Television: Top Of The Pops

David Bowie filmed his first appearance on the BBC TV show Top Of The Pops on 2 October 1969, performing ‘Space Oddity’.

The filming took place at the corporation’s Lime Grove Studios in London. Bowie was accompanied by his mother Peggy and his manager Kenneth Pitt.

Once it was established that ‘Space Oddity’ was not a one-week wonder, Johnny Stewart booked David for Top of the Pops for October 9, the recording of which was to take place on the 2nd. Meanwhile, David, now poised on the very brink of success, was busy with the usual requirements of that position, giving interviews, being photographed, going to Philips at Stanhope Place to meet the sales staff and continuing to record his album…

David was now using his father’s car and on October 2 he drove his mother up from Bromley, collected me then took us to the BBC television studios in Lime Grove, Shepherds Bush where, in Studio G, he was to record his appearance on Top of the Pops. Lime Grove used to be a film studio and as we passed through the entrance and David was signing autographs I recalled in my mind the times when as a boy I had stood for hours at that door hoping to get the autograph of a favourite film star. Penny Valentine was there and during an afternoon break she interviewed David for the October 11 issue of Disc, which also carried on its front cover a large colour picture taken in a park near the flat.

My great fear was that the director would plonk David amidst the studio audience, which always seemed to be less interested in seeing the artist than itself on the monitor sets. Intended to create an atmosphere in which the artist could give of his best it often had the opposite effect, becoming nothing but a distraction for the artist and the viewing public. David deserved something better, and so did his song. I had a word with Johnny Stewart about this and he graciously arranged for David to perform in a small studio apart from the audience. It worked.

Gus Dudgeon, as producer of the single, was there to lend a helping hand in the recording of the studio accompaniment. Several run-throughs were made, but Gus felt that the one used on the transmission was not the best. Notwithstanding that, when the show had been transmitted on the 9th my telephone began to ring with people calling up to say how good they thought it was. Alan Mair, who was now working in the office and knew what it all meant to me, said: ‘David was marvellous, but I was particularly pleased for you.’ The segment was repeated in the programme on the 16th.

Kenneth Pitt
The Pitt Report

The edition of Top Of The Pop was later wiped by the BBC, but the audio was preserved.

Last updated: 23 March 2023
Live: Bal Tabarin, Bromley
Editing: David Bowie (1969)
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