David Bowie’s iconic performance of ‘Queen Bitch’ from The Old Grey Whistle Test
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very special performance from the Starman himself, David Bowie. A performance which was beamed across the airwaves and brought swathes of a generation ever closer to the television set and a new way of thinking.
Bowie, who was just about to embark on the most legendary tour of his life, was invited on to the iconic rock and roll TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test to deliver a typically mesmerising set. The show was a mainstay of British TV and deserved to be done properly. While Bowie performed three tracks on the show none struck quite as hard as ‘Queen Bitch’.
The Old Grey Whistle Test remains to this day as one of the most iconic music TV shows Britain has ever produced. As famed for its presenter, ‘Whispering Bob Harris’, as it was for its esteemed guests which include far too many to mention here. During the seventies, TOGWT was the only place to get your heavy dose of rock and roll.
Richard Williams, the show’s original presenter said of the series unusual name: “Before a new record is released, a rough mix is played to the grey-haired doorman. If he can whistle the tune after hearing it once, it passes ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ and is released.”
The show includes the classic performances of Hunky Dory staples, ‘Five Years’, ‘Queen Bitch’ and ‘Oh You Pretty Things’. It marks a moment of transcendence for Bowie as the performance, big red boots and all, was taped just two days before the start of the very first Ziggy Stardust UK tour and gave a hint of the big moments that awaited his fans at the shows.
For the evening transmission, only the first two tracks were aired, leaving many in the studio baying for the final song to be played once more. There have subsequently been several opportunities to see the recording of ‘Oh You Pretty Things’, but it was on the performance of ‘Queen Bitch’ which really connected with a generation.
The Hunky Dory cut was written in homage to the psychedelic innovators The Velvet Underground, with whom Bowie enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship. But on the first series of The Old Grey Whistle Test, Bowie became a rock icon.
Watch that moment happen, red boots, perfect jumpsuit and everything that went with it, as David Bowie performs ‘Queen Bitch’ on The Old Grey Whistle Test.