5 thoughts on “David Bowie, Life on Mars

  1. This is from a pretty good Washington Post article on some of their writers’ favorite Bowie songs and why. My comments follow:

    “Life on Mars”

    No other song in existence controls my brain like “Life on Mars.” I am often scared by the power it has over me. To listen to it is to guarantee that I will break out in tears, every single time. This isn’t because it inspires great feelings of sadness, or joy, or nostalgia. This is something chemical. It’s a purely involuntary response, like when the doctor hits your knee with a tiny hammer and your leg kicks out. And the trigger is one specific moment: The note his voice hits at the beginning of the chorus — “SAIL-ors, fighting in the dance hall” — combined with the swooping strings. With that one combination of sounds, Bowie unlocked some sort of alien power to make me temporary lose my faculties. It leaves me in awe every time.

    –David Malitz

    Honestly, bad music makes me wanna cry more than good music, but I really like this idea of “chemical” reaction to music. It does a pretty good job of nailing how music affects me personally, especially concerning vocals and lyrics.

    “Sailors, fighting in the dance hall”? What the hell is that about? Do I give a shit? No, but it sounds fantastic. Do I have any idea what the hell “Life On Mars” is about, period? Do I give a shit? No.

    But if I’d have to name my all-time favorite Bowie tune, this would absolutely be a contender.

  2. Life on Mars is OK but never did it for me and Space Oddity is a decent oddity. Heroes definitely does it for me. But yes, I get involuntary physical responses to moments in songs all the time. Chills. They can’t be recaptured either, I guess that’s what “involuntary” means.

  3. Wakeman is all over the original and his tribute is lovely. I ended up here because I came across a YouTube that credited Steve Nieve with the keyboards on this song. Don’t believe everything on the internet. Here is a sly cover by those never understated jazzists, the Bad Plus (though it starts out ruminative).


  4. Yeah, you can keep that jazz version. But that Rick Wakeman thing (I missed it previously) – geez. I imagine a scene in a bar with a piano, packed with people. I walk up, pull out the stool and play that version. The room goes silent. Then all the girls drop their drawers and start chasing me.

    When I have Alzheimer’s, can’t talk anymore and you come visit, this is what I’ll be thinking about.

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