Song of the Day #137: ‘Life On Mars?’ – David Bowie

davidbowieDavid Bowie is an artist I believe I don’t know or appreciate nearly as much as I should. What I do know of his work I like very much, but it seems the real gems are hidden away in the material that’s new to me.

My ignorance of Bowie’s catalog is likely due to my sister’s pathological fear of the man during my pre-teen years. She would not only turn off the TV but leave the room when his videos for ‘China Girl’ or ‘Let’s Dance’ played on MTV. So it’s not like I grew up with his music in the house.

But later in life I just never picked up any of his albums (apart from Ziggy Stardust, which I actually own twice… the original CD and a copy of Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights that mistakenly has Ziggy Stardust burned onto the disc instead). I’m familiar with his biggest hits (Ch-ch-ch-changes indeed) but that’s as far as it goes.

But I know people adore him, and hold him in esteem the way I hold somebody like Elvis Costello in esteem. He has whole albums of material I’ve never heard that fans and critics alike consider essential. So that makes me curious.

Take this song, for example. I’d never heard ‘Life on Mars’ before Wes Anderson used it in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. And that upsets me. Because this has to be one of the best songs I’ve ever heard (now that I’ve heard it). Plaintive verses building to an insanely awesome chorus, wailed in that distinctive Bowie tenor… I can’t get enough of this song.

If there are more songs like this one tucked away in the Bowie albums I’ve never heard, I’m a huge fan waiting to happen.

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #137: ‘Life On Mars?’ – David Bowie

  1. Amy says:

    😛
    I’d heard of this song before seeing The Life Aquatic, so clearly my odd pathological fear has not kept me from appreciating some of his best work. And, yes, this song is astounding. I just love it.

    For the record, and again as a nod to the holiday season :-), my “fear” of Bowie was irrevocably reversed after seeing him in Bing Crosby Christmas special. His appearance (which I have attached for those of you who are interested) turned me into an instant fan.

    Now I certainly don’t know much of Bowie’s beyond the obvious hits, but I agree that he is an enormously talented artist. By the way, I wasn’t playing Pink Floyd in the house, but you managed to get that into your headphones on an endless loop. Nor did I ever play “Oh Darling” yet you were air guitaring to that number despite being deprived of that “music in the house.”

    Pehaps you, too, were a bit freaked out by Mr. Bowie, hmmmmmmm?!

    • Dana Gallup says:

      I have no idea why I didn’t comment on this post before. I feel as though I did because I recall reading Amy’s comment, but perhaps my post just didn’t go through?

      Anyway, I join in the accolades for this incredible song. I too have had only passing familiarity with Bowie, but I’m sure a deeper dive would be very rewarding.

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