David Bowie and Cher: the combination sounds so incongruous, but then you think about it and realize the two could hardly have more in common. Two singers of the same generation, close indeed in age but both (whether through their sensibilities or through various cosmetic technologies) perpetually youthful; both performers of not exactly rock and not exactly pop, but some oscillating form between that they’ve made wholly their own; both masters of the distinctively flamboyant and theatrical; both given to sometimes radical changes of image throughout the course of their careers; and both immediately identifiable by just one name. The only vast difference comes in their performance schedules: Bowie, despite releasing an acclaimed album The Next Day last year, seems to have quit playing live shows in the mid-2000s, while Cher’s continuing tours grow only more lavish.
Long before this current stage of Bowie and Cher’s lives as musical icons, the two came together on an episode of the latter’s short-lived solo (i.e., without ex-husband Sonny Bono, with whom she’d hosted The Sonny & Cher Show) television variety show, simply titled Cher. On the broadcast of November 23, 1975, Bowie and Cher sang “Young Americans,” at the top, “Can You Hear Me,” just above, and bits of other songs besides.
Watch these clips not just for the performances, and not just for the outfits — costumes, really, especially when you consider Cher’s even then-famous variety of artificial hairstyles — but for the video effects, which by modern standards look like something out of a late-night public-access cable program. An especially trippy set of visuals accompanies Bowie’s solo moment on the episode below, singing about the one quality that perhaps unites he and Cher more than any other: “Fame.” And lots of it.
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.