimes even before the main recorded vocal. This effect can be heard most famously on the bridge of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."

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DHC said...

Thanks so much for the Iron Maiden clips. I play electric harp so have created my whole approach by loose translations from other instruments - both the guitar clip and the drum clip were totally inspiring & illuminating from that standpoint alone.

Where can I hear more like this? Thanks again! -DHC (

James said...

Great information as always!

HRMastering said...

Nice examples indeed. The same good read as your books


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