Watch David Bowie perform The Who's I Can't Explain on US TV in November 1973

David Bowie on US TV, 1973
(Image credit: The Midnight Special YouTube)

Official footage of David Bowie's November 1973 performance of The Who's 1965 single I Can't Explain on cult US TV show The Midnight Special is now on YouTube.

Bowie covered the song, written by Pete Townshend and released as The Who's second single, for his 1973 album Pin Ups, which also covers of songs by Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds and The Kinks, among others.

According to the excellent Bowie resource, Bowie and The Who first met when his Lower Third opened for Pete Townshend's band in Bournemouth on August 20,1965. Apparently, after hearing the Lower Third soundchecking, Townshend asked whose songs they were playing: told that they were Bowie originals, Townshend bluntly told the singer that they sounded more like his songs. 

Townshend later played guitar on two Bowie songs, Because You're Young on Scary Monsters... and Slow Burn on Heathen.

Watch Bowie, Mick Ronson and co. perform I Can't Explain on The Midnight Special on November 16, 1973, one month after the release of Pin Ups, below: 

Other highlights on The Midnight Special's newly launched YouTube channel include Fleetwood Mac playing Go Your Own Way two months after the release of Rumours, Bowie performing Space Oddity in 1974 and Tina Turner blowing the studio roof clean off with a 1973 performance of Nutbush City Limits.

"The Midnight Special was a groundbreaking and revolutionary show that pushed the boundaries of what was possible on television as not one broadcaster had programming available after 1am back then," says Burt Sugarman, the show's creator. "I insisted on live performances in front of an audience, there was no lip syncing. 

"I'm thrilled that it will be available for all fans, as well as a new generation of viewers who may not be familiar with the show. Audiences can enjoy hours of classic performances and interviews from the biggest stars of that era."

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.