When David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust first appeared on TV, he looked down the camera in his androgynous otherworldly guise and he seemed to impart a new way of life on the youth watching with slack jaws and bulging eyes.
Not long prior to that appearance, Bowie retrospectively declared that he was considering chucking the towel in on the music industry after he somehow nearly failed to capture the public imagination with his early outings. It took a spiritually profound set at the second Glastonbury Festival on June 23rd, 1971, at around 5am in the morning to convince him to stick with it. Later, a buoyed and resplendent Bowie first appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test and the seeds of his flowering stardom were finally sewn.
In 1972, just before embarking on one of the most legendary tours of his life, was invited on to the iconic rock and roll TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test to deliver a typically scintillating set. The show itself would go on to be a British institution and yet another thing that the world has Sir David Attenborough to be thankful as the worlds championed hero commissioned the show.
During the seventies, The Old Grey Whistle Test was where adoring music fans would go for a dose of the best new rock ‘n’ roll curtesy of famed for its presenter, ‘Whispering Bob Harris’.
Bowie nestled in at the start. His appearance, performing various tracks from Hunky Dory, might not have catapulted him to instant success, but it was mesmerising enough to prove hard to ignore. In the studio, he performed ‘Queen Bitch’, an early rendition of the iconic Ziggy number ‘Five Years’ and ‘Oh You Pretty Things’, which never made the cut when it came to broadcasting.
Despite Bowie, guitarist Mick Ronson, and the rest of the band putting on a phenomenal show, the youthful Bowie still makes a couple of charming slip-ups: he sings “all the strangers in place of all the nightmares” and once again fumbles the lyric “the earth is a bitch,” uttering instead with a wry smile of recognition “written in pain.”
Included in the Bowie Video Collection DVD as an extra, the performance is an unearthed gem that heralds in the arrival of a future hero. He is full-blown celestial potential may not have been fully realised but his mercurial magic is clearly in its budding spring and it is just about to burst into bloom.
Take a look at the never-broadcast footage in its HD glory, below.