[from the stabenow.com vaults, February 25, 2011]
I watched Life on Mars on DVD last month, the British version.
Along with a weirdly wonderful premise, superb writing and everything else — casting, cinematography — lovely about it, it’s got the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard on a television series. I was already wowed when Cream’s “White Room” came thumping out of the speakers at the end of the first episode and brought me all upstanding and rocking around the living room. I couldn’t believe they were using original artists instead of those horrible synthesized elevator imitations we’ve all come to know and hate on American television programs.
(I know, I know, ASCAP is only looking out for author royalties, and how can I object to that?)
So I googled and of course someone has already put up a list of Life on Mars songs on Wikipedia. You’ll notice it’s heavy on the hard rock, Sweet, Uriah Heep, Atomic Rooster, T. Rex–in short, all those bands that turned me off rock and roll back in the day. But here’s the thing. Every one of those songs is pitch perfect to the tone of the series, the time it is set in, and the characters inhabiting it. Much of the music is fast and loud and frantic to hold on, to the lyric, to the back beat, to our attention, to life, the universe and everything. Kind of like Sam Tyler.
But then it lightens up, sort of, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Louis Armstrong, all the way to blue and bittersweet. Kind of like Sam Tyler.
The guy who scored the soundtrack for Life on Mars is a fricken’ genius, and so were the producers who signed the checks so they could use tracks by original artists. So was everyone else who had anything to do with the series. Both thumbs way up.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.