“Mars happy nation”
David Bowie’s Life On Mars? 45 was released forty one years ago yesterday in the UK. The 40th anniversary picture disc was released a year ago tomorrow.
The track was taken from the 1971 album, Hunky Dory, but was released as a single in 1973 in the UK to capitalise on its popularity as a live number during the Aladdin Sane Tour of the same year. It reached #3 on the UK singles chart.
In an article that accompanied the June 2008 issue of The Mail on Sunday’s free cover-mount CD, iSELECTBOWIE, Bowie described the creation of the song:
“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 lounge; a bargain priced 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.”
Mick Rock shot the iconic and quite beautiful video for the original single release. View it here.