Watch David Bowie’s Final Performance as Ziggy Stardust, Singing “I Got You Babe” with Marianne Faithfull, on The Midnight Special (1973)

If you had to choose a liv­ing cul­tur­al fig­ure to rep­re­sent nine­teen-sev­en­ties Amer­i­ca, you could do much worse than Burt Sug­ar­man. He made his name as a tele­vi­sion impre­sario with The Mid­night Spe­cial, which put on NBC’s air­waves per­for­mances by every­one from ABBA to AC/DC, REO Speed­wag­on to Roxy Music, and War to Weath­er Report. Break­ing with com­mon prac­tice at the time, the show allowed these acts to per­form live rather than lip-sync against pre-record­ed tracks. Thus, even view­ers who tuned in to The Mid­night Spe­cial to see their favorite bands were guar­an­teed to hear some­thing they’d nev­er heard before.

They stayed up quite late to do so: The Mid­night Spe­cial fol­lowed The Tonight Show Star­ring John­ny Car­son, which meant that it aired at mid­night in the Cen­tral and Moun­tain time zones, and 1:00 in East­ern and Pacif­ic. In 1972, the notion of putting on a music show at that hour was unfa­mil­iar enough that Sug­ar­man had trou­ble sell­ing it.

He ulti­mate­ly had to buy the air­time him­self in order to con­vince NBC to pick the show up, which it did soon there­after. (For the net­work, the prospect of extend­ing their pro­gram­ming sched­ule would have been sweet­ened by the pre­vi­ous year’s Pub­lic Health Cig­a­rette Smok­ing Act, which had banned the once-lucra­tive air­ing of tobac­co adver­tise­ments on tele­vi­sion.)

Now, more than half a cen­tu­ry after its debut, The Mid­night Spe­cial has reap­peared in the form of a Youtube chan­nel, which fea­tures high-qual­i­ty videos of the show’s orig­i­nal per­for­mances. Those uploaded so far have been orga­nized into artist playlists ded­i­cat­ed to acts like the Bee Gees, Fleet­wood Mac, Tina Turn­er, and David Bowie. That last includes Bowie’s ren­di­tion of  “I Got You Babe” with Mar­i­anne Faith­full, seen at the top of this post, as well as his ver­sion of The Who’s “I Can’t Explain” above, part of his final per­for­mance as his space-alien alter ego Zig­gy Star­dust — itself orig­i­nal­ly shot for The 1980 Floor Show in Lon­don, which despite its name took place in 1973. The Mid­night Spe­cial itself would run until 1981, which means that a great deal of music remains to be brought out of Sug­ar­man’s archives for us to enjoy here in the twen­ty-twen­ties. You can watch Bowie’s com­plete 1973 per­for­mance on The Mid­night Spe­cial below.

Relat­ed con­tent:

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

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

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

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

Beat Club, the 1960s TV Show That Brought Rock Music to 70 Mil­lion Kids in Ger­many, Hun­gary, Thai­land, Tan­za­nia & Beyond

Watch an Episode of TV-CBGB, the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Sit­com Ever Aired on Cable TV (1981)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.