‘From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads’: my 2,700-mile bike ride into Bowie’s Life on Mars?

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Sailors fighting, Lennon on sale, all those mice … the single released 50 years ago this week is David Bowie at his most enigmatic. Could a cycling odyssey unravel its mysteries?

This Thursday marks 50 years since David Bowie’s Life on Mars? was released as a single. A cornucopia of surreal images, a musical soap opera to float away with, it still regularly appears in lists of the greatest ever Bowie songs – and indeed lists of the greatest songs by anyone.

Trying to deconstruct this tale starring mice, Mickey Mouse and a mousy-haired girl is about as easy as getting to Mars itself. I should know as I cycled one of the song’s lyrics – “from Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads” – pedalling 2,700 miles in search of a deeper understanding. Other writers have followed literary footsteps to get into authors’ minds, so why not a music lyric?

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