My big brother was into the 1970s glam-rock scene, I mean, he had the platforms and everything.. He looked a div, but then what teenage boy didn’t look a div in the 70s?
For what’s it’s worth, I also looked a div – only I didn’t have any choice in the matter.
Anyway, it’s from rooting through his records that I came across the phenomenon that was David Bowie..
Being born in 1970 rendered me too young to appreciate the glam rock scene first time around. However, I didn’t have to wait too long because it made a comeback in the 80s with the likes of Def Leppard, Poison and Kiss – only with less glitter and more hair. Oh. And the flares were replaced by skin-tight, testicle-trapping jeans which of course helped them to reach those high notes..
Of all the records of the glam rock era, Life on Mars is my favourite.
Bowie labeled Life on Mars, “a sensitive young girl’s reaction to the media” and added, “I think she finds herself disappointed with reality… that although she’s living in the doldrums of reality, she’s being told that there’s a far greater life somewhere, and she’s bitterly disappointed that she doesn’t have access to it.”
I know how she feels..
Reality sucks. You spend nine months in the womb being prepared for your big entry into the world only to reach the age of five when you start school and your world turns phenomenally crap.
Yes, I know how that girl feels..
Life on Mars was released as a single in 1973. I was three years old and still wearing plastic pants. So it’s fair to say that while I no doubt heard it on the radio (or saw it on TOTP) I wasn’t into it until a few years later..
First, I fell in love with Mick Ronson’s orchestral arrangement because, lets face it, it’s EFFING AWESOME! Then came my obsession with the lyrics (also awesome) and all these years later, it STILL does things to me insides..
When it comes to the lyrics, the song is somewhat ambiguous but I identify with Bowie’s description because, like the girl, I am also at odds with reality. I see life as one big freak show.
Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man, look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Bowie started out ordinary enough, apart from his freaky eye, but Mrs Bowie knew that his image was a bit crap so she turned him into the spiky red awesomeness that was ‘Ziggy Stardust’. He made weird, cool, and all the misfits and weirdos whooped with joy and bought all his records. He was like something out of space – which was kind of the idea. Nobody knew what the fuck he was. Was he male, female or alien?
Bowie wasn’t my dad’s cup of tea, as I imagine was the case with a lot of other parents of the time. Dad’s nervous cough would kick in when Ziggy beamed up via the gogglebox during those early years but he settled down once Dave brought out Lets Dance and ‘that one he did with Jagger’, got the Dad stamp of approval too.
Bowie has been a constant in some form or other since Ziggy. I almost had a coronary when the TV series Life on Mars was screened in 2006. Great plot. The legend what is ‘The Gene Genie’ (Gene Hunt) and a cracking 1970s soundtrack, including Life on Mars which was used a LOT. What’s not to like?
For those of you unfamiliar with Life on Mars.. the plot is is that Sam Tyler has an accident in 2006 and wakes up in 1973 wearing flares and driving a Cortina. The tagline is, Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever’s happened, it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet.
I just hope to God I never suffer a head trauma and wake up in 1983 wearing a ra-ra skirt and legwarmers!
So, if I had to choose ONE song to listen to before I die, it would be Life On Mars. I want my life force to ebb away to this song but knowing my luck, it will be Justin Bieber and I will die with my middle finger stuck up in mid-air.
There is something satisfyingly poetic about Mick Ronson’s melodic string arrangements to Life on Mars being the last piece of music I ever hear before I depart this
shit-hole planet. I am the girl with the mousey hair, or at least I used to be before I started dyeing the crap out of it, and I very much want this to be my swansong. Family, take note.
Finally, a bit o’ trivia for you..
The string arrangement for Life on Mars was written in a TOILET.