This Day in 1973: David Bowie Hosts The Midnight Special
44 years ago today, the ABC TV program The Midnight Special aired a very special episode, one which – unlike the majority of the series’ installments – centered around a longform performance by a single artist: David Bowie.
The episode, which was entitled “The 1980 Floor Show,” was filmed at London’s famed Marquee Club over the course of three days in October 1973. The mindset with the production was that it was to look futuristic, and as it was Bowie’s first performance since making his ostensible retirement announcement on the stage of the Hammersmith Odeon earlier in the year, there was an obvious intent to make it as memorable as possible.
It was definitely memorable, make no mistake about that. Marianne Faithfull turned up dressed as a nun to perform a duet with Bowie on Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” with other guests including Amanda Lear, The Troggs, and Carmen, a Spanish flamenco glam group.
Here’s the full set list from the episode:
- Sorrow (The McCoys cover)
- Everything's Alright (Asaf Avidan & The Mojos cover)
- Space Oddity
- I Can't Explain (The Who cover)
- The Jean Genie
- I Got You Babe (Sonny & Cher cover)
On the 40th anniversary of the special’s debut, Bowie’s official website posted about the program, described it as having been used “as both a promotional tool for PIN UPS and to further break into the American market,” noting that it was Bowie’s last performance as Ziggy Stardust with The Spiders from Mars.
Not noted: the recurring rumor that Bowie wasn’t a big fan of the performance, which – while it isn’t acknowledged outright – can arguably be read between the lines in the closing paragraph of the piece: “ Only one track, ‘Space Oddity,’ has ever received an official DVD release and though many fans have found their own way of finding the complete show, many still hanker after a full official release.”