by Pat Thomas
Released on 1971's Hunky Dory, David Bowie's "Life On Mars?" is a testament to the brilliance of Bowie's pre-Ziggy era - perfect performance, perfect melody, perfect lyrics. Bowie himself recalled writing this song to the Mail on Sunday June 29, 2008:
"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-price 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."
And now for 5 covers selected by Pat Thomas...
Babs sings Bowie !?!?!
In 1975, before ABBA really got off the ground, Frida recorded a solo album with a Swedish language version of Bowie's "life on mars"
The King's Singers
This is hands down the most batshit crazy one; The King’s Singers have an extraordinary history on television. A favourite of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with whom they performed as part of the Winter Olympics.
Yann Tiersen and Neil Hannon from Divine Comedy
I love this one for the understated and playful instrumentation and the vocals which remind me at times of Tiny Tim.
Ok, last version of Bowie's "Life On Mars" to be posted, this one by Seu Jorge. You heard Frida of ABBA sing it in Swedish, how about a traditional Portuguese folk version?