Our dad had a secret for writing songs. He said, “You’ve got to have them Simple, Singable and Sincere. And they should have a special sound to them. That’s the only way it’ll work.”
- Why does music move us?
- How did the number 12 revolutionise music?
- Why do we love repetitive music?
- Whatever Happened to the Waltz?
If you’re a writer, try:
- What Makes a Song?
- How do you describe a teaspoon in music?
- How Do You Make a National Anthem?
- The Power of Love Songs
It’s a deep, delicious, musical treasure chest for listeners and creators. Enjoy!
“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”
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?
- If you roll the r – rrrr – ‘Life on Marrrs‘ – you’ll need to shorten the a sound before the r, to make the word Mars fit the musical notes.
- Shortening the ar removes the ‘endless space’ feeling of Bowie’s soft ar in Mars. And it makes the Mar-ar-ar-ars sound of the song very difficult to float.
- It’s possible, anything’s possible, but you need to be aware of what you’re doing and to adjust the sound as you sing.
- How to make the soft, easy English ar sound, and how Bowie switches between the American version and the British version of the ar sound to flavour his songs. Space has more than one meaning and using different ar sounds makes the meaning crystal clear.
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.
If you’re a musician, a songwriter, or simply a lover of music, you’ll find Paul McCartney’s extended interview/Q&A on BBC Radio 4’s “Mastertapes” fascinating.
The longer, downloadable radio version is here.
The video version is edited, with about 10 minutes removed, so, if you like A Day in the Life, find 24:25 minutes into the radio interview. McCartney talks about the shared songwriting with Lennon, about John Cage’s influence on the sound and about George Martin persuading the orchestra to follow unusual musical instructions. Paul says one member of the orchestra walked out in disgust when he was asked to ‘clap on the end of Hey Jude‘.
There’s something for everyone! If you teach music to children, Paul has suggestions for inspiring lessons here.
© Sing Better English, 2016