‘Word On A Wing’ – Isolar tour rehearsal

Restored footage of David Bowie performing 'Word On A Wing' during the Isolar tour rehearsals in 1976

As most Bowie fans know, footage of the 1976 Isolar tour is very scarce. The closest we have to a filmed record of a complete concert is the rehearsal video recorded on 2 February 1976 in Vancouver. This has never been officially released but over the years it has turned up on bootleg VHS and DVDs and more latterly on sites like YouTube.

We have Mr. Sussex to thank for this restoration. Here’s his explanation of the work involved.

“There are many technical problems with the bootleg footage including colours which bleed and smear, ghosting, jitter and VHS artefacts which show up as horizontal white dashes appearing randomly on each frame.

I’ve gone through it frame by frame and painted out the white dashes and repaired the damaged parts as much as I could with the cloning tool in After Effects. In total I looked at nearly 10,000 frames! It took a while to do : )

There are still many, many faults which I couldn’t eradicate but I think the cleaned up end result is an improvement and looks more filmic than what I started with.

Hopefully the rehearsal footage will see an official release one day. There is a short clip from it showing in the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition and it looks pristine.

The audio used here is from the actual rehearsal, just tweaked a little to improve it. I’ve only replaced the piano introduction to the song because on the actual recording, it has some bum notes which are very jarring to listen to (well, it was a rehearsal after all). But once the drums come in, we are back to the original audio until the end.

It’s a great vocal performance by Bowie of one of the best tracks from Station to Station, especially considering there was no audience here to perform to. By the time he played the song live in Nassau the following month, the tempo was noticeably slower, almost relaxed. But in rehearsal, the song shares the same urgency as the studio version and is all the better for it in my opinion.

As always it’s been a labour of love and I hope you’ll enjoy it.”