Rock historians should be pleased to know that footage of David Bowie’s first televised appearance as Ziggy Stardust has been found. No, not his 1972 performance on Top of the Pops, but his rare, oft-forgotten premiere a month earlier on ITV’s Lift Off With Ayshea.
As the BBC reports, the footage was uncovered by archivists from a fan’s home video recording, and is currently being “baked” in an incubator in hopes of being restored to appear in the BBC2’s forthcoming documentary, David Bowie: Finding Fame.
“For fans, it is something of a Holy Grail,” producer and director Francis Whately told The Radio Times (via the BBC). “It would fall apart if we played it, so it’s had to be very carefully restored. It will be a real coup if it comes off.”
No kidding. Until now, the prized footage had been lost to the annals time due to Granada TV, who accidentally wiped away the entire Lift Off catalogue when they sent the tapes to be digitized.
(Read: David Bowie’s Top 70 Songs)
Host Ayshea Brough detailed the entire disaster to Record Collector Magazine:
Apparently, they’d asked a guy to take all the tapes and digitally transfer them. They had a list of 39 shows a year, from Discotheque to Lift Off, and where things were doubled up – like me singing the same song twice, once in the studio and once as a video insert – they’d put a cross. This meant it was marked for wiping. So this guy had hundreds of unmarked tapes to transfer, and just a few tapes with crosses on. But instead of getting rid of the crosses, he somehow did the opposite. He wiped years of my life and performances, and everybody else’s performances. It’s a terrible thing.
If all goes to plan, at least one of those performances will be saved. Whether or not it will appear in Finding Fame, only time will tell, but it’s going to come down to the wire. The third and final chapter in Whatley’s Bowie trilogy premieres next month on BBC2.
In addition to the possible Ziggy footage, the 90-minute bookend will include previously unheard Bowie recordings, specifically his 1965 BBC audition with his outfit the Lower Third in which the network turned him down for being “devoid of personality.” Quite an oversight.
For now, revisit Bowie’s incredible Top of the Pops performance of “Starman” below.