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Rare 1970 Film Featuring David Bowie and Genesis Unearthed

David Bowie Peter Gabriel
Steve Wood / Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The Atomic Sunrise festival was held in March 1970 at the legendary Roundhouse club in England and featured a number of the underground rock scene’s most shining lights. The event featured David Bowie, Hawkwind, and Genesis, among others. All these acts were in their infancy, and that’s what makes the event so interesting. Fortunately, the festival was captured on film and now, after over 40 years, the film has been unearthed.

Bowie was in transition from folkie to full on electric glitter, and had just recently brought in a new guitarist to his new group, some young kid named Mick Ronson. That group, called the Hype (which also featured his future producer, Tony Visconti), would ultimately be the forerunner to Bowie’s transformation to glam rock superstar.

In the meantime, Genesis were also in transition, having not yet signed with Charisma Records. Leaving behind the Bee Gee-esque pop of their first album, the band were re-casting themselves as art-rock pioneers and had yet to acquire the services of Phil Collins behind the drum kit. Hawkwind were just getting their ship off the ground with their debut LP still in the works.

Though it remains uncertain as to who actually filmed the festival, Adrian Everett, director-producer of the film, has been on the trail of this footage since first learning of its existence in the late-1970s. According to the Independent, the film was being held against a film processing bill amounting to several thousand pounds. The movie was about to be destroyed when, in 1990, Everett got the funds in place, thereby rescuing it from being celluloid dust.

An investment from the owner of a small record store got the ball rolling with a small budget to begin a first cut of the footage. Completely by chance, he was soon in touch with the original sound man from the festival, who helped him put music to the previously silent footage. “It was adding the sound and seeing the film come to life that made me realize how important it is,” Everett said. “Until then I just thought it might be interesting, but now I knew it was amazing. That’s why I felt I had to get it out there.”

The film is set to be shown at its birthplace, the Roundhouse in London, this March, and from there, it’s path in uncertain. “The music and images are amazing, and my plan is to do a book and DVD of the final edit.” Everett said, “There are so many strands to this story. It’s a great story to tell.”

It’s amazing this is finally getting off the ground at all. Everett had his financial backing yanked on him in the early-’90s, which left the project on a shelf. He tried to obtain interest from the BBC, but the project had again stalled. Now, over 30 years since his first involvement, and over 40 years since the festival itself, fans will finally be able to see and hear this footage of soon-to-be legends finding their feet.

Some of those involved have since passed away such as Mick Ronson and original Genesis drummer John Mayhew, which fueled Everett even more to get the film out there. “Not only so that people could see it at last, but as a sort of tribute to those who had gone,” Everett said, adding “Some of them unrewarded and almost unknown.”

Next: Top 10 David Bowie ’70s Album Tracks

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