Watch a pre-fame David Bowie in his first ever TV interview aged 17
David Bowie was a lot of things throughout his life. One of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, an outspoken pioneer of all forms of artistic expression and, arguably most importantly, he was the founder of the ‘Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-haired Men’.
“The rebellion of the longhairs is getting underway,” BBC presenter Cliff Michelmore spoke to the camera during a feature for national television show Tonight in 1964. A young Bowie, sat among his fellow teenage students, had formed a collective unit to kick against the criticism they had received for growing out their hair.
“Well I think we’re all fairly tolerant,” says the 17-year-old Davey Jones when asked by the interviewer who is being cruel to the teenagers. “But for the last two years we’ve had comments like ‘Darling!’ and ‘Can I carry your handbag?’ thrown at us, and I think it just has to stop now,” Bowie continued.
Presenter Michelmore, taking on the say-as-you-see form of hard-hitting journalism, asks young Bowie if aggressive insults he and his peers received was surprising before adding: “After all, you’ve got really rather long hair, haven’t you?”
“We have, yes,” Bowie replied. “It’s not too bad, really, I like it. I think we all like long hair and we don’t see why other people should persecute us because of this.”
At the time of filming, the young Bowie was fronting the band The Manish Boys, a group which offered the budding musician his second form of musical creation. While the band would only ever record one single, it did offer Bowie his first taste of the limelight. After marking out their intentions, The Manish Boys would go on to be represented by agent Leslie Conn who moved the band to London in 1964. In a bid to land some time on mainstream media, Conn lined up the interview with the BBC and ‘Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-haired Men’ offered the perfect quirky story.