My TVC 15

My wife and I were looking through lists of hit singles from our high school and college years and she didn’t know David Bowie’s TVC 15. A quick search found a video of that, but not just any performance. It was on Saturday Night Live, with Bowie in a skirt and pumps (very sharp!), with a stuffed pink poodle, with Klaus Nomi singing backing vocals, and the pink poodle has a TV monitor inside its mouth and the monitor is showing Klaus Nomi. Wow.

The YouTube commenters who say he looks like Janet Reno are just wrong. David is a much sharper dresser than Janet.

He also performed (“sang” just doesn’t seem to be enough) The Man Who Sold The World (video) while in a rigid column painted to look like formal wear.

You’d think that those two would be memorable enough with their “Bauhaus meets Dada” styling, but the one I remember from December 15, 1979 (I was working a shift at Willy’s Pub as my college job) was the the third song, Boys Keep Swinging. The other pieces were odd and fun, but this one was playing conceptual games with TV. Bowie was controlling a stick figure, and the TV monitors were only showing the figure. The studio audience was looking back and forth between the performers and the monitors. SNL had very straight camerawork, like a news show, so this was very different. We had live performers, the studio audience was watching the them and the TV version of the performers, the camera was going back and forth between the live version, the TV monitors, and the audience, and I was watching it all on TV on a show labeled “Live”. It was clear that Bowie was hacking media at a conceptual level and having a great time. If it had gotten any more meta, we would have needed Douglas Hofstadter to talk us back down to the ground.

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