Lost David Bowie footage to air on Top of the Pops Christmas Special

by Lisa McGarry

Some ‘lost’ archive footage of David Bowie performing The Jean Genie in 1973 on the BBC’s seminal pop programme Top of the Pops is to be broadcast on TV for the first time in almost 40 years. Top of the Pops Christmas Special (BBC Two, Wednesday 21 December 2011, 7.30pm) is to show the rarely seen performance which had previously been considered lost.

Cameraman John Henshall from Oxfordshire had kept a copy of Bowie’s appearance and had not realised the footage had been wiped from the BBC Archive and was highly sought after. David Bowie’s performance of The Jean Genie was recorded on 3 January 1973 and transmitted the following day and has not been broadcast on TV since.

The lost footage first came to light when John appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s on Sunday 18 September, recalling his memories of the decade, including his time as cameraman on Top of the Pops.

The producer of BBC Four’s forthcoming documentary Tales of Television Centre heard John on Sounds of the 70s and arranged to transfer the footage and it was only then that John realised what he had.

Mark Cooper, Executive Producer of Top of the Pops 2 said: “Bowie singing The Jean Genie is electric and the kind of piece of archive that not only brings back how brilliant Top of the Pops could be but also how a piece of archive can speak to us down the years. I can’t imagine what other piece of TOTP from the early 70s would be as extraordinary a find.”

The four-minute clip of David Bowie and The Spiders from Mars performing live will be shown in full. It shows Bowie and the band in full ‘glam’ outfits, with Bowie also playing the harmonica. The Jean Genie was originally released as a single in November 1972 and eventually peaked at No. 2 in the UK singles charts. The Jean Genie was the opening track of Bowie’s 1973 album, Aladdin Sane, and was written in New York City. The title, according to Bowie, was a loose pun on Jean Genet, the provocative French writer.

Other artists featured in the 90-minute Top of the Pops Christmas Special include Slade, Wham, Pet Shop Boys, Coldplay and Adele.

Top of the Pops Christmas Special, BBC Two, Wednesday 21 December 2011, 7.30pm.