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Heddon Street London W1, the Ziggy Stardust Street

January 20, 2016

On January 10th 2016, David (Jones) Bowie died in Manhattan, New York, USA. He was born on January 8th 1947 in Brixton London. There are many many websites and books covering his life and times, as well as the extraordinary contribution he made to music and art, so I won’t write much more here.

In 1972 he released the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, the hugely successful concept album featuring tracks such as Starman, Suffragette City and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide. It brought him worldwide fame and with his chameleon like ability to re-invent himself and create original experimental music with, almost, continuous commercial appeal, has kept him at the top of the rock and pop music world ever since.

I was just a young boy in 1972 so it wasn’t until the late 70s that I discovered Bowie and his music. I’ve been a big fan ever since. I saw him live three times, one of which was as part of the band Tin Machine. I really liked Tin Machine but the critics didn’t agree which meant this concert was one of only 12 ever performed. Being a big fan of albums such as Station to Station and Low I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Bowies musical output over the last few years and was excited to hear of the release of Black Star on his birthday. It was therefore, as for many others, quite a shock to hear of his death, from liver cancer, only a couple of days later.

My need to produce something for Urban Sketchers gave me an idea. I made a pilgrimage to London where, rather than visit the mural on the wall in Brixton, where many have laid flowers and memories, I walked from Leicester Square tube station on a bitterly cold Sunday morning to find Heddon Street – the location of the photo shoot that produced the photo for the cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It was early and the streets were quite empty as I made my way through Piccadilly Circus and up Regent Street to Heddon Street. Trying to match the picture form the album cover to the street I was in proved quite tricky at first. It meant that with my head in the air looking at the rooftops and windows I completely missed the floral tributes and messages laid on the street and stuck to the wall outside number 23 the first time I walked past. The street is a type of crescent in that it leads off Regent Street and then after two ninety degree turns returns to Regent Street. I think originally it was two streets and a lane.

To get the angle as right as I could to match the album cover picture I found myself stood on a step outside a café bar called Momo or MoCafé. As I stood drawing the staff began setting up for the mid morning opening time of 11am. This meant manoeuvring around various chairs, tables and other café furniture as it was placed in front of the restaurant within the outdoor seating area designated by a metal curved ironwork fence and a selection of pot plants and bamboo. It also introduced the sketchers problem of what to do when there’s a large structure, in this case a wall mounted outdoor heater, between you and your subject. In this instance I decided that it was too large to ignore so just drew it in. I forgave the intrusion into my sketch when the heater was turned on to provide me with some much needed warmth. The street itself is now a pleasant pedestrianised café area which I should imagine is a great place to eat when all the cafés and restaurants are open of an evening. Very different from the image on the album cover.

As I drew the picture people came and went. Some lay more tributes and others had their photographs taken by friends beneath the circular plaque on the wall that reads “This marks the location of the cover photograph for the iconic David Bowie album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ – Ziggy Stardust 1972”. I listened to the album via headphones from my phone as I drew. I heard David singing that we had “Five Years” nearly three times before I was finished. It was quite a cathartic experience. I hope you enjoy the result.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2016 12:33 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this! As an illustrator and writer you are truly talented.

  2. Jana permalink
    January 23, 2016 11:15 pm

    Thanks for your very fine drawing. David Bowie was a great artist and will be remembered by so many at Heddon Street, for reasons deep and personal. The fact that the place has been “gentrified” is of no relevance.

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