Dr Who is not the only superhero to turn up in recent days. David Bowie footage, from the Ziggy Stardust period of his meteoric rise to fame, also has been rediscovered.
In 1973, Bowie and band went onto the British hitmaker TV show, Tops of the Pops, to perform “Jean Genie.” The film went to air, but then evaporated into it.
The segment was classic Bowie: high glam, crooked teeth, astounding self-assurance. His demeanour was justified; the performance was riveting, Bowie at the top of just one of the peaks of his powers.
Cameraman John Henshall shot some of the slot with a Telefex Fisheye lens – his choice was savvy, given the wonderfully warped content that was standard Bowie of that time. He obtained a copy of that day’s program on two-inch broadcast videotape so he could show it to future employees. Those would turn out to include producers of music videos by the likes of Blondie, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Kate Bush, Spandau Ballet, Roxy Music, and Queen.
Now 69, and living in Oxfordshire, he, like so many other discoverers of rare footage, had it in his possession for some time – in his case, ever since he shot it. He was shocked to learn how rare his copy of the footage is. Parts of the performance footage are now online. The full segment was shown at the recent Missing Believed Wiped evening at the British Film Institute in London.
The “Jean Genie” performance will also be included in a BBC4 documentary, Tales of Television Centre, planned for transmission in early 2012.