The pre-recorded clip found Fallon stumbling across Martin backstage at a piano and asking what the Coldplay frontman was working on. Without a word, Martin launched into the Hunky Dory cut and Fallon quickly joined in, offering a suitable impression of Bowie’s nasally British lilt.
Halfway through, Roots guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas barged in, dropped a mini-amplifier in Fallon’s lap, ripped a quick solo and took off. Fallon and Martin then brought “Life on Mars?” to a thrilling, theatrical conclusion, after which the Tonight Show host ribbed the singer, “Well, keep working on it.”
Martin previously honored Bowie — who died in January after a secret 18-month battle with cancer — with a carpool karaoke cover of “Heroes” on The Late Late Show With James Corden. He also revealed during a tribute video at the inaugural BBC Music Awards that Bowie once turned down an invitation to sing on a Coldplay song because the track wasn’t good enough.
“He called me and said, ‘It’s not one of your best,'” Martin recalled. “He’s got very high standards and I appreciate that. It inspires the rest of us to keep our standards high.”