Over the course of his illustrious career David Bowie served as Saturday Night Live’s musical guest on three occasions. In honor of the late musician, SNL has uploaded video of three performances from his 1979 guest spot. Revisit “The Man Who Sold the World”, “Boys Keep Swinging”, and “TVC-15” below.
During last night’s episode, former SNL cast member Fred Armisen spoke of how Bowie’s 1979 performance impacted him personally. “When I was in high school and living in Long Island, I stayed up to see David Bowie play on Saturday Night Live. Watching him, for me, was a life-changing experience. David Bowie transformed whatever space he was in, whatever medium he was using, and that night for me, he transformed live television.”
Bowie’s performance of “Boys Keep Swinging” was particularly remarkable as it featured Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias on vocals. Bowie also performed in a green screen suit with a body puppet superimposed over top of him, cutting edge technology for that the time. He infamously ended the performance by flashing the puppet’s penis, but that sadly has been removed from the below clip.
“The Man Who Sold the World”:
“Boys Keep Swinging”:
Bowie appeared on SNL twice more over the years. In 1997, he performed “Little Wonder” and “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”. The latter was a last-minute song choice, reportedly done in response to Lorne Michaels confessing to Bowie that the song was “absolutely terrifying” to him. Michaels responded by briefly banning Bowie; however, the late musician would return just two years later with renditions of “Thursday’s Child” and “Rebel Rebel” for a Jerry Seinfeld-hosted episode.