When Ziggy played guitar, the world listened.
London. It’s a lot of things to a lot of people. You can spend endless days wandering the British Museum or the National Gallery for some highbrow culture, or navigating city streets and taking things as they come. There’s always a nice surprise somewhere. To me, London offers the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of music legends. There are so many sites here related to rock and roll you could spend weeks tracking them down.
Although there are many walking tours of rock and roll landmarks (for a price, of course), we chose to make up our own itinerary and travel at our own pace. Seeing as we had an extended stay in “The Big Smoke”, we were happy to venture out with no set schedule. It’s easy enough to do some online research ahead of time, whether it has to do with the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin or The Whoever.
Since David Bowie had sprinkled plenty of stardust over our lives, we elected to have something of a Bowie Day. Although the tube seems intimidating with its incredibly vast network, it’s easy to navigate. We rode to Brixton, the area in South London where David Jones spent the first few years of his life. To connect with Bowie, this place is probably better than most.
Directly across the street from the tube entrance, on the outside wall of Morley’s department store, you’ll find a famous Bowie mural which has become a shrine since his death. It was created by Australian street artist James Cochran – known as Jimmy C – in 2013. Since Bowie’s death, the local council has elected to protect this artwork and there have been discussions of erecting a Bowie statue here as well on the pedestrian walkway. The mural depicts the cover of the Aladdin Sane album (Aladdin Sane being an extension of the Ziggy Stardust character) and it’s a sight to behold. It faithfully recreates the Aladdin Sane album jacket, save for his eyes being open instead of closed. Because of this, Ziggy appears to be more at peace with himself on the album jacket.
Reading some notes fans have left here, you get the sense of Bowie’s/Ziggy’s universal reach and appeal. Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who heard Ziggy’s message. Fans from all over the world make the pilgrimage here. As it is everywhere in London, the area was busy and bustling. But somehow there seemed to be a certain quietness here, just off Brixton Road. Perhaps it was my state of mind on this rainy and gloomy London morning.
After soaking up the mural we were back on the tube heading to Soho / Mayfair. Getting off at the touristy Piccadilly Circus station with its imposing statue of Eros outside, we walked Regent Street a few blocks and made our way to another famous Ziggy site: 23 Heddon Street. The neighbourhood is far posher. This is where the photographs for Bowie’s album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars were shot, over 40 years ago.
Ziggy beamed in from space one rainy night in January 1972 and posed for photographer Brian Ward who apparently had his studio on this quiet dead end street. Heddon Street is to Bowie fans what Abbey Road is to Beatles fans.
The shots Ward took that night were in black and white and colorized later, giving Ziggy something of an outworldly alien look on the album jacket. Unfortunately for aficionados, the K. West sign – prominent on the album – isn’t there anymore. There was construction going on with various scaffolding and boarded areas along the street at the time of our visit. Perhaps because of this, we didn’t notice the red phone box featured on the back of the album. I’m told it was taken away at one time and replaced with a blue box. But due to Ziggy’s enduring popularity, however, a red one has since been replaced here.
Businesses here have certainly changed since 1972, but the surrounding architecture seems more or less the same. To my surprise, there is an unofficial plaque marking the spot of the album cover shot as well. You can find all kinds of great outtakes from this photo session on Google.
There are many other Bowie locales around the city, but if you want to feel a little bit of Ziggy’s Stardust in London, start with these two locations. They are worth finding whether you’re a die-hard or casual fan.
Get an amazing price on an unforgettable vacation package to London along with some rock and roll tips as to how to discover and get the most out of your trip via travelloafers.agentstudio.com
Follow us at the links below for great travel deals and inspiration – see you on the road!
Dianne & Mike