Life on mars

The vid was recorded in 1973, the song in ’71. It’s about a bloated entertainment industry. But obviously it’s way ahead of its time, therefore even more relevant today. In the video, Bowie’s outlandish appearance is a metaphor for that industry. Like a reluctant Winston in the Ministry Of Information, from Orwell’s 1984, Bowie’s facial expressions reveal him to be knowingly complicit in the provision of all those films seen ”ten times or more”. It suggests an industry that’s out of control, that has us moulded to always buy into it, even though we are all tired. Inherent in that is the fear of loss of artistic control perhaps. It’s the devaluation of culture, as exemplified by Irish novelist James Joyce, who said that cynicism is knowing the price of everything yet the value of nothing. It’s also about how a young person makes sense of a scary world: ”the mice in their million hordes” is like a child’s way of making sense of the Communist hordes that are ready to invade. The lyrics themselves could easily have been written in the 30s: Mickey Mouse and Lenin were all the rage then, too. ”Sailors fighting in the dance hall” is like a typical brawl seen in a Charlie Chaplin movie. Remember: in ’71, Bowie was closer in time to the 30s than he was to now.

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