Rare footage of David Bowie’s first performance as Ziggy Stardust

Credit: BBC

Rare footage of David Bowie’s first ever TV performance as Ziggy Stardust has been unearthed. 

“I wasn’t at all surprised ‘Ziggy Stardust’ made my career,” Bowie once said of his fictional character. “I packaged a totally credible plastic rock star.” That rock and roll hero, who would go on to change the game of music, solidifying Bowie as a bonafide icon. Here, in footage which was once thought to have been deleted and lost forever, Bowie’s performs on ‘Top of the Pops’ way back in 1972.

The clip, shot by a fan on a home camcorder, has been described as the “Holy Grail” and will appeared in the recently released BBC documentary David Bowie: The First Five Years – Finding Fame

“For fans, it is something of a Holy Grail,” documentary director Francis Whately told the Radio Times.”It would fall apart if we played it, so it’s had to be very carefully restored. It will be a real coup if it comes off.”

The restoration of the tape is being carefully dealt with by specialists but a BBC spokeswoman said: “The footage has only very recently been discovered. We’re hoping it will be ready in time to include in the film.” Apparently, the clip was once part of 144 tapes sent by Granada Television in a bid to turn them into digital. However, a catastrophic error made by a technician saw the footage accidentally deleted. 

“I was absolutely gobsmacked,” Marc Riley once told Bowie biographer David Buckley. “My gran was shouting insults at the TV, which she usually saved for Labour Party political broadcasts. And I just sat there agog. I was experiencing a life-changing moment. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it really did knock me for six.”

Ziggy Stardust is one of the lasting images of the late, great musician and performer David Bowie. The persona was a defining moment in Bowie’s career and his miraculous conception of the flame-haired rock and roller from outer space was the toast of the music industry.

Bowie, previously discussing his unstoppable creativity energy, once confessed: “I get bored very quickly and that would give it some new energy. I’m rather kind of old school, thinking that when an artist does his work it’s no longer his… I just see what people make of it. That is why the TV production of Ziggy will have to exceed people’s expectations of what they thought Ziggy was.”

Discussing the inception of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie once explained: “The time is five years to go before the end of the earth,” he said, relishing telling his story. “It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. [The album was released three years prior to the original interview.] Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything.

“Ziggy was in a rock and roll band and the kids no longer want rock and roll. There’s no electricity to play it. Ziggy’s adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, ’cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. ‘All the Young Dudes’ is a song about this news. It is no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite.”

Bowie continues to go into depth about the conception of the persona: “Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a starman, so he writes ‘Starman,’ which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch onto it immediately. The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers.”

See Bowie outing Ziggy Stardust for one of the very first times, below.

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