Bowie and The Hype at the Roundhouse - Roundhouse - Celebrating 50 Years


11 March 1970

Bowie fan, music enthusiast and Roundhouse volunteer RandomLight takes us back to the Bowie gig that sewed the seeds of Glam Rock.

Credit: David Bowie and the Hype. Rex Features

I began volunteering at the Roundhouse around 2010. Having always had a deep passion for music, (and sometimes performing back home in Scotland and later here in London) working at a venue like the Roundhouse has enhanced my interest in new bands, as well as spark an interest in its musical history and folklore. Whilst on duty at the venue, it never fails to amaze me just how many audience members eagerly share memories of, say, a Doors gig, or Andy Warhols only play, ‘Pork’. Without wishing to sound like a killjoy here, I can’t help but feel a tad envious of their experiences. Imagine seeing Pink Floyd play one of their first gigs at the Roundhouse in 1966!

Which brings me to one of my own personal ‘wish I was there’ moments. I’ve been a David Bowie fan for years, and would have loved to have seen him play with a little known band he’d put together called ‘The Hype’. Formed back in 1970 (originally called ‘Harrying The Butcher’) the band consisted of:

David Bowie, alias Space Star/Rainbowman – vocals, 12-string guitar
Mick Ronson, alias Gangsterman – Les Paul guitar
Tony Visconti, alias Hypeman – bass guitar, vocals
John Cambridge, alias Cowboyman – drums (until April 1970)
Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey – drums (from April 1970)
Benny Marshall – vocals, harmonica (from November 1970)

You’ll notice that David, along with Mick Ronson (who in time  would become to Bowie what Jimmy Page was to Robert Plant) and Tony Visconti (who’s worked with Bowie throughout his career) were given Superhero names.

“The bands costumes were made by various girlfriends which make us look like Dr. Strange or the incredible hulk. I was a bit apprehensive about wearing them at the Roundhouse gig because I didn’t know how the audience would react. If they think it’s a huge put on the whole thing will backfire but they seemed to accept it which was nice.” – David Bowie

In fact David was being rather liberal with the truth here, as it is well documented they were received with heckles of “queer” and “poofter”, a  sign of the times I guess.

I’m also guessing that perhaps many of those shouting homophobic rants, would be wearing make up by the following year, as this gig is seen by many to have ushered in the seeds of what would became known as ‘Glam Rock’ here in the UK.

The Hype was a pivotal game changer for Bowie as he moved away from his acoustic/folk period in favour of the electric sound which would produce  mindblowing rock ‘n’ roll classics such as The Man Who Sold The World, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars & Aladdin Sane, to name but a few. There is some great footage which captures – albeit briefly – the evening in question. I was lucky enough to attend a short screening of Atomic Sunrise Festival in 2013 where the audience were treated to some never-before-seen footage of The Hype performing at festival in March 1970, along with other acts such as the then unsigned Genesis and other early acts like Hawkwind.

So thank you once again must go to the amazing what I sometimes call “The Mother Ship” (does she not resemble one, with her distinctive ‘space saucer’ roof top?) – thank you for retaining all the history. Thank you for giving bands like The Hype a platform to play and express themselves. Long may it continue.