It’s one of my favourite albums ever, and as a kid I travelled to London just to stand in the exact location where Mr Ziggy stood.
It was a bit of a disappointment – Bowie wasn’t still standing there for a start – and the scene already looked different to the album sleeve I’d grown so familiar with.
And there wasn’t even a Spider in sight – not even a passing Trevor Bolder with his preposterous silvery sideboards or a stack-heeled Mick Ronson.
With forty years now passing since the release of ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars’, a commemorative plaque has been put up in the photo location at Heddon Street, London W1
Things have changed even more now: the K. West sign has long gone, and Heddon Street is now part of Regent Street’s hoity toity Food Quarter, with the road now a pedestrianised courtyard stuffed full of restaurants. What would Mick Ronson have thought?
Here’s the press release explaining how the original photo was taken:
Back in 1972, the Bowie album depicts ‘Ziggy’ outside on a cold wet January night with his foot resting on a step outside 23 Heddon Street. The late Brian Ward, had rented a space upstairs in the building as a makeshift photographic studio, and had already shot 17 pictures when he persuaded Bowie to step outside onto Heddon Street.
The other band members thought it too cold and declined to join him for the picture. Wearing the green jumpsuit that he later wore on the BBC 2 TV show ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, Bowie posed for the photograph. The images were shot using Royal –X – Pan black and white film and then lovingly hand coloured by artist Terry Pastor. In the finished image, Ziggy’s jumpsuit is coloured blue.
“It was cold and it rained and I felt like an actor “ Bowie recollected , “we did the photographs outside on a rainy night and then upstairs in the studio we did the Clockwork Orange look-a-likes that became the inner album sleeve.”
Although Bowie went on to produce some great albums after Ziggy Stardust, it’s still his most complete one for me, from the drum beat intro of Five Years to the French chanson-style closing track, ‘Rock’n’Roll Suicide.’
It’s a stunning collection of songs, matched by one of the greatest images in rock and roll. Ever.
Where’s Bowie and the Spiders now?
Brixton boy Bowie has more or less retired from the music business now, although his musical contribution to south London was recently celebrated on a Brixton Pound banknote.
Sadly, the remarkable Mick Ronson tragically died back in 1993. A real loss.
Drummer Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey formed his own band ‘U Boat,’ whose subsequent output didn’t see his front door being troubled by representatives of the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame, while bass player Trevor Bolder went on to play for Uriah Heep before suffering a rather curious fate.
While on tour with a band called The Cybernauts in the 90s he painted his face blue only to discover it was semi permanent and would not come off. He then had to sell his car to raise the money needed for a specialist skin peeling process at a Swiss clinic.
Apparently, he still has traces of blue paint behind his left ear. Least, that’s what Wikipedia says.