The 1980 Floor Show

David Bowie continued planning The 1980 Floor Show in October 1973, with rehearsals taking place in Fulham, London, in a building owned by the prog rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

The show was filmed over three days, from 18-20 October 1973, at the Marquee Club at 90 Wardour Street in London. Each day, the crowd consisted of two hundred members of Bowie’s fan club, who were selected at random and given free tickets, along with various reporters and photographers. Also in the audience at various times were singers Dana Gillespie and Mary Hopkin, composer Lionel Bart, and Bowie’s wife Angie and their son Zowie (Duncan).

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There were a lot of clubs to go to in the Soho scene in the ’60s but the Marquee was top of the list, because musicians did hang out there, pretending to talk business and picking up gigs – but picking up girls mostly. One of my keenest memories of The Marquee in the ’60s was having a permanent erection because there were so many fantastic looking girls in there, it was all tourists, especially in summer, all flocking to London to get an R&B star.
David Bowie, 2001

Bowie’s band included a partial return for the Spiders From Mars, with Mick Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass guitar, and Mike Garson on piano. Pinups drummer Aynsley Dunbar was brought back to the fold, and Mark Carr Pritchard played additional guitar. Bowie’s backing singers were the Astronettes: Geoffrey MacCormack (also known as Warren Peace), Jason Carter (Jason Guess), and Ava Cherry.

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The show drew a line under the Ziggy Stardust era, as well as showcasing three new cover versions from Pinups. There was also a new song, the medley ‘1984’/’Dodo’, the first to be revealed from the Diamond Dogs project.

Bowie’s songs performed during the show were: ‘1984’/’Dodo’, ‘Sorrow’, ‘Everything’s Alright’, ‘Space Oddity’, ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Time’, ‘The Jean Genie’, and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’.

The band was performing ‘The Jean Genie’ and the normal way the song went during a performance was that during the guitar solo, Bowie went down on his knees in front of Ronno in such a way that it looked like he was giving Ronno head. On an early take that’s what happened and musically, it was absolutely superb. The producers, being more into the visuals than the music, didn’t agree however, and once again started in on David, ‘You can’t be that sexual on American TV! You’ll have to do it again.’ This time the band played it as badly as they could and David did nothing in the solo in order to make the take totally unusable. What finally aired was so ridiculously edited to try to make it work that it was really quite funny. They basically cut to people who weren’t really doing anything just to get rid of the ‘naughty’ parts.
Ken Scott
Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust

Other acts appeared in addition to Bowie and his band. Spanish group Carmen performed their song ‘Bulerias’, and the Troggs played their 1966 hit ‘Wild Thing’. Marianne Faithfull – who had also appeared at the Rock and Roll Circus – closed the show by duetting with Bowie on a version of Sonny and Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’, as well as performing ‘As Tears Go By’ and ’20th Century Blues’.

She was wearing a nun’s habit with no backside and black stockings. I’ve got that clip at home, and it is fantastic. But they wouldn’t show it in America. It was felt to be beyond the pale. Madonna, eat your heart out!
David Bowie, 1993

Amanda Lear was the show’s compere, Matt Mattox was the show’s choreographer, and Freddie Burretti, who had designed the early Ziggy Stardust costumes, reprised his former role. Graphics were by Bowie’s old friend George Underwood, who had worked on album covers including David Bowie/Space Oddity (1969) and Hunky Dory. The show was produced and directed by Stan Harris, with sound by Ken Scott and Robin Mayhew.

It was shot at the Marquee Club, which was just down the road from Trident and happened to have a recording studio attached. The filming was done in the club whilst the studio was used as a dressing room and for makeup and the control room was where I recorded it all.

David had also chosen a lady to do the introductions who at the time called herself Dooshenka, but later became Amanda Lear. She eventually became quite a success in Europe as a disco queen, girlfriend of rock stars, and mistress and confidante of Salvador Dalí. They chose to shoot all of her introductions one after the other, which led to her changing costumes frequently and quickly. At one point David and I were sitting in behind the [recording desk] board and she comes into the studio right in front of the window and completely strips off. My jaw drops and I’m just gawking when David says to me, ‘She’s not bad, is she?’ with a sly smirk. ‘Are you bloody kidding, no!’ I replied. Then nonchalantly he dropped the bombshell. ‘Yer, especially considering that six months ago she was a guy.’ At that point, I almost lost it. I was never sure if the story was the truth or if it was just a case of David being David, but I can’t say I ever looked at her in quite the same way again.

American censors were all over this bloody show and David didn’t disappoint them one little bit. At one point, he came out in an outfit that had three mannequin hands: one on either breast, and another coming up from between his legs. Of course, as soon as the producers saw that they began screaming, ‘You can’t wear that,’ so he had to have the costume quickly changed in order to take the hand holding his crotch away.

Ken Scott
Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust

The 1980 Floor Show marked Bowie’s return to the stage since his apparent retirement on 3 July 1973, when he famously broke up the Spiders From Mars on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. The three-day shoot saw his final times with the Ziggy Stardust hair and costumes, and his last live shows with Ronson and Bolder.

My final performance of Ziggy Stardust was at The Marquee. I wanted to go back there because I had so many good memories over the years. We changed the place completely and for three days we filmed what became The 1980 Floor Show. I had The Troggs on with me and then got Marianne Faithfull to duet with me on a version of Sonny and Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’. I dressed Marianne in a nun’s habit with the back cut out and I dressed as the Angel of Death!
David Bowie, 2001

The 1980 Floor Show was first broadcast on NBC’s The Midnight Special on Friday 16 November 1973.