Watch David Bowie & Marianne Faithfull Rehearse and Sing Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” (1973)

It was Octo­ber 1973 and three months ear­li­er David Bowie had stood before his fans at the Ham­mer­smith Odeon and announced–to the sur­prise of his band–that he was effec­tive­ly end­ing Zig­gy Star­dust and the Spi­ders from Mars. His alter-ego was done, and he had to break up the band.

But there would be one final swan song, a live spe­cial fea­tur­ing Bowie, set in a futur­is­tic cabaret, to be called The 1980 Floor Show (a pun on Orwell’s 1984, which the singer was try­ing to adapt into a con­cept album, and which would lat­er morph into Dia­mond Dogs). The loca­tion would be the famous Lon­don night­club the Mar­quee, but the show would be shot for Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion and a late-night rock and pop vari­ety show called The Mid­night Spe­cial, air­ing on NBC Fri­day nights after John­ny Carson’s The Tonight Show.

British fans who couldn’t make the film­ing were annoyed, and to this day, the full broad­cast has not been shown in the UK, and is still not offi­cial­ly avail­able.

Invi­ta­tion only, the audi­ence com­prised mem­bers of the David Bowie fan club, the rock press, musi­cians, and oth­er lucky peo­ple. This would turn out to be the very last time that Mick Ron­son and Trevor Bold­er would play with Bowie as the Spi­ders. Join­ing the band was pianist Mike Gar­son, who had been a part of the Zig­gy tour and the recent­ly released Aladdin Sane, and whose sound is unmis­tak­able here. Bowie also has three black back-up singers, a first sign of the sounds he would explore in Young Amer­i­cans. And he invit­ed The Trog­gs to play their hit, “Wild Thing.”

Unlike a con­cert run-through, the three days of film­ing fea­tured each num­ber rehearsed sep­a­rate­ly and filmed mul­ti­ple times. For one thing, it allowed Bowie the chance to change cos­tumes for each song, wear­ing some of the most out­landish out­fits of his Zig­gy era, designed by Fred­die Bur­ret­ti.

By 1973, Mar­i­anne Faith­full had gone from Mick Jagger’s girl­friend and pop chanteuse to a hero­in addict, but Bowie’s invi­ta­tion to join him helped her on her road to recov­ery. She sang “As Tears Go By” solo for the show wear­ing an angel­ic white dress and then “20th Cen­tu­ry Blues” dressed in a red dress, wear­ing a tow­er­ing pur­ple feath­er hat and backed by male dancers.

For the finale, Bowie joined her onstage. (You can watch their ulti­mate per­for­mance here.) Dressed as deca­dent nun with a ful­ly exposed back, Faith­full stood next to Bowie, dressed as “the Angel of Death” accord­ing to him, and had a go at the 1965 Son­ny and Cher song “I Got You Babe.” The two real­ly hadn’t rehearsed the song until that day. Faithfull’s voice was already head­ing towards the low, Nico-esque tones she’d devel­op lat­er in the decade. The video con­tains two full rehearsals of the song, a non-”Wild Thing” num­ber from the Trog­gs, and once again Bowie with “Space Odd­i­ty” and “I Can’t Explain.”

Also on the tape are intro­duc­tions from one Aman­da Lear, a vel­vet-voiced blonde who had a very intrigu­ing career–Sal­vador Dali pro­tege, Rolling Stone groupie, David Bowie lover, Ita­lo-dis­co star, nude mod­el, pos­si­ble trans­sex­u­al. So yes, a per­fect host for what was at that time both a high-water mark for glam rock and a vis­it to the future.

As we approach the one year anniver­sary of David Bowie’s death, which seemed to send the Grim Reaper on a killing spree, there’s plen­ty of the Star­man’s career to dis­cov­er and re-discover…and to be released.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jean-Luc Godard Shoots Mar­i­anne Faith­full Singing “As Tears Go By” (1966)

The Sto­ry of Zig­gy Star­dust: How David Bowie Cre­at­ed the Char­ac­ter that Made Him Famous

David Bowie Remem­bers His Zig­gy Star­dust Days in Ani­mat­ed Video

Lego Video Shows How David Bowie Almost Became “Cob­bler Bob,” Not “Aladdin Sane”

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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