Saturday, 20 September 2014

Life in Hell

I find something deeply offensive about this kind of music: it actually sickens me to the core. It's not because I hate classical music or classical performers - far from it. I just cannot fathom why anyone would attempt a crossover as ridiculous as this. I hate the recent glut of pseudo-classical vocal acts knocking out pop standards (come the glorious day I'd gladly put people like Il Divo and those awful Welsh brothers who won the X Factor in front of a firing squad). Pavarotti's attempts at pop were beyond embarrassing, and don't get me started on Freddie Mercury's ridiculous diva act.

But before anyone had heard any of Russell Watson's godawful 'pop' output a half dozen posh boys from King's College, Cambridge began their now 45-year career bastardising the great pop songs of the day. This 'band' The King's Singers, are responsible for some of the most reprehensible recordings ever made, including the one I present for you today - their unfathomably bad version of David Bowie's classic Life on Mars.

The King's Singers are a British a cappella vocal ensemble founded in 1968, but whose roots reach back as far as 1965. Named after King's College in Cambridge (where the group was formed), prior to the establishment of the six-piece, male-only group several of the parts were taken by other singers.

Although the line up has changed over the years (none of the original members are still in the group and at one pint they even – shock, horror – had three female singers) the six man Singers gave the first concert on May 1, 1968 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London and they are still an inexplicably popular draw today: the ensemble travels worldwide, appearing in around 125 concerts annually in Europe, the U.S, the Far East and the People's Republic of China. These concerts are typically divided into five distinct groups of pieces, with madrigals, folk songs and so on from the acts ‘serious’ material, followed by a selection of ‘lighter fare’, including songs by The Beatles, Billy Joel and Queen. And, it would seem, David Bowie.

The King’s Singers have released around 50 albums so far. Given an average running time of 40 minutes, that’s over 33 hours of this nonsense. And that doesn’t include the endless list of compilations. Two of the founding members – Alistair Hume and Simon Carrington – managed 28 years with the group (1965-1993): David Hurley is the act’s current longest-serving member, having joined in 1989 and still performing today. 

Anyway, here are the King's Singers and their horrid version of Life on Mars, from their 1982 album For Your Pleasure. As a bonus, I've also included their murderous version of American Pie from their 1991 collection Good Vibrations.




  1. "The day The Music died". This is surely its final death-throes. The Death Rattle burping out of the throat of its scrawny corpse. Truly awful. These two tracks have made me feel terrible and not in a GOOD way. The horrible attempt at vocal percussion at 1.35 in American Pie is surely a line in the sand. A absolute low in Pop Music. While said line in the sand is a nadir in Pop Music... that line appears to have been matched by the vocalating beyond 0.51 in Life On Mars.

    Why diod they do this. Tell me why? No-one asked them to...

  2. Darryl, thanks for posting...interesting to say the least! The bit I find most amusing is the rolled 'r' on the line "about to be writ again" - a trademark of classical musical singing. The song was actually taken from an album entitled 'Keep on changing' released in 1975 and this was the lead off single released in June of that year. Neither piece of plastic features in my collection!


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