On July 3rd, 1973, David Bowie announced – on stage – the retirement of his Ziggy Stardust persona. But before Ziggy finally got to break up the band, there was one last hurrah – a TV special shot in October of that year for US late night TV series The Midnight Special.
Shot over a couple of days to allow costume changes and different camera angles in the cramped club, The 1980 Floor Show (the title being a pun on George Orwell’s 1984) saw Bowie in full Ziggy persona, performing at the Marquee Club in London in front of a specially invited audience with the Spiders from Mars and a selection of special guests that included The Troggs and Amanda Lear (about whom we’ll be saying a lot more at some point). Also along for the ride was Marianne Faithfull, who had gone from virginal folk singer (famously described by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham at the time as “an angel with big tits”) to Mick Jagger’s girlfriend (and the butt of many a joke involving Mars bars due to a scurrilous rumour about what she and Jagger were caught doing during the famous Stones drug bust in 1967) to heroin addict. Faithfull’s decline would last most of the 1970s, and she was in full smack addict mode at this point. But then, so were half the rock stars of the era.
Faithfull performed her hit single As Tears Go By and 20th Century Blues, before joining Bowie for the show finale, a cover of Sonny and Cher’s bubblegum smash I Got You Babe. Neither performer had a chance to rehearse the song until a couple of hours before shooting, and the performance is pretty shambolic. And yet this fits into the whole decadent, glam-fin de siècle vibe of the whole special – and it is quite the spectacle. Bowie looks outrageous even by his own standards of the time (he called it his ‘angel of death’ costume), while Faithfull is dressed as a nun. Naturally.
But in case anyone thought that her outfit was a bit staid, she helpfully hikes the habit up at the start of this bit of unedited raw footage to confirm that she is probably not wearing anything underneath it – indeed, it was claimed the costume was entirely open at the back.
In a world where music and image are tightly controlled and where everything is polished within an inch of its life, there’s something rather impressive about a performance as ramshackle, outrageous and provocative as this being staged and televised.
Here’s the raw version:
And here’s the final broadcast edit: