Live: Royal Festival Hall, London

David Bowie appeared on a bill at the Royal Festival Hall on Monday 3 June 1968.

The 14 June edition of International Times carried a review of the event, credited to “Kip”. Bowie’s set was covered in a single paragraph:

David Bowie, although one or two drags were heckling him, received the longest and loudest applause of all the performers, and he deserved it. It was a pity that he didn’t have a longer set.
International Times

Bowie performed a 12-minute mime piece titled ‘Jetsun and the Eagle’, about China’s invasion of Tibet. He had premiered the piece at Middle Earth in London on 19 May 1968.

For ‘Jetsun and the Eagle’ David and I prepared a soundtrack containing what we thought might pass for Tibetan music, played on a Moroccan guitar-like instrument I’d bought in Portobello Road. We added improvised sound effects with saucepans (they were the ceremonial cymbals) and I read a narration written by David. For some reason he decided my American accent made it sound more like a documentary – maybe it was Ken Nordine’s Word Jazz that influenced his thinking. At the performance it was not all peace and love; as the tape began, David came out and mimed the whole thing. He portrayed the Chinese going into Tibet and banning everything, including kissing; David had just learned how to turn his back to the audience and pretend he was two people kissing, then he tapped himself on the shoulder as if he was a Red Guard. This was the point at which the audience lost it; Communist sympathizers booed David. During this heckling two Asian gentlemen, standing at the side of the audience, dressed in smart suits and looking remarkably like Japanese businessmen from TDK or Sony, fled quickly. David later told me that they were Trungpa Rinpoche and Chime Rinpoche – Tibetan Lamas in civvies. Years later I would study meditation with Chime.
Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy

He had been invited by Marc Bolan to perform a mime set as Tyrannosaurus Rex’s opening support act. Also on the bill were Stefan Grossman, Roy Harper, Vytas Serelis, and BBC Radio presenter John Peel.

David had given a very special rendition of his song ‘Silly Boy Blue’, which he had garnished with illustrative mime movements, but during the course of the performance an American voice suddenly shouted out ‘Stop the propaganda’, or words to that effect. The owner of the voice, who was quickly told to shut up by a large part of the audience, was perhaps a communist who objected to David’s allusion to the treatment of Tibetan monks at the hands of the invading Chinese communists.
Kenneth Pitt
The Pitt Report

Bowie reused elements of the ‘Jetsun and the Eagle’ performance during the Ziggy Stardust Tour.

The eagle mime [arms outstretched like wings] was a throwback to a dramatic piece that I performed as an opener for Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Festival Hall in 1968. Called ‘Yet San and the Eagle’ it told the story of how the Chinese had invaded Tibet and thought the Tibetans may be struck down their spirit would fly for eternity. Word had got around that I would be doing this spot of propaganda and all the Maoists turned up and heckled me, waving their little red books in the air. Marc Bolan was delighted and thought it an unmitigated success. I was trembling with anger and went home sulking.
David Bowie
Moonage Daydream: The Life And Times Of Ziggy Stardust

Bowie returned to the Royal Festival Hall for the Ziggy Stardust Tour on 8 July 1972, and 29 June 2002 during the Heathen Tour.

Last updated: 29 November 2023
Radio: Late Night Extra
Audition: Hair
Also on this day...

Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.

Leave a Reply