David Bowie 1980-09-03 Burbank CA ,NBC Studios (Tonight Show With Johnny Carson) – SQ 8
Sound Quality Rating
David Bowie’s brilliant performance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson at NBC Studios, Burbank, was broadcast, having been taped two days earlier on the 3rd. Bowie performed Life On Mars? and Ashes To Ashes with a one-off band.
In the absence of Dennis Davis and George Murray, Carlos Alomar cobbled a band of young musicians together in New York, which comprised the following:
01. Intro Johnny Carson.flac
02. Life On Mars.flac
03. Ashes To Ashes.flac
Label : No label
Audio Source : Broadcast NBC Studio 1980-09-05
Taping Gear :
Total running time : 0:09:59
Sound Quality : Excellent quality! Equals record or radio
Artwork : None
Vocals • David Bowie
Guitar & Keyboards • Carlos Alomar
Guitar • George Edward (G.E.) Smith
Bass • John Kumnick
Drums • Steve Goulding
Keyboards • Gordon Grody
After four days of rehearsals, some of which the news program 20/20 filmed (a snippet of Ashes To Ashes), Bowie and the band flew to Los Angeles for the taping at NBC Studios.
The Tonight Show performance was Bowie’s only ‘live’ appearance in 1980, and the only time Scary Monsters material was performed in the year the album was released.
A large contingent of fans camped outside NBC for tickets to see Bowie’s first US performance in nine months. By the morning the crowd had swelled to 200. Waiting for the Carson taping to begin, David chatted with fans and signed a few autographs for some of the lucky attendees.
Carson introduced Bowie with a plug for the new album and his upcoming New York run in The Elephant Man. Over the loud cheering, a bemused Carson quipped: “He’d better be good after this!”.
Bowie looked magnificent in an obvious tribute to James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.
The performance no doubt helped fuel rumours of a Scary Monsters Tour which appeared as the cover story of the 20th of September 1980 edition of Musicians Only magazine in the UK, proclaiming a “BOWIE ‘MONSTER’ TOUR” scheduled for March through May, 1981. The news item also mentioned that Fashion had been performed on the show, but no other evidence of that has come to light.
It seems the Scary Monsters Tour may have been something Bowie was seriously considering, as he also mentioned the possibility in a transatlantic call to Radio One following the success of Ashes To Ashes. In what may have been a bit of mischief making, he also posited the notion of using The Spiders From Mars as his band for the shows! It’s kind of hard imagining The Spiders’ renditions of Ashes to Ashes, Fashion and Teenage Wildlife.
We’ll leave you with an amusing anecdote taken from Roger Griffin’s superb BOWIEGOLDENYEARS
John Kumnick, bass (2016): We flew back to New York that night… it was one of those red eye flights out of LA. Since we were just going out there for the one thing, we had all our guitars in big bags … we just took them on the plane with us. But on the way back, the flight was full and the airline people are saying, “No, you can’t carry those on you are going to have to put them down in cargo and check them as baggage”. We had someone acting as a road manager trying to deal with that. The guitars would’ve got all smashed up in baggage because they weren’t in heavy duty cases or anything. So he’s trying to deal with that and it’s not going anywhere and we’re all standing around the airport. Bowie hears about it and says, “I’ll take care of it” and he goes up to the gate agent, and he says, ‘Hi, I’m David Bowie… and Elvis gave me those guitars and so I couldn’t possibly have them checked as baggage down in the hold.’ He came up with that in 10 seconds. I think he viewed it as just something funny he could do – use the star power for the good. And he took care of it… that was easy – they crumbled in a second – “Yeah, sure, we’ll find a closet…”