Advertise here with Carbon Ads

This site is made possible by member support. โค๏ธ

Big thanks to Arcustech for hosting the site and offering amazing tech support.

When you buy through links on, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site! home of fine hypertext products since 1998.

๐Ÿ”  ๐Ÿ’€  ๐Ÿ“ธ  ๐Ÿ˜ญ  ๐Ÿ•ณ๏ธ  ๐Ÿค   ๐ŸŽฌ  ๐Ÿฅ”

David Bowie’s Legendary 1972 Performance of Starman on Top of the Pops

In what’s been voted the greatest BBC musical performance of all time, David Bowie appeared on Top of the Pops in 1972 to sing Starman and changed the course of musical history.

The performance launched Bowie to stardom. Thursday 6th July, 1972, is said to be ‘the day that invented the 80’s’ as so many musicians who went on to be household names saw the performance and it changed their lives. Those watching that night included U2’s Bono, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Boy George, Adam Ant, Mick Jones of the Clash, Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet, Morrissey and Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Siouxsie Sioux, Toyah Willcox, John Taylor and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode and many more.

Here’s more from Colin Marshall at Open Culture, who does a great job contextualizing the performance:

“It’s deceptively easy to forget that in the summer of 1972 David Bowie was still yesterday’s news to the average Top of the Pops viewer, a one-hit wonder who’d had a novelty single about an astronaut at the end of the previous decade,” writes Nicholas Pegg in The Complete David Bowie. But his taking the stage of that BBC pop-musical institution “in a rainbow jumpsuit and shocking red hair put paid to that forever. Having made no commercial impact in the two months since its release, ‘Starman’ stormed up the chart.” As with “Space Oddity,” “the subtext is all: this is less a science-fiction story than a self-aggrandizing announcement that there’s a new star in town.”

(via open culture)

Discussion  6 comments

Paolo Palombo

So many gems in that list. Radiohead, Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Joy Division. And, I was surprised by how young they were. Before I knew it, I had spent 1 hour watching them...

Russell Briggs

My understanding is that it was, like a lot of TOTP, pre-recorded and that Bowie sang it onstage but not into a live microphone. Does anyone know? It's obvious that Mick Ronson is not even really playing his guitar and certainly not doing the lead line, but I wasn't sure about the vocal. Still just as historic, but interesting that it wasn't an actual live performance.

Karl Swedberg

That reminds me of the hilarious performance Nirvana did on TOTP, totally mocking the canned nature of it all. (Pretty sure Jason linked to this one at some point):

laura jessup

@karl hooooooly shit-- i am trying to figure out how i've never seen this before??? utter brilliance. thank you for linking.

Reply in this thread

Mary Wallace

We lived in Scotland from 1968-1970. I was in first or second grade when I saw John and Yoko do what was kind of a performance art piece on TOTP. I didn't understand it at the time and it changed my life.

Michael Sanchez

I come here in the spirit of the comment group not to cast aspersions but to ask genuine questions: I watched it and thought it was just all right. The best of all time? I liked it, and I have the other post queued up to listen to and watch, but is this just a case of me being a biiiiiiiit too young (born 1982) and a BIT of an 80s hater, who has only slowly come around to Bowie, much less all those artists that were mentioned as being inspired by this performance? I thought it was good, I think the song's good, I think Bowie's great (like I said, after being a hater for most of my life [for no good reason]) but this is tops? I'd see the Nirvana one in the other comment (probably here originally) and think it's way better. Am I just off the mark?

Hello! In order to leave a comment, you need to be a current member. If you'd like to sign up for a membership to support the site and join the conversation, you can explore your options here.

Existing members can sign in here. If you're a former member, you can renew your membership.

Note: If you are a member and tried to log in, it didn't work, and now you're stuck in a neverending login loop of death, try disabling any ad blockers or extensions that you have installed on your browser...sometimes they can interfere with the Memberful links. Still having trouble? Email me!