Here’s a wonderfully weird performance by David Bowie, dressed in drag for his last appearance as Ziggy Stardust, and Marianne Faithfull as a wayward nun, singing the mawkish Sonny & Cher tune, “I Got You Babe.”
The duet was recorded for American television on October 19, 1973 at the Marquee Club in London. The producer Burt Sugarman had approached Bowie about appearing on his late-night NBC program The Midnight Special. According to the Ziggy Stardust Companion, Bowie agreed to appear on the show after being granted complete artistic control for a one-hour special. He put together a cabaret-style show featuring himself and a couple of acts from the 1960s, performing on a futuristic set. Bowie called it “The 1980 Floor Show,” as a pun on the title of his song “1984,” which was played during the opening title sequence.
Filming took place over two days. The audiences were composed of Bowie fan club members and other special guests. Due to the cramped quarters in the nightclub, the camera crew wasn’t able to cover more than two angles at any moment, so Bowie and the others had to play the same songs over and over. On the day “I Got You Babe” was filmed, the musicians and crew worked for ten straight hours.
Faithfull was invited to appear on the show as one of the back-up acts, along with The Troggs and the “flamenco rock” group Carmen. At the very end of the evening, Bowie and Faithfull appeared onstage together–he in a red PVC outfit with black ostrich plumes (he called it his “Angel of Death” costume) and she in a nun’s habit that was, by more than one account, open in the back. “This isn’t anything serious,” Bowie reportedly told the audience. “It’s just a bit of fun. We’ve hardly even rehearsed it.”
The Midnight Special appearance marked a momentary reunion of Bowie’s band, The Spiders from Mars, which had dissolved three months earlier, after Bowie’s surprise announcement that he was retiring. The lineup included Mick Ronson on lead guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass, Mike Garson on piano, Mark Carr Pritchard on rhythm guitar and Aynsley Dunbar on drums. Backing vocals were provided by The Astronettes: Ava Cherry, Jason Guess and Geoffrey MacCormack. As the final performance of “The 1980 Floor Show,” Bowie’s duet with Faithfull turned out to be the very last appearance of Ziggy Stardust.
Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.