Life On Mars?

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brainiac | 22:55 Thu 02nd Jul 2020 | Music
14 Answers
Since watching Bowie's 2000 Glastonbury performance the other night, I've had Life on Mars? going round my head. Thought I'd look up the lyrics, and all the sites I can find give:

"Now the workers have struck for fame
Cause Lennon's on sale again"

I'd always assumed it was 'Lenin', which would make much more sense coming after the previous line. Anyone know for sure which it is?


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Just looked at 4 different 'lyrics' sites; 3 have Lennon, 1 goes for Lenin. Doesn't help, does it? :-(
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Well that's encouraging - couldn't find one that said Lenin. 'Lennon' makes no sense.
Hi Brainiac

it explains it here a bit in the side notes
//The lyric “now the workers have struck for fame, ‘cos Lennon’s on sale again” is a reference to the 1970 song “Working Class Hero” by John Lennon, which retold Lennon’s own childhood as a product of class conflict. Through the eyes of the skeptical girl, Bowie lightly pokes fun at the idea of a revolutionary pop star, chasing fame through the capitalist system. It’s more of a wry shrug than a withering rebuke. In any case, of all the Beatles, John was the least rooted in the deprivations and rowdy community of working-class Liverpool life, growing up at a slight remove in his Aunt Mimi’s aspirational and spotless semi-detached house.//

- sounds plausible, but I don't know if it's right.
Having known this song since its release, I have always heard it as Lennon, until I read this, the thought that it would be Lenin never crossed my mind.
for those that can't open the link
Lennon’s on sale again” could be understood more straight-forwardly.
I explain:
First things first, simple chronology: David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” was released in December 1971. Three months earlier, in September 1971, John Lennon released his 2nd solo album (and probably the most famous one): “Imagine”; we can figure that at the time David Bowie wrote “Life On Mars?”, the promo around Lennon’s release of “Imagine” was all happening, hence the “on sale again”. Lennon was literally going to sell/selling a new album again. Bowie probably witnessed the whole promo directly and daily.
However, “Working Class Hero”, Lennon’s timeless Working class anthem, was actually released a year earlier, in December 1970, on Lennon’s 1st solo album (“John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”). We can, of course, draw a few parallels between Soviet Communism imagery and the themes Lennon explores in the song (working class, struggle of the classes, condemnation of religion, etc.). And there’s also this funny pun by Bowie with the similarity of pronunciation between Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, former leader of the Soviet Union and Russian Communist party + inventor of Leninism, first of his name), and Lennon (John, the singer, musician, songwriter, activist, and also ex-Beatles).
The song, giving a poignant rendition and definition of what it’s like to grow up in the working class and what it’s like to belong to it (and why we should all be a “working-class hero”), put the focus on all the working-class people. Although Lennon beautifully pays tribute to all the working class people with his song, that doesn’t mean all these people became famous after Lennon’s song was released. And Lennon actually seems to self-proclaim himself as the “working class hero”.
So with “Now the workers have struck for fame, Because Lennon’s on sale again”, Bowie simply says that now Lennon released his new album, the workers (that is, the working class) feel the rightful need to strike for fame, to claim their right to become famous. At least, as famous as the self-proclaimed Working Class Hero: John Lennon.
There lies an interesting paradox since Lennon was defending with pride the working class with “Working Class Hero”, but the workers themselves could have possibly perceived it as a sign of arrogance and nonsense from someone who became really wealthy (he was a former Beatles’ member after all, no need to say he had nothing to complain about financially speaking). Probably that John Lennon couldn’t really be a working class spokesperson to them, since he had never been part of it (even in the Liverpool days, he was raised by his aunt who was part of the middle-class).
Bowie gives throughout “Life on Mars?” a rather sad and pessimistic statement on the current state of the society/World of his time, which is why “the workers” may appear greedy “for fame” and ready to denounce Lennon, whom they may consider as being an usurper and a fraud (selling discs and becoming rich at their expense).
To a larger extent, yet quite cleverly, Bowie (with “Lennon’s on sale AGAIN”) could also nostalgically refer to The Beatles’ 4th album called “Beatles for Sale”.

Just looked on Amazon at a Fingerprint Design Life On Mars Vintage Script Song Lyric Quote Print...………………..and it's definitely Lennon.
for what it's worth, the girl with the mousy hair was Hermione Farthingale
Shows how much I know. I thought that lemons were on sale again. I wondered why that excited the workers.
I have no idea but my favourite line is:

It's on America's tortured brow
That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow

Don't know what it means but hey ho...
The best way to find out for sure is to listen to it. It's very obviously "Lennon". Start at about 2:03 ...

Very true, Ellipsis, though your advice ought to be; "Listen to the song, paying particular attention from about 2;03 onward." You can't start a Bowie track half way through. Sacrilege ;-)
This link shows the songsheet. Go to page five and the verse is at the bottom. It shows the word as "Lennon's"

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