What does Life on Mars mean?

David Bowie: Life on Mars Meaning

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Album cover for Life on Mars album cover

Life on Mars Lyrics

It's a god-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair
But her mummy is yelling "No"
And her daddy has told her to go
But her friend is nowhere to be seen
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    May 31st 2009 !⃝

    I think it's a combo of two of the suggestions above. The girl comes from an abusive home and has been kicked out of the house a number of times (Her mummy is yelling "No!"/ and her daddy has told her to go). She tries to escape her life by going to the cinema and watching movies, but because she has actually lived through these dramas they don't appeal to her (But the film is a sadd'ning bore/For she's lived it ten times or more) She sees the "entertaining versions" of violence, and how little we've evolved (Look at those cavemen go/It's the freakiest show) and wonders if this is all there is (Is there life on Mars?)

    The second verse is a little more tricky for me personally but I think it's talking about the commercialization of ideals. Things that used to be representations of innocence or beliefs have become cheep, bastardized and gimmicky (It's on America's tortured brow/That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow/Now the workers have struck for fame/'Cause Lennon's on sale again) leaving many of the generation apathetic and jaded just like the girl with the mousy hair.

    However, in a really weird way Bowie seems to understand that he too is contributing to the situation as his songs at turned into the thing he is against- Beliefs and Ideals plundered for profit. (But the film is a sadd'ning bore/'Cause I wrote it ten times or more) And not only his previous songs but this song as well. (It's about to be writ again/As I ask you to focus on...)


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    May 24th 2011 !⃝

    In the first verse we see a rather plain girl who tells her parents that she is pregnant. Her parents react abusively to her announcement, and tell her to leave home. And she is also abandoned by her lover.

    The first place that she runs away to, is a movie theater. But now the movies have no real message about existence, and are dominated by simplistic views of love and gratuitous violence. She can no longer believe in Hollywood's version of love, because in real life love ends with disappointment and possibly an unwanted pregnancy.

    Disillusioned by the insensitivity of her parents, the abandonment of her boyfriend, and the shallowness of American films, she wonders if there is any place in the universe where she could find intelligent life.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Dec 14th 2006 !⃝

    life on mars is about society.
    how its all a ridiculous joke.
    how people stil act like "cavemen".
    but he's hoping that maybe there's something better on mars.
    that somewhere there's some intelligent life or society better than this.
    "take a look at the lawman beating up the wrong guy I wonder if theyll ever know that they're the best selling show"
    people are stupid and they make a ridicuolos scene out of everything
    "the film was a saddened bore becoause I've lived it ten times or more"
    its all gotten boring society everything
    its gotten old like when you watch a movie too many times in row
    everything the same and it never ends

  4. anonymous
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    Jul 20th 2022 !⃝

    I’m at a party in the Hollywood hills and this song is playing. I asked several people what they think this song means. Everyone had no idea. Manson lamps.
    Reality is 99% = It just has a great melody and a few words u can sing along too. Sort of like life I guess. Get a good job….make some money, take your two weeks then fade out.
    Does anyone really live or understand why they are here?

  5. anonymous
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    Jul 31st 2018 !⃝

    Bowie did write a note on his demo' stating it was about a girl who is oversensitive to the media, This is too simplistic for the overlying layers. Bowie said often he found the confines of convention stifling. Life was repetitive convention, without imagination. Entertainment previously viewed as an escape from the humdrum everyday life had come to mirror of the mundane or unrelatable fairy-tales. He expands the view to millions of people trying to escape boredom. Like the Disney workers, the poor do not feel part of the glory of Britannia. He excludes himself as part of the unbound institution of privilege who is defining their lives. It is a yearning for a new free society of imagination.

  6. anonymous
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    Jul 22nd 2016 !⃝

    I love this song regardless if it has meaning or not.. he may have been reading the paper for all we know and the headlines was Sailors were fighting in a dance hall, is there life on Mars?, Lawmen beat up the wrong man. David Bowie sang great songs and would not want us fighting or calling names, he would want us to enjoy the song and take from it what you will. If someone thinks it is about a pregnant girl let them or if someone else thinks it is about a better place to go let them... point is enjoy the song.. just sit back and enjoy

  7. anonymous
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    Apr 3rd 2016 !⃝

    I am surprised at the name calling a few of you people have done

  8. anonymous
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    Apr 18th 2013 !⃝

    Btw, the friend who's nowhere to be seen is the guy who impregnated her

  9. anonymous
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    Apr 18th 2013 !⃝

    The "God awful small affair'" is the girl is pregnant. Not unusual in those days for Dad to kick her out. Does she want to bring a kid into this world?

  10. anonymous
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    Mar 14th 2013 !⃝

    Its amazing how many idiots think this song is about alien life, just like they think REM's "Losing My Religion" is about a loss of faith/religion, or Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" is about not being sad at being single. They take a title and think they know a song, without bothering to even listen to the song. It fu**ing beggars belief!

