The Secret 12 is a spin off of the Secret 7. The Secret 7 takes 7 tracks from 7 of the best-known musicians around and presses each one 100 times to 7” vinyl. They invite creative artists around the world to interpret the tracks in their own style.
The assignment I was given was similar. We were given songs best suited to our personalities and tasked to design an interpretation of the song for a 12” record cover. It could not include typography and had to illustrate the story and meaning behind the song so our class will be able to guess.
I was assigned ”David Bowie’s – Space Oddity”. I first began to listen to the song for myself, deciding to find my own interpretation before I would read what others thought of the song online. I realised the song was about an astronaut set off into Space. This confirmed my assumptions by the date it was released; the same time as the Space Race was prominent in all of the media in 1969.
Though I knew David Bowie was known for his metaphorical lyrics and decide to envision other scenarios. Despite the song written during the height of the space race. I find it is more about Bowie’s looming alienation and fascination with space travel.
We know from his signature name ”Ziggy Stardust” that he has a a romanticised conception of Space and throughout his life found he wasn’t apart of the world and that many considered him by his odd looks that he was from another planet. Casting out from the normal crowd and becoming something new and different. Something Bowie had succeeded in doing throughout his life.
There are other scenarios besides from that. If we are taking the lyrics metaphorically, Major Tom can be a reflection of Bowie. Major Tom finds himself floating in space and all of a sudden is aware that he was never meant for life on earth. ”Planet Earth is blue” in both the literal and figurative sense can suggest it is a sad place and there’s ”nothing he can do” about it.
He marvels at the ”Tin can” that was his means of escape from the sad planet he has grown distant with. He’s serene; finding his element in Space and in that moment knows he’s Space traveler. Even his ”Spaceship knows which way to go” which suggests he’s returning back to his original home.
”And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear.” suggests even while he is ”taking a large step for man kind” society still only cares for minor subjects like what shirt he wears. I think I can resonate with the lyrics of Space Oddity and the feeling of being alienated and being cast aside based on minor attributes such as appearance. He realises the planet is blue as in ”sad” for having flaws and selfish attributes like that.
When I finally did search online, I realised many people thought differently to myself and that they thought it was a metaphor for drugs. That ”Ground Control” is in fact his friend, or even a Surgeon asking if they can hear them after a bad ”come down”. That the astronaut ”floating in space” is revealing his death and that the soul will not reach ground again.
After my research, I had many ideas I wanted to include on my 12” vinyl. I decided three sketches would give me enough time to play with layout and decide what one looked best.