David Bowie will be celebrated by BBC Two and BBC Four.
“We were so honoured to work with David Bowie in his lifetime, and so delighted to be able to continue his story on the BBC with this new film, which looks at the incredible journey of his rise to fame, including first time testimony from the people with him along the way in the early days, and also to show his unique performance at Glastonbury.” – Jan Younghusband, Head of Music TV Commissioning for BBC Music
David Bowie: The First Five Years is the final part of the trilogy of films, all made by BBC Studios Production, looking back on the legendary performer’s life and work. It follows the acclaimed and award-winning David Bowie: The Last Five Years in 2017 and David Bowie: Five Years in 2013, all produced and directed by Francis Whately.
The film – which will air 50 years after the release of Space Oddity – is a 90 minute film exploring the Bowie before Ziggy, a time when so many of the ideas that would ultimately turn him into the icon he later became were germinated. Starting in 1966, soon after David Jones changed his name to Bowie, the film traces his interest in everything from Holst to Pinky and Perky, from Anthony Newley to Tibetan Buddhism, and how he used all these influences to create not only Ziggy Stardust, but the material for his entire career.
The film also unearths a report, deep from the BBC Archives, following a BBC audition on Tuesday 2 November 1965 of a band called David Bowie and the Lower Third. Their audition material included Chim-Chim-Cheree as well as an original number called Baby That’s A Promise. The BBC’s ‘Talent Selection Group’ describe him as having “quite a different sound”, but also “no personality”, “not particularly exciting” and “will not improve with practice”. The BBC later appears to have changed its mind!
“I spent all my formative years adopting guises and changing roles, just learning to be somebody. I wanted to be accepted as David Bowie – a person that you will always watch to see what kind of thing he is doing.” – David Bowie
David Bowie at Glastonbury 2000 relives the night of Sunday 27th June 2000, when Bowie closed Glastonbury with a two-hour performance. At Bowie’s insistence, only around half an hour of that stunning set was able to be broadcast on the BBC – the first five songs were aired live followed by encore tracks at the end of the set. Fortunately the cameras kept rolling and captured the whole set. Now BBC Four are screening an hour of highlights from that career-extending performance, including such previously un-broadcast hits as Ashes to Ashes, Starman and Let’s Dance.
Bowie was returning to the festival for the first time since 1971. His star was not in the ascendant after the Tin Machine era and such 90s solo albums as Outside, Earthling and Hours, but from the moment he walked out on the Pyramid Stage resplendent in a an Alexander McQueen frock coat with his hair in Hunky Dory mode and launched into Wild is the Wind, it was clear that Bowie had decided to embrace and fully restate both his catalogue and his legend. Arguably it was his greatest live performance since the 70s – one that still both summarises and embraces his legend.
The Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green, North London is currently threatened with demolition. Bowie performed at the venue, which opened in 1935 as a theatre, eight months before he became the huge star that shines still today. A petition to save the building has been set up, which has also seen over its years many big names tread its boards including Roger Moore, Arthur Lowe, Tony Blackburn, Jimmy Perry, Noele Gordon, Ruth Madoc, Lenard Rossiter, Tony Adams, June Whitfield and Richard Todd to name only a few. The BBC also broadcast 14 drama plays from the theatre in the 1940s.
David Bowie The first Five Years takes us back to the era where he’d perform at the Intimate in Pierrot In Turquoise as ‘Cloud’. The documentary will show how the Sixties were the blueprint for the Bowie of the future. How without the influences, struggles and failures of the Sixties, there would have been no Ziggy Stardust, but there would also have been no Halloween Jack, Thin White Duke, no Low or Heroes and Elephant Man, or even Jareth the Goblin King and certainly no Blackstar. It was the Sixties that made Bowie the multi-faceted artist whose career influenced generation after generation of musicians. The Bowie of the Sixties was possibly the most fascinating Bowie of them all.
“Francis Whately has already created two stunning films about transformative chapters in the extraordinary life of David Bowie. This third film completes that trilogy with the most important and surprising period, the first five years. We are delighted to play it in BBC Two.” -Patrick Holland, Channel Controller, BBC Two