Exploring Life on Mars

“I somehow got hold of a completely white studio and that dictated the concept – it was as simple as that. We showed up around noon, because none of us liked to start too early.

David looked amazing in his blue suit – it was made by his mate Freddie Burretti, who made the Ziggy costume. Pierre Laroche, who also worked on the Aladdin Sane cover, did the great makeup. And there we were – we just shot for no more than five hours”

Mick Rock, director/2nd cameraman

Sadly the BBC has taken their radio programme Exploring “Life on Mars” down from iPlayer. If you can find it somewhere else, it’s worth listening to. It’s not just another Bowie anniversary documentary. Tris Penna located Bowie’s original demo tape for the song, along with unreleased archive BBC interviews and audio.

If you write songs in English, you’ll find the whole programme useful. Go to 24 minutes in to hear how the lyrics of Life on Mars changed as the song developed. It’s an inspiration if you’re struggling to find the ‘right’ words.

If English isn’t your first language: keep the ar of Mars soft and smooth when you sing Life on Mars. Why? 

Mick Rock’s 2016 reworking of the original Life on Mars video:

Which version do you prefer? I find the last few, black and white seconds of the reworking poignant and I like it as a ‘making of’, but I don’t like the fact that Mick Ronson‘s guitar and Woody Woodmansey‘s drums are missing.


5 thoughts on “Exploring Life on Mars”

  1. I’d forgotten how beautiful he was! And I agree wholeheartedly with the poignancy of those last few black-and-white moments, but like you I’m not too keen on the instrumentation of the reworked version. Just the same, how wonderful that Bowie continues to encourage such artistic exploration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Heather. Yes, beautiful he was.

      Watching the video now makes me realise how time has passed in my own life. I have a two track reaction going on: I see him as I did back in 1973 as a teenager, but there’s a new, maternal voice in my head saying “That’s lovely make-up, but he doesn’t look as if he’s eating properly. He’s all skin and bones, poor love” (which I’m now hearing in a Monty Python old lady voice). Time passes.

      By the way – do have a listen to the radio programme if you can. It goes from Bowie almost translating French into English for Frank Sinatra’s My Way, through all the twists and turns that led to the finished song. It’s a real work of love.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I literally laughed out loud when you said you heard “That’s lovely make-up, but he’s all skin and bones, poor love” in the voice of one of Monty Pyhton’s pepperpots. That’s how my voice sounds inside my own head too, sometimes! As you say, time passes. And yes, I will make time for that radio program, perhaps as soon as this evening! Anything that is a work of love deserves an audience. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you, sweetk8. The 2016 reworking has a kind of ‘out-take’ value, but the original is more of a work of art and it’s perfectly 1973.

      I don’t remember seeing the video at the time, in our pre-MTV, YouTube times, but Bowie’s ‘look’ was no great surprise. We’d had The Sweet, Marc Bolan, Slade etc in make-up, platform shoes and shiny, tight clothes. But, even amid all that sparkle, Bowie always seemed more ‘intentional’ and more creative, more intriguing.


      Liked by 1 person

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