Tonight’s Top of the Pops Christmas Special (7:30pm, BBC2) will be of special interest to David Bowie fans, as the broadcast will feature some “lost” footage of the erstwhile Ziggy Stardust performing The Jean Genie in 1973, which hasn’t been aired in almost 40 years.
The four-minute clip sees Bowie playing the harmonica and appearing alongside his band, the Spiders from Mars, in full glam regalia.
John Henshall, a former BBC cameraman who worked on Top of the Pops, kept a copy of Bowie’s performance in his private collection and hadn’t realised that the footage had been wiped by the corporation and was missing from its archives.
Henshall only became aware of the rarity of the Bowie footage when he appeared on Johnny Walker’s Sound of the 70s on BBC Radio 2 this September to discuss his time working on Top of the Pops.
TOTP2 executive producer Mark Cooper said: “Bowie singing The Jean Genie is electric and the kind of piece of archive that not only brings back how brilliant Top of the Pops could be but also how a piece of archive can speak to us down the years. I can’t imagine what other piece of TOTP from the early 70s would be as extraordinary a find.”
The “lost” Bowie footage comes to light just over a week after two other missing pieces of the BBC’s archive were returned to the corporation.
A low fidelity, audio only, off-air version of the performance can be heard below: