David Bowie’s long-running Ziggy Stardust Tour drew to a close on 3 July 1973, with a final concert at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. Yet this wasn’t just the end of the tour – it was the retirement of Ziggy himself, sensationally announced from the stage by Bowie.
The decision had been shared with just a handful of people prior to the show, among them Bowie’s manager Tony Defries, singer Geoff MacCormack, pianist Mike Garson, guitarist Mick Ronson, and Ronson’s partner Suzy Fussey. Although even the roadies were in on the secret, the rest of Bowie’s band were oblivious.
Rhythm guitarist John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson had been given a clue. Prior to the show, Bowie approached him and and said: “Don’t go straight into ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide. ‘I’m going to say something there.’
Celebrity well-wishers at the show included Mick and Bianca Jagger, Rod Steward, and Ringo Starr. The event was photographed by Mick Rock, Bowie’s friend and regular photographer.
As with the previous night, the show was filmed by DA Pennebaker, and the audio was recorded by RCA for a potential live album. However, Bowie quickly moved on to other projects, and the film and album were not released until 1983’s Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture.
The first night was strictly used as a run-through and since they weren’t filming, the film people decided there was no need to record it. However, knowing the importance of the event, I decided to bring in fellow Trident engineer Roy Baker, to help me record the second night in the RCA mobile.
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That last night was probably one of the best shows we’d ever done. We tore through the set and everything just seemed to fall into place. Bowie was particularly on form. Every move he made was delivered with an extra something that made the whole show electrifying. After a blistering version of ‘White Light/White Heat’ the Hammersmith audience were going berserk.
It got even wilder when Bowie stepped up to the microphone and announced, ‘As this is our last concert of the tour we thought we’d do something special for you, so we invited one of our friends and I know you’ll give a big, warm welcome to Jeff Beck.’
Jeff walked on to thunderous applause and Mick started the riff to ‘The Jean Genie’. It was a particularly special moment as Jeff Beck was one of Mick’s guitar heroes. We did an extended version of the song where they each took it in turn to solo back and forth. It was ‘The Jean Genie’ like we’d never played it before. Jeff stayed on for ‘Round And Round’ and then left the stage to great applause.
Then there was a longer than usual gap but luckily the audience were still making one hell of a noise. Bowie then stepped up to his microphone and signalled with his hands that he wanted the audience to be quiet. They immediately calmed down.
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