Posted June 1, 2015 04:39 pm

On David Bowie’s radio thing-find machine

Didn’t get my headline? Well, maybe I’m not as good at this game as the brilliant creative minds who re-wrote David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” using only the thousand most frequently used words in the English language — their music video, called “Space Weird Thing” made it onto David Bowie’s radar.

The Alaska Robotics guys made a music video with Marian Call, Molly Lewis and Seth Boyer, in which the words to the iconic song were changed to use only words numbering among that thousand. They surprisingly manage to maintain the meaning and number of syllables, for the most part, and they keep the spirit of the original video, which can be watched in miniature in the left-hand corner of the screen.

An outfit calling themselves Alaska Robotics have created a wonderful new take on David Bowie’s 1969 classic, Space Oddity,” reads David Bowie’s official blog in a post dated May 29. The post also references their “hilarious version of the video (based on the original Bowie promo).’

Pat Race and Aaron Suring of Alaska Robotics, along with Ben Soileau are credited with filming, and the three musicians are credited with re-writing the lyrics and performing the song, based on Race’s original premise and Call’s suggestion of “Space Oddity” — Race had originally suggested “Rocket Man” which would be “Up-goer Man.”

Alaska Robotics and Call experience a fair bit of local renown in Juneau, and some wider fame as well, but getting a post on David Bowie’s official page seems like a really big deal. It was also featured on geek blog Boing Boing and on Slate.

“I thought it was kind of weird enough it might get noticed by some people,” Race told me.

“I didn’t realize it would blow up that big.”

Though it hasn’t reached viral status to the extent of, say, “Gangnam Style” from Korean pop artist Psy a few years ago, it is pretty big.

For Race it’s kind of a warm fuzzy thing. He said it’s nice to get positive feedback on his work. For Call and Lewis, who are both internet celebrities with widespread followings, a little virality can mean a lot more. It can mean new ears listening, new eyes watching, and hopefully albums sold.

It’s a solid response for a project that was completed in a matter of days. The reworking of lyrics and recording started on a Thursday morning and was done by around lunch. The filming went into the night. A few days later, Race edited it in about a day’s time.

It was a fun project that could have grown only into an inside joke, but instead grew into a bit of an internet sensation, now joining the wacky universe of pop culture that birthed it.

There are a lot of different pop culture influences that went into the creation of the video, from the obvious to the more obscure.

Race thinks it’s the nature of culture, from literature to folk music to film and Youtube videos.

“It’s kind of like a game of telephone,” he explained. “That’s kind of what culture is. But it moves really fast now.”

Here’s how Race describes the project: “It’s a little bit of a trip… we re-wrote David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ in XKCD ‘Up-Goer Five’ style using only the 1000 most common words in the English language. The film was sweded in an afternoon (like in ‘Be Kind Rewind’) and many of you will recognize moments in the video from the Flight of the Conchords excellent ‘Bowie’s in Space’ … which I now need to go watch again.”

Also included is an “Easter egg” audio clip of Sally Ride commenting on how her space trip was like a Disneyland E-Ticket — “We went wayyyyy down the rabbit hole on this one,” they add.

It’s weird and kitsch and geeky and so well done. Race said they tried to find the right balance and I think they succeeded.

Watch it here:

And check out all these creative geniuses:

Original David Bowie song and video:

Randall Munroe's Up-Goer Five comic:

Molly Lewis:

Marian Call:

Seth Boyer:

Patrick Race:


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