Song of the Day #4,568: ‘Life on Mars? (Live)’ – David Bowie

Continuing the chronological presentation of my 25 favorite songs…

Life on Mars?‘ – David Bowie (1971)

This is the first of six songs from the 70s to make my list (tying that decade with the 80s for most represented). I guess that makes sense, given that those two decades made up my first 18 years, and isn’t that when music makes its biggest impact?

That’s one theory, but a deeper dive reveals that half of those 12 songs — including both of today’s featured tracks — didn’t find me until much later. So maybe they were just good musical decades.

Yesterday I wrote that three of my favorite songs first appeared in movies. True enough, but several more of them first made an impression on me through the movies. ‘April Come She Will’ was an example of that. And so is David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars?’

Bowie was a big blind spot for me right up until his death, when I decided to do a deep dive into his catalog. But I discovered this song when it played during a scene from Wes Anderson’s 2004 The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. That short snippet of the song’s chorus was enough for me to know it was something special.

I guess it’s appropriate I first heard this song in a movie, because the lyrics are about a girl seeking escape in a movie theater. Instead, she finds a collision of capitalism and corruption offering no distraction from her mundane life. Bowie takes a dim view of art in this song, which is ironic because he creates a transporting work of art while doing it.

[Note: My original post of this song might be one of the only Songs of the Day to not include a contribution from frequent commenter Dana. I’m sure he’ll want to remedy that!]

Peaceful Easy Feeling‘ – Eagles (1972)

This is the unlikeliest song on this list, considering that not too long ago I considered myself a hater of the Eagles. My feelings evolved a few years back when I took off the blinders and dove into their early catalog with an open mind.

That exercise didn’t make me an Eagles completist, by any means, but it did give me a deep appreciation for the early hits. And it cemented ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ among my favorite songs. I love its soothing country-folk rhythms and its breezily optimistic outlook on life and love.

The track is sung by Glenn Frey, but it was written by Jack Tempchin, a solo artist who also wrote the Eagles’ ‘Already Gone’ and a host of songs for other performers.

[Verse 1]
It’s a god-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair
But her mummy is yelling, “No!”
And her daddy has told her to go
But her friend is nowhere to be seen
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen

[Pre-Chorus]
But the film is a saddening bore
For she’s lived it ten times or more
She could spit in the eyes of fools
As they ask her to focus on

[Chorus]
Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh, man, look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh, man, wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

[Verse 2]
It’s on America’s tortured brow
That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow
Now the workers have struck for fame
‘Cause Lennon’s on sale again
See the mice in their million hordes
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads
Rule Britannia is out of bounds
To my mother, my dog, and clowns

[Pre-Chorus]
But the film is a saddening bore
Because I wrote it ten times or more
It’s about to be writ again
As I ask you to focus on

[Chorus]
Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh, man, look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh, man, wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,568: ‘Life on Mars? (Live)’ – David Bowie

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    First, comment omission remedied! Thanks for alerting me to this.

    While the rest of the family has already begun compiling their respective top 25 lists, I haven’t done so yet, though, in conversations with them, I had mentioned “Life on Mars” as a contender for my list. It really is a special, provocative song from a great artist.

  2. Maddie says:

    Nice choices! Love this cover of “Life on Mars” https://youtu.be/kJ095S0MmnA

  3. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    I had a similar experience where I only started to appreciate Bowie’s work posthumously. We had placed “Space Oddity” in the band a couple years prior, and my intrigue was peaked then. However, upon his death I started to do a deeper dive as well. Although, I would never place “Life on Mars” on my Top 25 it is likely my favorite Bowie song and I understand why so many revere it. As for “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, there is no doubt that an Eagles song would likely make my Top 25. This is one of my favorites of their as well and one I often return to, but I’d probably go for one of their more R&B tinged records for my list.

  4. Amy says:

    I probably “discovered” Bowie through a combination of Mom’s surprisingly ardent passion for the song/video for “China Girl” (one of my vivid MTV associations), and through the prominent placement of “Changes” as the opening song/quote for one of my favorite 80’s films The Breakfast Club. He was an artist I always appreciated more than loved, but that is up there as one of my top song/film combos.

    • Clay says:

      One quick correction… while ‘Changes’ is indeed quoted at the beginning of The Breakfast Club, the song itself does not play during the movie.

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