It takes a true artist to pour enjoyment into another man’s song and keep it there, despite the disinterest of the crowd. They’re waiting for Adele to take the stage:
Meanwhile, 15 years before Adele was born:
“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.
‘Stranger’ is one of the most powerful words in English. We humans learned to survive by treating the unknown with caution. A tiny part of our ancient brain twitches still whenever we hear the word stranger. Our defences go up. We pay close, wary attention.
When stranger is paired with beautiful, we’re in the shape-shifting land of myth and fairy-tale; the pull and push of dangerous attraction. We’d like to beware, but the problem is how?
It’s British election time and the air is buzzing with political people. You learn a lot about the natural rhythms of the English language when you look at the names and nicknames that settle gently around the shoulders of our politicians. Rarely by their own choice.
Public names are chosen by the public. To please the public ear.
Once a politician begins to attract public attention, we behave like presumptuous grandparents, trying out different versions of the names their parents gave them. Aided and abetted by the media.
The difference between us and the grandparents is that we have the melody of the politician’s full name (first name and surname too) on our minds.
Consider these political Edwards: Ed Miliband, Ted Heath and Ted Kennedy. Try swapping things around: Ed Kennedy or Ted Miliband. Are they still easy and pleasing to say? Or does a helping of English T change the mouthfeel of a name, for good or ill? Continue reading The musical wisdom of crowds