It’s tough to sum up what the late, great David Bowie meant to myself and countless others. So I’ll keep it simple. He was a legend. He was a Londoner. This great city should be immensely proud of him. So to honour his life and career, here's a round-up of some of the London sites connected to the star:
1. 40 Stansfield Road, SW9
It was at this Brixton address on January 8 1947 that David Robert Jones was born. His mum Peggy worked as a waitress and cinema usherette while his father John was employed by the children’s charity Barnardo’s. When David was six, the family moved further out into suburban Bromley.
2. Stockwell Primary School, SW9
Just around the corner from Stansfield Road is Stockwell Primary School where the young David gained a reputation for ‘defiance and brawling’. Later, when he was 14 and a pupil at Bromley Technical High School (now called Ravens Wood), David was punched in the face by his friend, George Underwood during a bust-up over a girl. Despite damaging David’s eye permanently (although, let’s be honest, it did leave him looking pretty darn cool), the pair remained life-long mates.
3. Denmark Street, WC2H
In the 1960s, Denmark Street’s La Gioconda Café (now the Flat Iron restaurant) was where the teenage mod David would come to chill with his pal, Mark Feld – aka glam rocker Marc Bolan. In between scandalising folk with their long, flowing hair, David and Marc would scour adverts in the music press, eagerly trying to find a way into the biz. As it turned out, David’s first agent ended up being right next door to the café – at number 7 Denmark Street.
4. Decca Studios (now owned by the English National Opera), Broadhurst Gardens, NW6
West Hampstead’s Decca studios famously turned down The Beatles in 1962, but David had a little more luck and recorded his first album – simply called ‘David Bowie’ (the name he’d officially adopted in 1965) – at the studio between late 1966 and early 1967. He also cut ‘The Laughing Gnome’ here… but considering the awesomeness that was to follow, I think we can forgive him for that.
5. Pollock’s Toy Museum, Scala Street, W1T
In the late 1960s, David lodged at 39 Manchester Street with his manager Ken Pitt. During this time he discovered Pollock’s Toy Museum which, being chockfull of clowns, Victorian prints and other curious knick-knacks, provided fertile inspiration for his creative mind. David was also fond of Manchester Square’s eclectic Wallace Collection.
6. Trident Studios, St Anne’s Court, W1F
It was at this studio in a tiny corner of Soho that the David Bowie we came to know and love truly morphed into his own, with ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Hunky Dory’ and the ‘Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ all being recorded here.
7. Heddon Street, W1B
Arguably, this is David Bowie’s definitive London landmark. It was here, decked out in a snazzy jumpsuit on a damp January evening in 1972, that he posed for the cover of his landmark album, ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’. The site is now commemorated by a plaque and in the hours following the sudden news of David’s death, Heddon Street became a poignant shrine for fans.
8. BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, W12
David Bowie appeared countless times at this now sadly defunct stalwart. His most famous performance recorded at Television Centre? It’s gotta be ‘Starman’, in which David slings his arm camply around fellow bandmate, Mick Ronson; a groundbreaking gesture in 1972.
9. Hammersmith Apollo, W6
Known as Hammersmith Odeon back in the day, it was here on July 3 1973 that David Bowie announced he was retiring his Ziggy Stardust alter-ego (though fans thought he was quitting music completely). As we now know, of course, David’s imagination and creative flair were way too hyper to stay still for long.
10. Berlin Wall slab, Imperial War Museum, SE1
‘I can remember… standing by the wall...’ When David Bowie recorded his sublime ‘Heroes’ album in 1977, he did so in West Berlin’s Hansa studios; a facility slap-bang in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. This chunk plonked outside the Imperial War Museum gives Londoners some sense of the wall’s menace. And the ‘Change your life’ slogan? Bowie would've approved.
11. The Blitz Club (now the Red Rooms adult club), Great Queen Street, WC2B
In the early 1980s the Blitz Club was the epicentre for the New Romantics – a flamboyant movement influenced by Bowie himself. One night in 1980, the great man rolled up in person in search of the Blitz’s hippest kids. He needed them for a video he was putting together: the iconic ‘Ashes to Ashes’.
12. The Victoria & Albert Museum, SW7
In 2013 curators at the V&A were granted unprecedented access to David’s vast, personal archive. The result: ’David Bowie is’, a fascinating exhibition showcasing over 300 objects from his long and varied career, topped off with a mighty, specially commissioned neon Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt (created by the late, great Chris Bracey). The exhibition broke records, becoming the museum’s fastest ever seller. If you missed it, you missed out big time. Here’s hoping a similar celebration appears in the near future.
13. Bowie mural in Brixton, SW9
Located on the side of Morleys department store, just across from Brixton tube station, this bold mural featuring David as Ziggy Stardust was created by Aussie street artist James Cochran in June 2013. Like Heddon Street, this image has now become a focal point for fans to come together and remember one of Brixton’s most incredible sons.