By now, most people of a certain age know who David Bowie was. His passing left many in shock, even if his last video seemed to foretell his death. At any rate, the days that mark significant milestones in Bowie’s oeuvre are important to note. May 7, 1971 is the day “Moonage Daydream” made its debut as part of the work of Arnold Corns. Arnold Corns was a Bowie side-project. The record contained “Moonage Daydream” on one side and “Hang Onto Yourself” on the other. The early form of “Moonage Daydream” contains a spoken part at the beginning and other elements that kept it from being the space-oriented, futuristic love song that fans of it recognize the song to be.
The Arnold Corns recordings were not successful. The work that Bowie did in the form of some of those songs was later used on other albums. Regardless of Arnold Corns’ lack of success, Bowie continued to put together the idea of Ziggy Stardust. When the song was released as part of “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” it found success and earned Bowie more US audiences.
“Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie
“Moonage Daydream” is about Ziggy introducing himself to people. Or more broadly, it is how a male narrator describes himself (with bravado and angry imagery) to someone he wants to have a relationship with.
While it doesn’t have the rollicking bite of say, “Suffragette City,” Moonage Daydream did show that Bowie had a knack for writing songs with lyrics that were unusual, but not so weird that they detracted listeners.
The standout elements of the song include the guitar part and the vocals. The slashing guitar line under scores such lines as “I’m an alligator/ I’m a mama-papa comin’ for you…” Bowie’s voice is high and full of tension. Yet, there is something of beauty in it when he sings “Moonage Daydream.” The dynamics move the song from beginning to end and help audiences hear what the song is about.
“Moonage Daydream” wasn’t an overwhelming hit for Bowie at first, but it was instrumental in helping him to create a character that would become part of his legacy. When included on “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spider from Mars,” the song takes on a different narrative purpose, but it never loses the rock ‘n’ roll edge that Bowie endowed it with.