Bowie Home Companion: 5 Legendary David Bowie Live TV Performances In Honor Of Ziggy's 45th BDay
With our 45th Anniversary piece celebrating the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, we’ve been on a Bowie kick lately.
If you enjoyed checking that out but find yourself wanting a bit more, we figured we toss in this companion edition of The Five Spot featuring five of our all-time favorite David Bowie live television appearances from his incredible career.
Tune In, Turn On, Turn Up, Freak Out...Far Out.
“My baby’s in there someplace, love’s rating in the sky / So hologramic, oh my TVC15.”
Live Aid June 13, 1985, Wembley Stadium, London, Live on MTV
This was one of Bowie’s most triumphant moments as an international superstar.
People have slagged on the ridiculous video made for the event co-starring Mick Jagger. And make no mistake, that video is quite hilarious.
But the power and efficiency of these 17 minutes, while charged with the unenviable task of following Queen’s killer set, at the biggest rock concert of the decade, backed by a band thrown together that weekend, in Bowie’s first live performance since his Serious Moonlight tour ended in ’83…is no joke.
Peep the then-fairly-recently sober Bowie’s form-fitting suited-and-booted swag.
He looked like he was having fun, as did his cohorts.
I still remember my parents, heading out to witness the JFK Stadium side of this seismic superstar charity event. They left me with pizza money, my favorite babysitter Erin Egan and a card number to make a $25 charitable donation to get me a Live-Aid t-shirt that fit me like an over-sized nightgown when it arrived.
The “1980 Floor Show”, Marquee Club, London, October 19th, 1973
Live on “The Midnight Special” on NBC
If you’re looking for a quick fix, you might want to scroll past this entry, because this is by far the longest clip and there’s so much greatness to unpack here.
We recommend watching any of your favorite artists appearances on the Wolfman Jack-hosted musical variety showcase The Midnight Special. It’s the type of show that only really could have existed during the seventies. Every act on it, performing live rather than lip-syncing like American Bandstand or Soul Train, tried to step their game up under the hot Friday night post-Tonight Show lights.
Bowie one-upped all of them by commissioning the NBC Crew to film his full weekend of club shows in London at the famed Marquee Club in Soho, almost a year after he had famously “retired” at the end of his final performance on the Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars tour.
Sorrow (McCoy/Mersey’s cover)
1984/I Can’t Explain
The Jean Genie
I Got You Babe (with Marianne Faithful in a nun costume)
‘Life on Mars’/’Ashes to Ashes', on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, live on NBC from Burbank CA studios, September 3rd, 1980
Speaking of The Tonight Show, this was Bowie’s first and only appearance on it, while Carson was the host. You can tell the crowd in the Burbank studio are Bowie fans who must have camped outside the studio lot the night before.
As Johnny jokingly threatens, following what for him was an incredibly fawning introduction, as the audience’s anticipation grows louder than these studio shows are typically accustomed, “he better be good after all this”.
"Funtime", with Iggy Pop on Dinah!, Los Angeles, April 15th, 1977
Bowie had escaped Los Angeles shortly after releasing Station to Station, a classic album that he perhaps due to a rumored diet at the time of “cocaine, red peppers and milk”, he claims to have zero recollection of recording.
He instead, goes to Berlin, accompanied by friend and lead singer of The Stooges, Iggy Pop. In addition to Bowie recording his famed “Berlin Trilogy” of albums, he’d also write, play and produce Pop’s two most well-known post-Stooges albums, both released in the original “year punk broke” (1977): The Idiot and Lust For Life.
Bowie, on a song he co-wrote, clearly enjoys watching Pop get Iggy with it, live on a daytime television program hosted by former big-band vocalist Dinah Shore, as Bowie sits in on keys and backing vocals, with a cigarette dangling from his mouth throughout. Funtime, indeed.
“America” (Simon & Garfunkel cover), at Madison Square Garden at The Concert for New York City, live on VH1, October 20th, 2001
The fall following September 11th 2001 was pretty damn far from funtime, especially for the residents of New York City. Bowie by then was already a decade into residency in the city he and his family would call home for the duration of his life. Though he mostly moved quietly, nearly hiding in plain sight among its citizens in his later years, Bowie made an indelible impression by opening up this benefit show by himself, broadcast live from Madison Square Garden, singing a song about America, written by a kid from Queens named Paul Simon.
This one makes me well up almost every time, particularly since his passing.
Bonus Cut: “Golden Years” and “Fame”, Soul Train, April 11th, 1975
Rather than go out on a somber note, figured we’d send you out boogieing.
Technically we couldn’t list this as a “live performance” since it was lip-synched, as were every act’s appearances by rule on the legendary American music and dance program Don Cornelious hosted for two decades, Soul Train.
But it’s still a great snapshot of the era, the man, and the program.
Happy 45th Birthday, Ziggy! And Thank You, Bowie!