  11. anonymous
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    Mar 30th 2012 !⃝


    When he was a song writer he was assgined a song which was orginally sang in French, the recored label asked him to convert it into English. But they did like his version and used someone elses, which Frank Sinatra then sang! This pissed off Bowie, because he felt like it was his song! Sooo Life on Mars is his way of getting back at them! He re-wrote the song, and relased it under 'Life on Mars' to prove to the company he could write. But to highlight! THE SONG HAS NO-MEANING! he says all this a couple of interviews.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  12. anonymous
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    May 20th 2011 !⃝

    The first line is reference to the size of the spacecraft, someone is talking to the girl suggesting it’s a bit of a squash. Her folks have argued about whether she should take the trip and be “saved” – her friend it seems has eventually decided not to go. She ambles along knowing something is wrong, she was supposed to be famous and now this, leaving the earth before it collapses in line with biblical and historical predictions the aliens have previously handed down. Thus she gets a good seat to see the earth as it takes off to Saturn where the bigger transports are moored.

    The inflight movie is boring because it’s been drummed into her all her life, religion but she has seen through the scam and thus could ‘spit in the eyes of fools’ – and the ask her to focus on –(the chorus)

    Sailors fighting in the dance hall is what she is leaving behind, the world has basically erupted into world war three as religion has been ridiculed by the return of the aliens and the films shows news reports of killing by various relgious factions whose ideology has been destroyed; what with that and the synthetic earthquakes it’s a good escape. The film changes to show Jesus and the crucifixion and the song changes to the narration of the alien charged with the care of the passengers; the Lawman is Pontious Pilot and of course, the wrong guy is Jesus, who is really an alien too (sorry folks, it’s only a song though eh) – the man who sold the world, on religion.

    America is by this time tortured by debt, war and indecision but Mickey Mouse is alien speak for the homo sapien – as opposed to homo superiour - which has grossed out on burgers and is ready for farming, though really just for hair – for semi-conductors for solar panels, if you really stretch the notion.

    Manual and trade labour has been defeted in ambition by celebrity, hence the workers striking for fame – Lennon on sale again is a nod to a) the conspiracy theories that have kept mankind busy cerebally – save them looking too much to the stars and b) give peace a chance is likely to have been realsed due to wars etc mostly in the middle east as the Jews and Muslims (mostly) have been fighting it out like crazy most like (by this time).

    Mice in their million hoards – two possibilties, a) mice being humans, denied contraception/homosexuality by religion have bred like rabbits, again, ready for farming or b) the nano robots designed to ‘mop up’ the rest of humanity. Rule Britania is out of nounds refers to some kind of cosmic agreement to a) let the Royal Family go, or b) possibly the whole UK.

    Mother, my dog and clowns – mother ship or overall commander of the operation, dog, the diamond dogs really, the celebrities, gangsters, DJ’s – famous people really who will act essentially as sheepdogs to encourage people onto the ships; clowns are the lo-level security folk who will be more ‘encouraging’ – if all else fails.

    David Bowie once famously said that ‘the internet changes everything’ one can only hope he was just talking about music.

    Sailors fighting in the dance hall
    Oh man! Look at those cavemen go
    It's the freakiest show
    Take a look at the lawman
    Beating up the wrong guy
    Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know
    He's in the best selling show
    Is there life on Mars?

    It's on America's tortured brow
    That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow
    Now the workers have struck for fame
    Because Lennon's on sale again
    See the mice in their million hordes
    From Ibeza to the Norfolk Broads
    Rule Britannia is out of bounds
    To my mother, my dog, and clowns
    But the film is a saddening bore
    Because I wrote it ten times or more
    It's about to be writ again
    As I ask you to focus on

    Sailors fighting in the dance hall
    Oh man! Look at those cavemen go
    It's the freakiest show
    Take a look at the lawman
    Beating up the wrong guy
    Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know
    He's in the best selling show
    Is there life on Mars?

  13. anonymous
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    Mar 26th 2011 !⃝

    Bowie is drawing a picture about the absurdity of our existence - the absurdity of human mankind on this planet. And he says that unjustice and cruelty is not just a Single Case - it is happening again and again since man has Left the cave. He asks the question if there's Life on Mars. Its an indirect question about our life on planet earth. a similar question could be asked by an intelligent being living on mars asking if theres life on earth. Would he then imagine life being so absurd and silly as it is?

  14. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 14th 2010 !⃝

    Bowie, at the time of Hunky Dory's release in 1971, summed up the song as "A sensitive young girl's reaction to the media". In 1997 he 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". What can I say. The man understood his own lyrics.
    (I got this off wikipedia by the way. No breach of any possible copyright intended and I'm not the original source of this.)

  15. anonymous
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    Sep 18th 2010 !⃝

    I think it is about a girl who thinks that our society is in tatters and hopes that there is life on Mars so there is something better out there. I agree with her whole heartedly.

  16. anonymous
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    Sep 15th 2010 !⃝

    I think it is about a girl who watched a sad movie

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  17. frogger100
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    Jan 6th 2010 !⃝

    this song was inspired by a girl david bowie knew.i think her name was hermione.she was quite posh,and her parents didnt approve of bowie,hence "her mummy is yelling no,and her daddy has told her to go".evidently she had dreams of being an actress and thats where the silverscreen bit comes into it.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  18. anonymous
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    Mar 31st 2009 !⃝

    Perhaps this is relying too much on the song title but I always thought of it as a girl sick of life with men (mars, cavemen) and wondering if anyone is really out there or if they're all just idiots ("beating out the wrong guy")

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