February 3, 2023

The ‘Holy Grail’ of David Bowie’s first ever TV performance as Ziggy Stardust unearthed


Once thought to be erased and lost forever, the first ever TV performance of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust has been unearthed for a new documentary.

In June 1972, Bowie made his TV debut as his new and most legendary incarnation on ITV’s Lift Off with Ayshea – a month before his now iconic Top Of The Pops appearance.

It was feared that the footage would never been saved again, as it was not stored by the station. However, it has now emerged that the performance was recorded by one viewer and has been found on old computer tape. It will be televised as part of the BBC’s new documentary David Bowie: The First Five Years – Finding Fame. Speaking to the Radio Times, director Francis Whately said that the tape was in very bad condition after slowly being “baked” in high temperatures and degrading over decades.

“For fans, it is something of a Holy Grail,” said Whately. “It would fall apart if we played it, so it’s had to be very carefully restored. It will be a real coup if it comes off.”

David Bowie, 1965

The performance was among 144 tapes sent by Granada Television to be transferred to digital, but were instead deleted after a misunderstanding from a technician. The clip has not been televised since, but is remembered fondly by many who watched it firsthand.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked,” the BBC’s Marc Riley once told Bowie biographer David Buckley. “My gran was shouting insults at the TV, which she usually saved for Labour Party political broadcasts. And I just sat there agog. I was experiencing a life-changing moment. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it really did knock me for six.”

Following on from the now iconic 2013 film Five Years (which told the story of Bowie’s creative peak between ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and the end of his Berlin period), and The Last Five Years (which gave insight into his final work on ‘The Next Day’ and ‘Blackstar‘), the new film will relive Bowie’s pre-fame years. This is the final part of a trilogy of feature-length documentaries, all produced and directed by Francis Whately.

The film also features exclusive interviews with Bowie’s first cousin and lifelong-friend Kristina Amadeus, former girlfriend and muse Hermione Farthingale, Lindsay Kemp in his last filmed interview, producer Tony Visconti, former girlfriend and friend Dana Gillespie, lifelong friends Geoff MacCormak and George Underwood, Bowie’s producer Mike Vernon, Bowie’s early producer Tony Hatch, and Woody Woodmansey, the last remaining Spider from Mars.

The documentary is set to air on the BBC next month.

Meanwhile, David Bowie’s full set from Glastonbury 2000 was recently released in full for the first time. Check out the NME review of the film here.

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