“Stuck project into folder” / “Went into ELeigh and got Life on Mars + Pyjamarama” /”Neil came up later”
This purchase of two singles – probably both snagged at Jack Hobbs Records in their clearance bins – would seem to solidify my teenage passion for all things musically “glam”
David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” single was released (somewhat strangely in retrospect) by RCA Records almost two years after the album it came from; “Hunky Dory”. Twinned with the cut “Man Who Sold the World” (later butchered by Nirvana) on the b-side, it reached #3 in the charts and had remarkable staying power, staying in and around the Top 30 for over 3 months.
It came after a run of 4 hit singles – “Starman” , “John, I’m Only Dancing“, “Jean Genie” and “Drive-In Saturday” – for Bowie, enhancing the remarkable success he had been enjoying with 1972’s “Ziggy Stardust” album and the more recent (in April 1973) “Aladdin Sane” LP. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the timeless, ongoing appeal of Mr Bowie in 1973 or the fact that now, in 2009, he is considered one of rock music’s “gods”
I loved – and still love – Bowie’s early work (I kinda started to pass on his ‘art’ after 1980’s “Scary Monsters” album), “Life on Mars?” remaining one of my absolute faves. This is despite the unfortunate overkill the single received on the back of the BBC’s drama series (of the same name) in 2006. Like many other people of that time, I was first drawn in by the singles, moving to his classic albums a little later.
What some people may find weird is that despite seeing Bowie a few weeks earlier, I had STILL not heard the Ziggy Stardust album in its entirety!
Released in Island Records’ familiar bright pink paper sleeve, the single featured another non-album cut, the tunelessly-atmospheric “The Pride and the Pain” on the b-side.
It was released in March 1973, reached as high as Number 10 in the charts before dropping out of the Top 30 at the end of May. (Jack Hobbs usually sold off non-chart singles pretty cheaply as a way of clearing his shelves, which is doubtless why I waited until July to snag it).
The cut was originally scheduled to be included on Roxy Music’s “For Your Pleasure” album but was left off the final mix. The decision to use the single as the album’s “promotion” would come to be regarded as commercial madness by the music industry in later years, but I seem to remember this practise was quite common in the early part of the seventies.
Here’s today’s trivia corner…
• All-girl pop trio Bananarama’s name was inspired by the phrase “Pyjamarama”
• Rick Wakeman played keyboards on “Life on Mars?”
• “Life on Mars” has been covered by artists as diverse as Michael Ball, The Flaming Lips, Seal and Barbra Streisand