This was the last song written for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
, supposedly because nobody had heard a potential single on the album. It became Bowie's first UK hit in three years. His only previous chart entry had been "Space Oddity
" in 1969.
"We'd finished recording the Ziggy Stardust
album at that time and it went into the record company. They said: 'We can't release this. It doesn't have a single on it!'" Woody Woodmansey recalled to The Quietus
. "So, we came out of the studio and in about a month he had written 'Starman' and we were back in the studio by January. It was an obvious single! I think Mick and I went out in the car after David played it for us the first time, and we were already singing it, having only heard it only once."
"At the time, we thought it might be a bit too poppy, a bit too commercial," he continued. "It might seem strange, but we just hadn't done anything that commercial before. I always thought Bowie had that ability, that any time he felt like it, he could write a hit single. He just had that about him. I think he chose not to right through his career. If he felt like it, he would write one, and if he didn't, he wouldn't. That was just the impression of working with him. It's not a fluke to be able to write all those amazing tunes."