David Bowie – “Life on Mars”

David Bowie – “Life on Mars”

Bowie began his music activity at the end of the distant 60s and not only won the popularity as an actor, singer and producer but became a kind of a symbol of glam-rock of the 70s and an embodiment of artistry that became a model for many fans of both the mentioned music direction and the singer himself.

In 1968 Bowie wrote the lyrics “Even a Fool Learns to Love”, set to the music of a 1967 French song “Comme d’habitude”, composed by Claude François and Jacques Revaux. Bowie’s version was never released, but Paul Anka bought the rights to the original French version, and rewrote it into “My Way,” made famous by Frank Sinatra in a 1969 recording on his album of the same name. The success of the Anka version prompted Bowie to write “Life on Mars?” as a parody of Sinatra’s recording.

“Life on Mars?” was first released in 1971 on the album Hunky Dory. The song—which BBC Radio 2 later called “a cross between a Broadway musical and a Salvador Dalí painting” —featured guest piano work by keyboardist Rick Wakeman.

To promote the single release, Mick Rock directed a promotional video for the song, featuring Bowie in a turquoise suit performing the song solo against a white backdrop.

When released as a single in 1973, it reached #3 in the UK and stayed on the chart for thirteen weeks. The song re-entered the UK charts at #55 over 30 years later, largely because of its use in the original English television series Life on Mars

I’m an instant star. Just add water and stir. — David Bowie

At the beginning of 70s, in the period of glam-rock booming, he finally made himself known, presenting his androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust to the world public and this personality played the lead in creation of the singer’s glam-album titled “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” – spearheaded by the hit single Starman.

Bowie’s impact at that time challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day and created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved merely one facet of a career marked by continual reinvention, musical innovation and striking visual presentation.

He reappeared Phoenix-like, again and again, and all his returns to the stage were really triumphal. Every time people recognized him but he made surprises to his fans also. David Bowie is still popular as a singer and music producer.

Bowie at Foxgrove Road, the morning after the moon landing, July 1969

On Writing the song “Life On Mars”

“This song was so easy. Being young was easy. A really beautiful day in the park, sitting on the steps of the bandstand. ‘Sailors bap-bap-bap-bap-baaa-bap.’ An anomic (not a ‘gnomic’) heroine. Middle-class ecstasy.

I took a walk to Beckenham High Street to catch a bus to Lewisham to buy shoes and shirts but couldn’t get the riff out of my head. Jumped off two stops into the ride and more or less loped back to the house up on Southend Road.

Workspace was a big empty room with a chaise longue; a bargain-price art nouveau screen (‘William Morris,’ so I told anyone who asked); a huge overflowing freestanding ashtray and a grand piano. Little else.

I started working it out on the piano and had the whole lyric and melody finished by late afternoon. Nice.

Rick Wakeman came over a couple of weeks later and embellished the piano part and guitarist Mick Ronson created one of his first and best string parts for this song which now has become something of a fixture in my live shows.”

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