Alex update 2023: I wrote this some time ago. And by “some time ago”, I mean THIRTEEN YEARS AGO. My, but time flies when you’re listening to Bowie. Anyway, I figured it needed a freshening up… and to fix a bunch of broken links.
I’ve been slowly re-watching a couple of TV series of late, if only to escape the endless electioneering and Mastercheffage around at the moment. Can’t be having with either of them, really. One particular pleasure has been rediscovering Life On Mars, and of course its theme tune. Which leads me to listening to a lot of David Bowie.
Bowie’s performed Life On Mars quite a bit over the years, so it’s no huge surprise that there’s a few versions of his online. What surprised me in a recent search were the cover versions…
First of all, just in case you weren’t familiar with the source material, here’s Bowie performing it live:
Then a pretty nice live version courtesy of the Eurythmics
I can’t really fault Rick Wakeman’s performance of the song, although I’m not entirely keen on the subtle changes he makes to the lyrics.
Want a pretty damned fine metal version? Of course you do.
There we dip into strange territory, with this Swedish take on the song. With added Cello.
Keeping things Swedish, Frida (yes, that Frida) has a Swedish language version that I find strangely compelling
And if it’s alternate language versions you’re after, why not Seu Jorge’s?
I know what you need. You need Life on Mars in Japanese. You just don’t know it yet.
Keeping things strange — but not a version I particularly like — are the Dresden Dolls
But we’re barely getting warmed up! Keeping with “versions I don’t particularly care for” are Vamps
There’s just something not quite there with Michelle Branch’s version, either
And it’s rather explicitly clear what’s wrong with L’Aura’s version. At least it is to me.
Anggun’s version gets things back on track, quality-wise
It’s tough to judge the 28 available seconds of Sandi Thom’s version accurately… though I suspect I couldn’t “download it to my mobile phone” this way any more either.
I know what you need. A jazz cover version. Oh, look, here’s one:
Fall Out Boy? Sure, why not?
Lorde? Have mercy.
They just keep on coming. I’ve barely scratched the surface of folks just singing the song to a Webcam, and that could go on for DAYS.
Instead, finish with an interesting pairing. Firstly, an all-Ukelele version. Seriously — listen to this one, as it’s got some interesting things to say…
And then my personal choice for “worst cover version to date” would have to go to Barbra Streisand. It’s just… too overblown. Too overproduced. Too showtunes-central. Way too Babs, really.