Tony Visconti enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with David Bowie, producing 13 of the singer’s 26 studio albums. Still, the producer made the surprising choice to turn down Bowie’s classic song “Space Oddity,” even though he recognized it’d be a hit.

“When David played it to me, I said to him, ‘I know what you're doing. There's a guy up in space now. NASA just put a guy in space in his tin can. I know what you mean by the tin can,’” Visconti explained during an appearance on The Bob Lefsetz Podcast. “I said, ‘But it's a cheap shot. It's based on a special event.'”

Visconti didn’t like the idea of trying to capitalize on the world’s fascination with the Space Race and felt uncomfortable producing a song he didn't believe in.

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“Everyone's saying it's a hit record,” Bowie insisted. “I think it is a hit record,” Visconti replied. “But I said, ‘In good conscience, I can't go this route with you.’”

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After insisting he couldn’t produce something he didn’t like, Visconti suggested Bowie instead work with Gus Dudgeon. The track was recorded in June 1969 and rush-released the following month to capitalize on the Apollo 11 moon landing.

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Visconti eventually regretted not producing “Space Oddity,” which became Bowie’s first U.K. No. 1 hit.

“When I heard [the song], I changed my mind,” Visconti admitted. “I said, ‘Shit, I should have produced that record. But I don't think I could have done Gus's job. He threw the kitchen sink in it, and I wasn't yet a kitchen sink producer. It would have been a more subtle piece of work.”

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Gallery Credit: Bryan Wawzenek

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