Mars, a planet full of music

Zoa Studio's illustration inspired by "Mars, God of War"
Zoa Studio’s illustration inspired by “Mars, God of War”

Today, June 28, we  celebrate Elon Musk‘s birthday in a somewhat alternative way, we could almost say spatial way!

Let’s think … what is the aim of our Iron Man in flesh and blood? As we have already told you in a recent article, the purpose of Musk and his Space X is to bring men to Mars, to colonize it and solve some “terrestrial” problems.

So, to make a gift to Elon Musk and  to readers, we highlight how much the world of music also loves Mars, by telling you about the best contributions given by the Red Planet-themed artists.

Gustav Holst and the suite Planets

We start this musical journey in the early 1900s with the English composer Gustav Holst.

The Planets suite was and remains his most remembered and admired work to this day. It was conceived starting from 1914 in the wake of the great interest in astrology that Holst had developed and from his readings.

The suite is actually inspired by the ‘moods’ related to the planets, and takes inspiration from Alan Leo‘s book The Art of Synthesis. The volume is divided into chapters, each of which is dedicated to a planet, with a description of the characteristics of the personality and the values ​​associated with it. Here is what appears in Leo’s book for example.

  • Venus – Love that is reborn, emotions
  • Mercury – The winged messenger of the gods, full of resources, eclectic
  • Jupiter – Bearer of abundance and perseverance.
  • Mars – Independent, ambitious, stubborn (doesn’t that sound like Elon Musk’s description?)

The work was completed in two phases: first Mars, Venus and Jupiter, then Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Mercury after a pause dedicated to other compositions. It is also interesting to note that The Planets has been an inspiration for various film soundtracks. It is known that John Williams used Mars, along with other pieces of classical music, during the making of Star Wars. He later blatantly cited some themes in his final original soundtrack.

David Bowie and Mars

We continue this journey to Mars with David Bowie, who in 1971 (year of Elon Musk’s birth), released his fourth album, Hunky Dory. The album contains the prodrome for the creation of Bowie’s alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust. Besides this, Hunky Dory contains a Mars themed track, entitled Life on Mars. There have been many attempts to decode this song, but the most credited is the following.

Life on Mars talks about a girl who takes refuge in a frenetic zapping of ever-changing images of various TV channels, looking for an escape from her parents. “The reaction of a girl sensitive to the world of media” as Bowie described it in 1971. The song became part not only of mass culture, but also of the culture of the artist himself.

In fact, the following year on Life on Mars, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released. The album tells of a world close to the apocalypse in which the last hero is a boy who became rock star thanks to an alien help.

A year later, in 1973, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released, a concert film shot on the occasion of the show that Bowie held at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.

This film tells about the last concert of the Aladdin Sane tour which consecrated the success of Bowie and the Spiders from Mars, the band that accompanied him. In addition, as mentioned earlier, it was then that Bowie’s alter-ego was given to History, precisely Ziggy Stardust.

Ballrooms of Mars


In fact, they celebrate it in the song Ballrooms of Mars, from which we read some verses.

We’ll dance our lives away
In the Ballrooms of Mars
You talk about day
I’m talking ’bout night time
When monsters call out
The names of men

Although many think that Marc Bolan, T-Rex leader, did not want to transfer a concept with this song (wrong), other critics agree with the opposite (ding ding !!).

Interpretations of Ballrooms of Mars

One hypothesis is that this song is a kind of letter to the aforementioned David Bowie. Marc Bolan and Bowie had been close friends since the late 1960s, and Bowie had referred to having been forgotten by Bolan when the latter became famous. So, after Bowie made Hunky Dory in 1971, consecrating him to success, Bolan had an inspiration and wrote Ballrooms of Mars to celebrate his renewed friendship with the author of Life on Mars.

Another hypothesis is that the song speaks of war or rather of anti-war. Mars, the god of war, is defeated by fighting (in the song it is dancing) on ​​the fields, here defined as ballrooms. To motivate this reference is made to Bob Dylan, Alan Freed and John Lennon, icons of the pacifist movement.

A final hypothesis is that, by removing all references to space, the song is about someone to whom the author was very attached. The sad and gloomy reason leads to believe that something happened to the protagonist of the piece or to his relationship with the author. So, this person is no longer physically “on earth” or in his reality, which is why the author finds himself having to meet him on Mars.

Mars and the Nineties

Thirty Seconds to Mars

And on Mars, or not far away, we meet a band that owes its name to the Red Planet: Thirty Seconds to Mars. The American group was born in 1998 from the union of actor Jared Leto (also Oscar winner let’s not forget it), with his brother Shannon, to which two other components have been added.

The group’s name was explained by the Leto brothers in an interview with Virgin Records.

We can’t blame them, in fact their music, to some extent, seems almost spatial, post apocalyptic, of another dimension…like Stranger Things basically!

The debut album came out a few years later, in 2002, and bears the same name as the band, Thirty Seconds to Mars. The contents of the songs tell the story of characters who experience alienation, paranoia and obsession, imagining an escape from the earthly world. As told in various interviews by the band, each track on the album constitutes a real story that examines the personal human experience.

Unfortunately, the album was not successful and we had to wait for 2008 and the release of A Beautiful Lie for the recognition of the band in the music scene.

Misfits

A few years before the birth of Thirty Seconds to Mars, remaining in the nineties, another band had already given due tributes to the red planet. We are talking about Misfits, an American punk rock group.

The Misfits celebrated Mars on two different occasions. In 1995 Static Age was released, an album dating back to 1978. Inside the album the piece Teenagers from Mars, of which there are only 6 copies in EP. According to Glenn Danzig, founder of Misfits, the first acetate copy had Teenagers From Mars on both sides. Glenn owned five special copies that went: one to Jerry Only; one to Max’s Kansas City jukebox; one to the CBGB jukebox, one to George Germain. What an absurd story!

In 1997,two years after the release of Static Age, the American Psycho album was released, which contains another “Martian” track. It’s the Mars Attacks song. The single was never extracted from the album because another piece, Dig Up Her Bones, saw the light instead.

It is clear that the Mars theme is dear to the band, perhaps because the Martians somewhat represent the misfits, those who are outsiders.

Mars in the year 2000

Finally, we land in our millennium to talk to you about a television series, directed by Ron Howard, which is called Mars. Released in 2016 for National Geographic, Mars blends real interviews with the imaginary story of a group of astronauts who lands right on the red planet. Mixed with the story there are in fact footage of real interviews from the year 2016 of the crew and their mission control, including several scientists and engineers such as Andy Weir, Robert Zubrin and Neil deGrasse Tyson and today’s birthday boy, Elon Musk.

But we said that we would talk about music, in fact we quote Mars for the soundtrack, composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Virtually this series has the best of the best, from directing, to music, to lyrics! The album is also on sale on the Nick Cave website: https://www.nickcave.com/releases/mars/.

In conclusion, today we told you how a planet has “influenced” practically a century of music. It was very interesting to retrace the contribution of various artists, from classical music to rock, remembering who saw a cue on the planet to talk about alienation and who drew inspiration for the name of their band.

Maybe we will bring all these songs on the spacecraft directed to Mars and our new life!

#tomarsandbeyond

#theplanetofmusic

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