“There is so little time for us all, I need to be able to say what I want quickly and to as many people as possible. Time passes so slowly if you are unaware of it and so quickly if you are aware of it.” – Marc Bolan.
Marc Bolan and David Bowie were two pals who just happened to define an era. Their friendship is one that was entwined with the creative paths that they would follow. They shared a producer in Tony Visconti, a photographer in Masayoshi Sukita, and a profound ability to wash away the dull drudgery of normality in a jet wash of otherworldly exultation.
They also shared a pair of shoes that Bolan would gift to Bowie, and the Starman would subsequently impress Andy Warhol with them when he sported them at a famed Loft party, indicating that they also had a healthy dose of whimsy in common, to boot. On that front, Bowie often declared Bolan as an inspiration. Throughout the seventies, they pushed each other on to reach new artistic heights and achievements.
The relationship that they had together, in of itself, would imbue this clip with a sense of poignancy, but the twists of fate elevate its retrospective reverence to the next level. For starters, this was the first-ever televised performance of ‘Heroes’, one of the most beloved and celebrated songs in David Bowie’s back catalogue that captured the zeitgeist of the Berlin Wall’s joyous demise.
Secondly, they performed it together along with a brief intro of the song they wrote, ‘Standing Next To You’, which was curtailed when Marc Bolan fell off the stage. This onstage mishap is as indicative as the performance itself of the fact that they relished performing in each other’s company.
However, it is the show’s proximity to Bolan’s untimely death that really stirs the emotions. Bolan sadly passed away in a vehicle accident on the 16th of September 1977, two weeks before his 30th birthday. This show was recorded in Manchester only nine days prior to that and was aired on the 28th of September when millions of fans were still grieving the loss of the cosmic frontman of the beloved T-Rex.
Despite this tragic overture, the joyous music proves to be transcendent, in a mantra that their shared back catalogues borrowed from the movie Pierrot Le Fou: “Life might be sad sometimes, but it is always beautiful.” As Mark Bolan once said regarding his friend: “Be strong and follow your own convictions. You can’t assume there is a lot of time to do what you like. This is what David Bowie is afraid of: that he will die before he gets a chance to make a real strong contribution.”
Bowie’s fears would thankfully never come to fruition. His contributions exist in a league of their own, and this scintillating performance with his pal is just another exuberant example of this excellence, transfigured even further by the context of two friends celebrating each other’s inspiration. As Bob Dylan proclaimed: “Art is the perpetual motion of illusion. The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but inspire them?”