On May 12th, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield posted the first music video recorded in space, appropriately covering the David Bowie classic “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station. The commander enlisted his friend Emm Gryner, a musician who once played in Bowie’s touring band, for accompaniment and the resulting video – reportedly months in the making – has more than 7 million views on YouTube. In honor of Hadfield’s historic achievement, we’ve collected our favorite covers of the Thin White Duke’s songs.
Smashing Pumpkins, “Space Oddity”
Where Hadfield stuck to the song’s underlying vulnerability of a doomed astronaut in space, the Pumpkins’ version, recorded on a rooftop during SXSW, goes hard on feedback and heavy guitars. With all that volume, it seems that even in space, you could hear Billy Corgan scream.
Beck, “Sound and Vision”
Never one to shy away from a challenging cover, Beck did this epic one-off with help from a few friends – more than 160 of them, actually, including his father, David Campbell, as conductor. The nine-minute rendition was filmed in February at a Los Angeles soundstage with 360-degree cameras and microphones set up throughout. “It was an experiment and an opportunity to try something completely irrational,” Beck told Rolling Stone of the concept.
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Nirvana, “The Man Who Sold the World”
While many fans – and MTV execs – were hoping for Nirvana to play their hits during their “Unplugged” performance, Kurt Cobain and company opted to go a different route, peppering the set with covers of Leadbelly, the Meat Puppets, the Vaselines and the title track from Bowie’s 1970 third album. The result? A distorted, not-so-acoustic rendition that the band truly made their own.
White Stripes, “Moonage Daydream”
A rare live recording from the Stripes’ early days, Jack introduces Meg as his sister and a crowd member comments that he sounds like a “weirdo.” Purportedly from a 1997 show at the Gold Dollar Bar in Detroit, this version shows the duo at its lovably sloppiest, trying to win over a crowd of new fans years before they’d hit it big.
TV on the Radio and Karen O, “Heroes”
For their contribution to the War Child Presents Heroes charity compilation, the Brooklyn band covered this Berlin-era track, at the request of Bowie himself. Their glitchy, dance-imbued version was surely a way of returning the favor for Bowie singing backup on “Province” from the band’s 2006 album Return to Cookie Mountain.
Seu Jorge, “Life on Mars”
Wes Anderson’s soundtrack mastery continued on The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, the standout being Brazilian musician Seu Jorge reinterpreting – and often changing the lyrics to – Bowie’s songs in his native Portuguese. “Life on Mars” is the standout, and Bowie himself was a huge fan. “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs acoustically in Portuguese, I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with,” he wrote in the liner notes for Jorge’s 2005 album The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions.
Warpaint, “Ashes to Ashes”
Culled from We Were So Turned On: A Tribute to David Bowie, Warpaint’s cover stays faithful to the original while incorporating their signature girl-group harmonies and dream-pop instrumentation. NPR called it “both futuristic and retro enough to do Bowie justice.”
My Chemical Romance and the Used, “Under Pressure”
It takes a pair to cover Bowie on his own, so one could only imagine the, ahem, pressure My Chemical Romance and the Used were under when they decided to reimagine this Queen and Bowie masterpiece. Recorded for tsunami relief in 2005, singers Gerard Way and Bert McCracken did an admirable job matching the harmonies, and the single peaked at Number 28 on the Billboard Modern Rock charts.
The Horrors, “Suffragette City”
Recorded at London’s Metropolis Studios for British show “On Track . . .,” the Horrors’ version of the Ziggy Stardust classic was more daunting than most Bowie covers: They did it in one take, recorded straight to vinyl. Although it’s a pretty a straightforward rendition, their Joy Division-reminiscent sound certainly adds a brooding edge.