Narrative case study-music videos
music video narrative
Published on: Mar 5, 2016
Transcripts - Narrative case study-music videos
MUSIC VIDEO NARRATIVE
Bowie wrote this after seeing the 1968 Stanley Kubrick movie
2001: A Space Odyssey. "Space Oddity" is a play on the phrase
"Space Odyssey," and the title does not appear in the lyrics.
The song tells the story of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut
who cuts off communication with Earth and floats into space.
LOVE YOU TILL TUESDAY 1969 FILM
Love you till Tuesday was a small promotional film produced to advertise David
Bowie, directed by Malcolm J Thompson. For the film nine separate music videos
were made featuring four tracks from his debut album and additional compositions.
The filming was finished in February 1969 however failed to interest an audience,
partly due to the content of some of the videos, and also because Bowie’s success
was not yet at it’s height.
The film was released in May 1984, due to Bowie’s growing success and the success
of home video. A compilation soundtrack was released at the same time.
The DVD was released in 2005.
The music video for Space Oddity(1969) presents the early version of the track
and is a very early version of a music video.
SPACE ODDITY (1969)FACTS
“The song was awarded the 1969 Ivor Novello Award, together with Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You
Go To (My Lovely)?".
It was Bowie's first UK Top 5 hit. "Space Oddity" became so well known that Bowie's second
album, originally released as David Bowie in the UK (like his first album), was renamed after
the track for its 1972 reissue by RCA Records, and became known by this name. Upon rerelease in
1975, the song was Bowie's first UK No. 1 single.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Oddity)
The original music video for Space Oddity
features Bowie performing the song and as
an astronaut/’Major Tom’. The mixture of
performance narrative and the visual link
to the lyrics is a conventional feature
of music videos. As this is a very early
version of what we see as music videos,
it presents the basic conventions in
order to fulfill the criteria of a music
video-to sell the artist/their brand,
although still reflects elements of the
time period. Such conventions were used
by bands such as The Monkees, their 1967
music video for ‘I’m a Believer’ features
a performance from the band in order to
promote their music.
"In England, it was always presumed that it was written about the space landing, because it
kind of came to prominence around the same time. But it actually wasn't. It was written
because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing. I was out of my gourd anyway,
I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to
me. It got the song flowing. It was picked up by the British television, and used as the
background music for the landing itself. I'm sure they really weren't listening to the
lyric at all (laughs). It wasn't a pleasant thing to juxtapose against a moon landing. Of
course, I was overjoyed that they did. Obviously, some BBC official said, 'Oh, right then,
that space song, Major Tom, blah blah blah, that'll be great.' 'Um, but he gets stranded in
space, sir.' Nobody had the heart to tell the producer that.” (Bowie on Space Oddity)
The editing used in the 1969 video is unusual in terms of a conventional performance
music video. Firstly clips of the artist are placed overlapping one-another, in a fish
eye type effect creating a surreal atmosphere that perhaps reflects the surreal nature
of the lyrics and possibly the time period of which it was recorded. Aside from the
obvious link to wider society, being the moon landing in July 1969, the same month as
the release of the track, links to the change in society could also be argued for.
The 60s held huge premise for experimentation in terms of both sound and lyrics, the
vast and rapid changes in society lead to the beginning of new music and it may be
argued this video reflects that through it’s unconventional editing and mise-en-scene.
As mentioned before however this music video stuck to a fairly minimal visual in terms
of performance as its priority was to promote the artist.
The mise-en-scene of the video is very minimal, the use of silver, white and black
creating a simplistic yet effective portrayal of the lyrics of life on a space station,
the narrative of the video cuts between the performance of the song. Linking to
Goodwin’s argument for the connection of lyrics and visuals, in this video the visuals
heavily emphasise the lyrics re-telling the story created in the track.
Aspects of this experimentation may also be reflected in the use of colour correction
at the end of the video, the colour change from silvers and whites to all red and then
all blue may be a reflection of the early ‘progressive rock’/psychedelic folk genre of
music of the period and an idea of the direction that Bowie was moving along with many
SPACE ODDITY (1972)FACTS
“In December 1972, Mick Rock shot a music video of Bowie performing the song
during the sessions for Aladdin Sane, which was used to promote the January
1973 United States reissue on RCA.”
The original album was re-released under the title ‘Space Oddity’ after
Bowie’s success with singles such as ‘Changes’ and ‘The Jean Genie’.
The second music video released for Space Oddity still features Bowie’s
performance of the song(typical of the period-with music videos such as
Mott the Hoople’s ‘all the young dudes’) however this time there is no
clear reference to the lyrics, as in the 1969 video, instead the use of
lighting, digital technology and editing reflect the lyrics.
“Before recording for the album commenced at Trident Studios, the song "Space Oddity" had been selected as the lead single based on
an earlier demo. Visconti saw it as a "novelty record" and passed the production responsibility for the song on to Gus Dudgeon.
However, Visconti produced all the remaining songs on the album. Tim Renwick, John 'Honk' Lodge, Mick Wayne and John Cambridge – all
from the band 'Junior's Eyes' – featured on the album sessions and briefly served as Bowie's backing band for live appearances and
on an October 1969 BBC Radio session.”
“Although the opening song had given Bowie a No. 5 hit in the UK earlier in the year, the
remainder of the material bore little resemblance to it and the album was a commercial failure on
its initial release, despite some decent reviews. However the November 1972 reissue, released in
the wake of Bowie's breakthrough The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and
featuring a contemporary Ziggy photo on the cover, made No. 17 in the UK charts and No. 16 in the
SPACE ODDITY (1972)
The 1972 video for Space Oddity reflects the same unusual editing of the original video, with
overlapping clips of Bowie and videos of sound waves/technology such as the digital countdown.
This video however reflects Bowie’s music style much more than the first, the use of a more
'glam-rock’ mise-en-scene creates something that the audience can easily associate with the
typical Bowie style.
The narrative of the music video is reflective of the lyrics in terms of the arguably futuristic
lighting and set used, however it does not explicitly reference the lyrics in the same way that
the 1969 video does. The set features a studio-type background with shots of technology used in
a recording studio, this may have been used both because the video has a performance narrative
but also could reflect the futuristic technology the lyrics mention “your circuits dead” etc.
The purple, red and blue lighting used could reflect the initial ideas of the original music
video, the ending is edited to change to blue and then red, this may have been referenced as a
nod to the early progressive rock genre. These colours may also have been used as a promotional
aspect, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust is associated with blues and reds and, as the music video has a
performance narrative, Bowie’s image needed to be clear in order to sell the record and appeal
to his audience.
The editing in the 1972 video reflects the narrative of the lyrics, the use of overlapping of
clips creates an usual effect that reflects both the lyrics and the genre of the track. The lyric
“This is ground control to Major Tom”(1.21) is accompanied by a shot of Bowie overlapping the
equipment in the studio. This may suggest the two people in the narrative, ground control being
the technology and Major Tom being Bowie. The overlapping edit connects the two as the lyric
describes their conversation. This is idea is followed by a shot of Bowie’s eyes as he sings
“This is Major Tom to Ground control”, shortly followed by another clip of the studio.
The overlapping of the sound waves and Bowie also reflect the technology/real person overlap.
The narrative is also reflected through the shot of the studio at 1.48, the clip is sped up and
has the effect of a handheld camera. The lyric that overlaps this “floating in a most peculiar
way”, the use of the handheld camera and highly sped up effect emphasises the confusion in the
lyric and creates something unusual that reflects the genre of the piece, Bowie’s rock/glam
style(matches performance videos of him at the time such as the video for ‘Starman’) and other
music videos of the period.