David Bowie Talks and Sings on The Dick Cavett Show (1974)

I can think of very few tasteful phenomena to have come to prominence in the seventies, but David Bowie’s albums and Dick Cavett’s talk shows both make the short list. In the middle of that decade, Bowie certainly made the television rounds; we previously featured his 1975 appearance opposite Cher, and today we have his appearance opposite Cavett from the previous year. “David Bowie is a superstar in a category that has never actually been defined,” says the host about the rocker, to audience cheers, “because as soon as a critic tries to say what he is, he changes, like a chameleon.” It seems that Bowie, then at the height of his self-transformative tendencies, could reduce even the most eloquent man on television to that not-quite-accurate cliché. As the former host told Esquire thirty years after this broadcast, “Doesn’t a chameleon exert tremendous energy to become indistinguishable from its environment?”

Yet Cavett ultimately holds his own with Bowie, a feat I doubt many of the rest of us could pull off then or now. The appearance involves more than just music; while Bowie does perform, he also sits down to talk, something that his fans hadn’t yet seen him do in 1974. To many of them, he remained for the most part a mystery, albeit an astutely rocking one. “Who is he? What is he?” Cavett rhetorically asks the crowd. “Man? Woman? Robot?” In the event, they discuss his school days, his ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway, the unforgettable Diamond Dogs cover arthis step back from “glitter,” why other people would have feared interviewing him, and whether he pictures himself at sixty (in the far-flung year of 2007). How easy to forget, in this age when we can often converse with our idols by merely sending them an @ reply on Twitter, how much a showman like Bowie could leave to our imaginations. He remains admirably secretive by today’s standards, but back in the seventies, anything he said would have come as a revelation — especially if prompted by no less artful a conversationalist.

Related Content:

David Bowie and Cher Sing Duet of “Young Americans” and Other Songs on 1975 Variety Show

David Bowie Sings ‘I Got You Babe’ with Marianne Faithfull in His Last Performance As Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie Releases Vintage Videos of His Greatest Hits from the 1970s and 1980s

David Bowie Recalls the Strange Experience of Inventing the Character Ziggy Stardust (1977)

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.



Make knowledge free & open. Share our posts with friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms:

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

  • Paul

    I live in New York City. One night about three years ago, I watched that entire Dick Cavett episode featuring David Bowie. Then THE VERY NEXT DAY, I ran into Cavett himself while he was shopping at Williams-Sonoma! I told him I had just watched his Bowie interview, and Cavett said, “Oh, yeah. He sniffed a lot, didn’t he?” So Dick was totally aware that Bowie was coked up at the time. Not much he could do about it, I guess.

Quantcast