On the night David Bowie said goodbye to glam rock he was accompanied by The Troggs and a stoned Marianne Faithfull dressed as a nun

Marianne Faithful and David Bowie onstage at The Marquee
(Image credit: Jack Kay)

Picture the scene: It's London, it's October 1973, and the air is thick with glitter. At the iconic Marquee Club on London's Wardour Street, Ziggy Stardust is treading the boards for the last time. 

David Bowie had officially retired Ziggy at the climax of his show at Hammersmith Odeon the previous July, but Ziggy-mania was still in full swing. At one point over the summer, Bowie had five albums in the UK Top 50, and even a reissue of his much-mocked 1967 single The Laughing Gnome hit the Top 10, selling 250,000 copies in the process. 

The Dame's Pin Ups album was scheduled for release on October 19, and with the US arm of RCA concerned that the album wouldn't sell without an accompanying American tour, a compromise was reached: Bowie would film some songs at the Marquee, which would then be broadcast in the US on The Midnight Special. 

And so The 1980 Floor Show came into being, punningly named after 1984, a song from Bowie's upcoming Diamond Dogs album. Filmed over three nights, it saw the Marquee's spit 'n' sawdust decor transformed into burlesque sin and splendour, with dancers dressed in crocheted cobweb and celebrity photographer Terry O'Neill on hand to capture the magic.

"He became a character on stage," said O'Neill. "As much as a person takes a role in a play for the West End or on Broadway, learning the lines, putting on the costumes - this was, I think, the way Bowie treated his stage. This night at the Marquee, I witnessed a modern-day Hamlet - and it was Ziggy Stardust."

It was also the night Bowie said goodbye to glam. The last night he wore the Ziggy costumes, and a final curtain call for the Spiders From Mars.

"During The 1980 Floor Show you had David, who was now acting like the big rock 'n' roll star, a man you couldn't get near to who used to drive you to gigs at pubs," said Bolder. "Now you couldn't even get to talk to him. Then you had Mick who was all dressed in white and he was going off to do his solo venture and be the star. 

"Then you had me in the background dressed in black with the rest of the band. You've got all these other musicians playing and it's not the Spiders anymore. It was finished then really, that was it." 

Special guests include French singer Amanda Leer, Anglo-American fusion band Carmen (a rare mixture of glam and flamenco), The Troggs – who performed the iconic Wild Thing, plus their own Can Not Control Myself and Strange Movies – and Marianne Faithfull, who dressed as a nun for her duet with Bowie, on a version of Sonny & Cher's I Got You Babe, and, according to backing singer Ava Cherry, performing with Bowie for the first time, was rather worse for wear.  

The show was never broadcast in the UK, but American audiences saw an edited version of the show – which included Bowie performing The Who's I Can't Explain – as a one-hour special on The Midnight Special on November 16. The show was subsequently bootlegged, and eight hours of uncut footage from the three day shoot appeared on YouTube in 2019, but it wasn't until this year that high-quality footage of much of the show emerged officially, on The Midnight Special's YouTube channel

It remains a unique document, with David Bowie given complete creative control, presiding over a show that was often as baffling as it was bold. 

"The 1980 Floor Show was a little burlesque or something," said Ava Cherry. "It was one of those weird little wonderful things that worked very well, but could have been a disaster. Marianne Faithfull was stoned and in a nun's costume and Amanda Lear, the transsexual, was hostess." 

"It could have been really bad," she added. "But it was fabulous!"

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.