8 Hours of David Bowie’s Historic 1980 Floor Show: Complete & Uncut Footage

Bowie com­pletists rejoice. Eight hours of footage from his 1973 tele­vi­sion pro­gram “The 1980 Floor Show,” have found their way to YouTube, includ­ing, Boing Boing notes, “uncut footage… mul­ti­ple takes, back­stage moments, and all of the dance rehearsals.” The show — actu­al­ly an episode of the NBC series The Mid­night Spe­cial curat­ed by Bowie — lived up to its title (itself a pun on “1984,” the open­ing song of the broad­cast), with elab­o­rate dance num­bers, major cos­tume changes, and sev­er­al guest per­form­ers: The Trog­gs, Aman­da Lear, Car­men, and — most impor­tant­ly — Mar­i­anne Faith­full, in career free-fall at the time but also in top form for this cabaret-style vari­ety show.

When Mid­night Spe­cial pro­duc­er Burt Sug­ar­man approached Bowie about doing the hour-long show, the singer agreed on the con­di­tion that he could have com­plete cre­ative con­trol. He chose to hold rehearsals and per­for­mances at London’s Mar­quee Club. The audi­ence con­sist­ed of 200 young fans drawn from the Bowie fan club. Faith­full was “actu­al­ly invit­ed as one of the reserve acts,” notes Jack What­ley at Far Out, “ready to be called upon should some­one else drop out.”

“The show was heav­i­ly adver­tised in the US press in the run up to the broad­cast,” not­ed Bowie 75 in 2018, “but has nev­er been shown out­side the US or offi­cial­ly released,” though bootlegs cir­cu­lat­ed for years. Shoot­ing took place over three days in late Octo­ber, just a few months after Bowie played his final show as Zig­gy Star­dust at the Ham­mer­smith Odeon The­atre, cryp­ti­cal­ly announc­ing at the end, “not only is it the last show of the tour, it’s the last show we’ll ever do.” Bowie then went on to release Aladdin Sane and his cov­ers record Pin-Ups the fol­low­ing year, drop­ping the Zig­gy char­ac­ter entire­ly.

But Bowie brought Zig­gy back, at least in cos­tume, for one last gig in “The 1980 Floor Show,” wear­ing some of the out­fits Kan­sai Yamamo­to designed for the Zig­gy Star­dust tours and still sport­ing the sig­na­ture spiked red mul­let he would con­tin­ue to wear as his dystopi­an Hal­loween Jack per­sona on 1974’s Dia­mond Dogs. “The 1980 Floor Show” pro­mot­ed songs from Aladdin Sane and Pin-Ups while visu­al­ly rep­re­sent­ing the tran­si­tion from Bowie’s space alien vis­i­tor per­sona to a dif­fer­ent kind of out­sider — an alien in exile, just like the char­ac­ter he played a few years lat­er in Nicholas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. As Maria Math­eos writes at Has­ta:

Zig­gy no longer played gui­tar: Bowie had meta­mor­phosed into Aladdin Sane. Parad­ing across the stage in red plat­form boots and a patent-leather black and white bal­loon leg jump­suit, referred to by design­er Yamamo­to as the ‘Tokyo pop’ jump­suit, Bowie sought to assault the sens­es of his audi­ence. Com­plete­ly over the top? Yes. Verg­ing on a par­o­dy of excess? Pos­si­bly. Would he have want­ed us to take him seri­ous­ly? He cer­tain­ly did not (take him­self seri­ous­ly).

With Aladdin Sane, Bowie gave us a hyper­bol­ic exten­sion of his pri­or alien dop­pel­ganger; adding that his char­ac­ter, a pun on ‘A Lad Insane’, rep­re­sent­ed “Zig­gy under the influ­ence of Amer­i­ca.”

See how Bowie con­struct­ed that new, and short-lived, per­sona from the mate­ri­als of his for­mer glam super­star char­ac­ter, and see the rev­e­la­tion that was Mar­i­anne Faith­full. The singer per­formed her 1964 hit, writ­ten by The Rolling Stones, “As Tears Go By,” solo. But the high­light of the show, and of her mid-sev­en­ties peri­od, was the duet of Son­ny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” with which she and Bowie closed the show. “The cos­tumes of the pair are mag­i­cal.” What­ley writes,” with Bowie “in full Zig­gy attire… aka his ‘Angel of Death’ costume—while Faith­full has on a nun’s habit that was open at the back.”

Bowie report­ed­ly intro­duced the song with the tossed-off line, “This isn’t any­thing seri­ous, it’s just a bit of fun. We’ve hard­ly even rehearsed it.” You can scroll through the 8 hours of footage at the top to see those rehearsals, and so many more pre­vi­ous­ly unavail­able Bowie moments caught on film.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Bowie’s Book­shelf: A New Essay Col­lec­tion on The 100 Books That Changed David Bowie’s Life

David Bowie Became Zig­gy Star­dust 48 Years Ago This Week: Watch Orig­i­nal Footage

David Bowie’s Final Gig as Zig­gy Star­dust Doc­u­ment­ed in 1973 Con­cert Film

David Bowie on Why It’s Crazy to Make Art–and We Do It Any­way (1998)


Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness



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Comments (3)
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  • Stephen says:

    Anoth­er bril­liant part of David Bowie he just got bet­ter and bet­ter throw his life and he mar­ried such a love­ly lady I think every­thing he released as the song it was bril­liant wish he was still here

  • Grant says:

    Caught on video, not film. Giv­en this was a stu­dio pro­duc­tion, they used video tape equip­ment and stu­dio pedestal video cam­eras, not film cam­eras.

  • Andrew says:

    I was at the first days record­ing at the Mar­quee Club in War­dour Street an Amaz­ing expe­ri­ence to be so close real­ly to your musi­cal Hero.
    I have had this Footage on 3 DVDs that I had down­loaded years ago and it’s still out there if you search for it.
    I just wish Iman or some­one would final­ly release the fin­ished Mid­night Spe­cial at last.

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