Before David Bowie passed away in 2016, there were umpteen bootlegs circulating around the fandom that one could consider essential.
Since then, most of those bootlegs have been officially released. Call it a cash-in if you will, but it's been fantastic seeing those recordings reach a wider audience. The Brilliant Adventure live album series may have been controversial, but it brought attention to Bowie's underappreciated 90s era.
But all these official releases do mean that the number of true bootlegs is dwindling. Still, these five essentials have never officially been released. On these recordings, you'll find gems that every fan must hear. They're out there to be found. We can't point the way, for obvious reasons, but I assure you, they're not hard to find.
These Bowie Bootlegs are essential for any fan
The 1980 Floor Show 1973
The story beats of David Bowie’s career defy simple summary or categorization. Bowie famously killed off the Ziggy Stardust character at a pair of shows at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1973. But there was one more show as Ziggy Stardust with the Spiders From Mars, three and a half months after the death of Ziggy, it was the the 1980 floor show.
Bowie was approached about doing an episode of the musical variety show The Midnight Special and agreed on the condition that he be given full creative control. It was recorded at London’s Marquee Club in front of 200 fanclub members. Bowie had conceived of a stage musical production of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, but Orwell’s widow denied him permission. The 1980 Floor Show (get it?) is the closest we’ll ever get to seeing the 1984 musical.
But since it’s totally not a stage musical production of 1984, Bowie wasn’t beholden to any one concept. This was more Ziggy than Ziggy, with ridiculously complex dance numbers, and an even more ridiculous succession of costumes designed by the likes of Kansai Yamamoto and Natasha Kornilof. Marianne Faithful and The Troggs were both guests, but their songs were cut from most bootlegs.
The essential climax of the show, Bowie and Faithful singing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” with Bowie in a bright red PVC corset with covered in black feathers, and Faithful in a melodramatic nun’s habit.