David Bowie is a mercurial artist not content with staying within one discipline. The Starman was a serial performer with a microphone but also on the stage as an actor, a mime artist and even a painter too.
In the below footage, with Bowie’s performance on The Kenny Everett show, Bowie gives the audience at home a taste of his extensive range and delivers not only a captivating rendition of ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ but also plays along in a small skit at the end of the song.
It’s a perfect crossroads of Bowie’s talent and also a quick insight into the career of one of the most important artists of modern times. In 1979, Bowie is nearing the end of a fruitful period in his music. The singer was promoting the final piece of his Berlin trilogy Lodger and seemed intent on artistic evolution.
The seventies had been a hell of a decade for Bowie. He began the era with a few its and little acclaim but after creating and killing Ziggy Stardust, moving through his dangerous Thin White Duke phase, Bowie was now getting clean and delivering some of his best work, a composite of everything that had come before him but with a fresh outlook to the future. It was revitalising.
As with many breakout stars, Bowie was also dealing with a change of audience too. As the crowd who welcomed Ziggy Stardust to the stage began to mature, so did Bowie. He began frequenting more TV shows, more radio shows, partaking more in the absurdity of the music business and, in general, playing the game with a little more intent. It would see the singer arrive at the Kenny Everett Video Show with a new verve.
The show’s premise was relatively simple, Everett would act as video DJ and link between acts in the studio and music videos with either pithy one-liners or small skits. As the show continued to be aired on ITV, they would have fewer musical guests and the skits grew even longer. Bowie performed ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ on episode 9 of the second series back in 1979, alongside Wings and Rachel Sweet.
Bowie though would outshine them all. Not only was his performance, delicately sprinkled with the glamorous prospect of the new decade’s romanticism, but also tinged with the kind of soul that had cemented his name during the mid-70s. It’s a playful song and an even more vivid performance as the smoke from Bowie’s cigarette swirls around the singer.
It was a performance that Bowie enjoyed so much, especially working with director David Mallet, that he invited Mallet to produce some videos for him from Lodger and even use the same set on some occasions. Though one will miss Belew’s screaming guitar in this performance, many would argue it is superior to the LP version.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this footage, however, is the skit that follows the performance. Here in 2020, the continuous blurring of what is acceptable is hard to get your head around, but Bowie puts on a marvellous comic performance and hints at his future roles in front of the camera.
To put it simply, this is Bowie showing us all that despite the fact he’s a bonafide rock star he could also be, well, pretty much anything he wanted to be. Watch David Bowie perform ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ on the Kenny Everett Video Show back in 1979.