We forget this kind of thing in the age of 256GB flash drives and mega-servers, but four decades ago storage wasn’t infinite and video wasn’t cheap. So it made sense for companies like the BBC to wipe tapes clean for reuse, even if those tapes contained a performance from David Bowie at the height of his Aladdin Sane fame. Such was the case with all video of the Thin White Duke’s 1973 stop at Top of the Pops, a performance which aired only once, and never in America. Until YouTube.
Turns out cameraman John Henshall, the man behind the fish-eye lens used in the footage, kept a personal copy of the long-lost performance. The clip features Bowie backed by his band The Spiders from Mars playing his then-new single “The Jean Genie”. It aired Wednesday for the first time since January 4th, 1973 during the Top of the Pops Christmas Special, and has since found its way online. View the archival footage, thought destroyed and gone forever, below (via SPIN).