The Jean Genie at 'Top of the Pops' (found footage of David Bowie live performance; 1973)
A screenshot from the performance.
Date found: 21 Dec 2011
Found by: John Henshall
David Bowie (1947-2016) was a famed British singer-songwriter and actor. Having had a music career spanning from 1963 to his death in 2016, Bowie first came to mainstream attention with the success of his 1969 single "Space Oddity," and spent the rest of his career experimenting with a variety of different genres (most notably glam rock during most of the first half of the 1970s). Bowie experienced a generally uneven amount of success throughout his career, most notably with a sudden creative slump from 1984 to 1992 following the massive success of his 1983 album Let's Dance, before experiencing a creative renaissance with 1993s Black Tie White Noise. Regardless, he is one of the highest-selling musicians in the world, selling roughly 100 million copies of his various works during his lifetime. Remaining musically active until his death, Bowie is widely considered one of Great Britain's definitive musicians, with this level of acclaim further amplifying after his death.
On April 13th, 1973, following the release of his widely-acclaimed fifth album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Bowie released the first album he wrote and released as a bona fide rocker as well as his most commercially successful in the USA and the UK at the time (given its 100,000 pre-orders), Aladdin Sane, which he described as "Ziggy goes to America". The first single, "The Jean Genie," was released on November 24th, 1972, and later went on to become one of his best-known songs, also giving Scottish band Simple Minds their name due to the lyric "He's so simple-minded, he can't drive his module." A little over a month later, on January 4th, 1973 (three months before Aladdin Sane was to be released), the long-running British chart show Top of the Pops aired a pre-recorded performance of the song, where Bowie's entire four-piece band performed live (which was unusual for the Ziggy Stardust era), and then-guitarist Mick Ronson did an extended guitar solo. Unfortunately, tapes of this edition of the show were immediately wiped, like a lot of other BBC programs at the time.
Fortunately, cameraman John Henshall, utilizing the then-new fisheye lens technique seen in the performance, made a copy (which he only wanted for his showreel) and, on December 2011, was contacted by music-television aficionado Ray Langstone to share this historic David Bowie relic with the masses. It has since been preserved in the BBC archives, screened at that year's Missing Believed Wiped event, and rebroadcast on December 21st, 2011, during the annual Top of the Pops 2 Christmas special, 38 years after its original airing in 1973.
- BBC News article on the footage's rediscovery. Retrieved 17 May '15
- David Bowie performing "The Jean Genie" on Top of the Pops. Retrieved 17 May '15