Rare footage of David Bowie’s first televised performance as Ziggy Stardust has been unearthed, but the viability of that footage remains in question. As the BBC reports, the original recording of the late singer’s 1972 performance on the British TV show Lift Off With Ayshea was long lost, having been accidentally deleted by a technician years ago (which was fairly standard practice for networks in the earlier days of television). Fortunately, a fan taped the performance on their home video recorder, and that footage was recently rediscovered.
The tape is in fragile condition and has degraded over the years. However, the producers of a forthcoming BBC documentary called David Bowie: Finding Fame hope it can be restored in time to include in the documentary, which is set to debut on BBC Two next month. The footage is currently being “baked” in an incubator so that it can be remastered.
Francis Whately, the documentary’s producer and director, told the Radio Times that the latest found footage “is something of a Holy Grail” for fans. Previously, the earliest recording of Bowie’s flamboyant Ziggy Stardust persona was his "Starman" performance on the British TV program Top of the Pops, which was filmed a month after his Lift Off appearance.
The BBC documentary will also feature never-before-heard audio recordings and footage, including Bowie’s audition tape for the BBC’s talent selection group in 1965. In a move that likely still haunts them, the BBC rejected Bowie for radio play, stating that he was "not outstanding enough" and "devoid of personality.” Of course, that didn’t stop Starman.
Ever since Bowie died in January 2016, a few of his early recordings have emerged from the woodwork. Earlier this year, Parlophone Records announced it will release a vinyl box set featuring two of the earliest known recordings of "Space Oddity," among other tracks. And last fall, the first song that Bowie ever recorded when he was 16 years old sold at auction for around $50,000. It had been found in a bread box.