David Bowie’s fourth BBC radio session took place on 5 February 1970, at the BBC Paris Studio on Lower Regent Street, London.
It was for The Sunday Show, and was broadcast three days later. The producer was Jeff Griffin, and the session was engineered by Tony Wilson and Chris Lycett.
This was Mick Ronson’s first appearance as Bowie’s guitarist, although he had previously contributed guitar and handclaps to ‘Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud’ in the summer of 1969. Ronson was invited to join Bowie’s band on 4 February, the day before the BBC session. Also performing was Tony Visconti on bass guitar, and John Cambridge on drums.
In the morning the quartet had a brief rehearsal at Haddon Hall, the home of Bowie, Visconti, and Cambridge. A soundcheck at the Paris Studio allowed them another chance to practice, although Ronson struggled with the unfamiliarity of the songs.
I didn’t know any of the material – I was really nervous. I just followed David, watched his fingers on the guitar. I guess it worked OK because he wanted to work with me again.
Any Day Now, Kevin Cann
They performed 15 songs: ‘Amsterdam’, ‘God Knows I’m Good’, ‘Buzz The Fuzz’, ‘Karma Man’, ‘London Bye Ta-Ta’, ‘An Occasional Dream’, ‘The Width Of A Circle’, ‘Janine’, ‘Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud’, ‘Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed’, ‘Fill Your Heart’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, ‘The Prettiest Star’, ‘Cygnet Committee’, and ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’.
This first BBC recording of ‘The Width Of A Circle’ was the shortest of all Bowie’s officially-released versions, lasting just 4:42. After the performance he was interviewed by presenter John Peel, who asked if he planned to perform live with the group.
Well, looking at them, no! Yes, we’re going to do some gigs. Are we Michael? Michael doesn’t really know – he’s just come down from Hull and I met him for the first time about two days ago through John the drummer, who’s worked with me once.
‘Amsterdam’, ‘God Knows I’m Good’, ‘The Width Of A Circle’, ‘Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed’, ‘Cygnet Committee’, and ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’ were released in September 2000 on Bowie At The Beeb.
Apart from ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, which was not broadcast and is believed lost, the entire session was released in 2021 on The Width Of A Circle.
Among the songs we didn’t quite nail was ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’. Bowie always had a hard time playing the organ and singing part one of that song. On this occasion it was a disaster.
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy
Also on this day...
- 1992: Live: Tin Machine, NHK Hall, Tokyo
- 1973: David Bowie sees Biff Rose and Bruce Springsteen live
- 1971: David Bowie meets Mercury Records’ Robin McBride
- 1969: Filming: Love You Till Tuesday
Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.